03 Feb 2008

Frank Loesser and 9/11

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Who knew that Yale University Press has produced a Broadway Masters series of biographies of musical theater composers, featuring already published volumes on Richard Rogers, Jerome Kern, Sigmund Romberg, and (shudder!) Andrew Lloyd Webber? Not me certainly, Broadway musicals were never my favorite art form.

Mark Steyn reviews, this week in the Wall Street Journal, the latest composer to join Sir Andrew in Yale’s pantheon of demigods, and explains that Frank Loesser, composer of How To Succeed in Business and Guys and Dolls, was really responsible for 9/11.

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:

    “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.

3:15 video of Ricardo Montalban and Esther Williams performing the song which shocked Qtub.


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