December 17, 2016


Baby, It's Cold Outside : Steyn's Song of the Week by Frank Loesser (Mark Steyn, December 11, 2016, Steyn Online)

Some years ago, my late BBC comrade Alistair Cooke took a young friend to New York's famous Plaza Hotel, where a pianist was gaily tinkling. As Alistair enthused about each song, it gradually dawned on him that these familiar standards by Gershwin and Kern were entirely unfamiliar to his callow companion. I experience a slightly more unsettling form of cultural dislocation each Christmas season: People still know the songs, but have no idea what they mean. "Baby, It's Cold Outside is a fun song, but one line in particular is apparently a major micro-aggression that come December is mass-triggering the safe-spaced generation across our winter wonderland:

SHE:The neighbors might think . . .
HE: But baby, it's bad out there.
SHE: Say, what's in this drink?
HE: No cabs to be had out there . . .

As Mollie Hemingway remarked, "My feminist friends assure me that this is really a song about date rape and roofies." I'd like to think her feminist friends are maybe half-joking, or at any rate half her feminist friends are quarter-joking, and it's merely their way of deriding the obsolete "gender roles" of man as the seducer and the gal as the receiving end. I mean, they're not seriously arguing it's about drugging a woman into sex, are they? If it were, wouldn't it be available as a celebrity duet between Bill Cosby & [Insert Name Here]?

The song dates from ...well, a lost world. Frank Loesser wrote it in 1944 not for a show or a film but for a housewarming party. So that night in their new flat in the Navarro Hotel in New York he and his wife Lynn wowed a showbiz crowd with the first performance:

SHE: I really can't stay...
HE: But Baby, It's Cold Outside!
SHE: I've got to go 'way...
HE: But Baby, It's Cold Outside!

Richard Rodgers, never the most generous man, pronounced it "brilliant". Back then, everyone got it. You want the girl to stay, just another hour . . . okay, half . . . okay, 20 minutes: "Give me Five Minutes More, only Five Minutes More," as Frank Sinatra pleaded around the same time. And if Sinatra needs to plead, who doesn't? But nice girls go -- or at least insist on being talked into staying...

Posted by at December 17, 2016 8:23 AM