Frank Loesser isn't as famous a songwriter as Irving Berlin or Cole Porter, but, unlike them, he's apparently responsible for this whole clash-of- civilizations thing. A few decades back, a young middle-class Egyptian spending some time in the U.S. had the misfortune to be invited to a dance one weekend and was horrified at what he witnessed:Don't you wish that you could write like that?
"The room convulsed with the feverish music from the gramophone. Dancing naked legs filled the hall, arms draped around the waists, chests met chests, lips met lips . . ."
Where was this den of debauchery? Studio 54 in the 1970s? Haight-Ashbury in the summer of love? No, the throbbing pulsating sewer of sin was Greeley, Colo., in 1949. As it happens, Greeley, Colo., in 1949 was a dry town. The dance was a church social. And the feverish music was "Baby, It's Cold Outside," written by Frank Loesser and sung by Esther Williams and Ricardo Montalban in the film "Neptune's Daughter." Revolted by the experience, Sayyid Qutb decided that America (and modernity in general) was an abomination, returned to Egypt, became the leading intellectual muscle in the Muslim Brotherhood, and set off a chain that led from Qutb to Zawahiri to bin Laden to the Hindu Kush to the Balkans to 9/11.
I'm a reasonable chap, and I'd be willing to meet the Islamists halfway on a lot of the peripheral stuff like burqas for women, nuking the Zionists, beheading the sodomites and whatnot. But you'll have to pry "Baby, It's Cold Outside" from my cold dead hands and my dancing naked legs. A world without Frank Loesser and "Baby, It's Cold Outside" would be very cold indeed.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Great book review
From Mark Steyn's review of Thomas Riis' book Frank Loesser, (volume 5 in the Yale Broadway Masters Series.)