Heresy on the Guest list: too darn hot

Heresy has always had many faces. The classic division has always followed the Voltaire pattern of speaking  truth to power in order to be absorbed within the establishment, and accept the sacraments. Heresy has traditionally been seen as four faced: the puritan, the messianic, the mystical and the rational. All with great tormenting abilities until they become the “new blood” of the reactionary within. It might have all began with Goethe, that man of legendary and lofty I.Q. who saw the heretics of history in a new light. ” I had often heard it said that every man in the end came to have his own religion, and now it seemed to me the most natural thing in the world that I should devise my own; which I did with great comfort.”

The first known heretic was Simon Magus, mentioned in the Acts. He was accused of being able to fly. Benozzo Gozzoli's painting shows him aloft, supported by demons, but also crash landed, mortally, at the behest of Saint Peter image:

Ethan Mordden’s latest book, “The Guest List” is a nice study of heresy in the new world; carriers of a grand sophistication. The book spans the 1920′s to the 60′s and reflects the migratory pattern of the avant-garde and marginal into the mainstream and how this cycle perpetuates itself; in fact is almost necessary to keep the cultural industries going.

"---At times her behavior—spatting with colleagues over imaginary insults, resenting director John Ford on the movie "Pinky" (1949) so intensely that he quit the film—suggests one of those gifted disasters who live in a kind of genius panic, unsure of their talent. On the contrary: her talent was the only thing Waters was sure of. She was among the few show-business figures— Fred Astaire, Katharine Hepburn and Cole Porter also come to mind—who made the big time bigger through the sheer uniqueness of what they did. During the tryout of "As Thousands Cheer," one of its co-authors, Moss Hart, asked Waters if she minded following Marilyn Miller and Clifton Webb in a gala song-and-dance number that might well stop the show. "Hell, no, Mr. Hart," Waters replied. "I like working on a hot stage!"--- read more:

As Goethe surmised, to devise one’s own religion was in fact what what heresy is. The literal meaning of the word, in its broader context, is private choice, the opposite of orthodoxy which is not chosen but imposed and accepted. The pure heretics, the figures that fascinate Mordden, are those who never created an established movement or an orthodoxy, but came to what they defined themselves as,by personal choice. And enraging the orthodox and amusing the infidel in post WWI America they did. Every era has them, and America more than most with its constitutional rights and ostensibly democratic structures. In Mordden’s book New York is the gestational lab for these archetypes: a hatching ground of recurring ideas that break through the rugged and cemented crust of orthodoxy, liberal and conservative, because they contained important truths and irrepressible human aspirations.

Pedro Berruguete shows Saint Dominic presiding over the fate of two heretics, though the evidence this actually happened is doubtful read more:

Ethan Mordden: At the time of the Sacco and Vanzetti trial, in the 1920s, John Dos Passos wrote, “All right we are two nations,” meaning Middletown versus the coastal Babylons. And we see it again in the tea party, which no one can describe because pundits want to categorize it as a political uprising when it is really the latest version of an almost mystically incoherent cultural revolution. Yes, it does have its political agenda, and some of its concerns are legitimate grievances about how Washington blows crazy dust into everything. Still, many of the tea party’s utterances suggest the viewpoint of the blind, the worldview of the unworldly. One thinks of Groucho Marx singing, “Whatever it is, I’m against it.” It’s the Know Nothing Party of the mid-1800s. It’s Prohibition. It’s anger at occult doings in board rooms by men who communicate telepathically as they move money and declare wars. It’s Middletown saying, “Someone is changing my life.” Read More:

It seems apparent that Mordden’s taste makers and moral changers are not given to random stabs, but keep to well defined channels in a few constant forms. The swarming individualists were not just miscellaneous maggots, but people with continuous traditions going back to antiquity. In the case of America this was a choice betrween the real solid, institutional power of the state with its McCarthy’s, and the imaginary Arcadia that was well, imaginary.

John Wycliffe. His bones were dug up, burned and pitched into the river. read more:

According to the Kinsey report
ev’ry average man you know
much prefers to play his favorite sport
when the temperature is low
but when the thermometer goes way up
and the weather is sizzling hot
Mister Adam for his madam is not
cause it’s too too
it’s too darn hot, it’s too darn hot
It’s too too too too darn hot… ( Cole Porter, Too Darn Hot )

Stefan Kanfer: As Ethan Mordden observes in "The Guest List," a cultural history of the city's more rarefied echelons, the advent of modern mass media meant a reordering of what it was to be a person of consequence in the city. Movies and radio also established more firmly than ever New York's reputation as a home for all that was sophisticated. Lindbergh was "not a New York figure in any sense," Mr. Mordden writes. But the shy aviator matters to "The Guest List" because his celebrity is a measure of "a Manhattan-centric culture's redirecting its admiration from wastrels like the Astors to the achieving parve

quot; Achievement might come in any form: author, bootlegger, politician, songwriter. Mr. Mordden is especially interesting when he explores how Prohibition helped open the doors for the romanticization of gangsters: If drinkers were all criminals, then why not consider criminals as mainstream—and successful criminals as stars? read more:

…According to the Kinsey report
ev’ry average man you know
much prefers to play his favorite sport
when the temperature is low
but when the thermometer goes way up
and the weather is sizzling hot
Mister GOB for his squab,
a marine for his queen
a G.I. for his cutie-pie is not
Cause it’s too too too darn hot
It’s too darn hot
It’s too darn hot ( Cole Porter)


By the time one of the Mob’s most violent representatives, Dutch Schultz, was gunned down in Manhattan in 1935, gangsters had lost much of their allure. A police stenographer took down his raving last words, which included the perplexing: “A boy has never wept, nor dashed a thousand kim.” Mr. Mordden observes that Schultz’s end was “a New Deal death, of absolute evil absolutely unmourned in an age rich in transition: from grand hotels to nightclubs, from ghetto aliens to assimilated commentators on American life; and, coming up next, from a racially segregated show business to a racially integrated show business.” …Read More: a

"That the guest list originated in New York, often with artists and writers who were Italian, Jewish or black, made it alien to much of America. Middle-American outlanders, in a reversal of Groucho Marx’s maxim, decided they didn’t want to be part of any club that wouldn’t admit them. Which helps explain Mr. Mordden’s arguable conclusion that the rest of the country got its revenge because American culture is now defined by Los Angeles and Las Vegas. " read more:

…As for Cole Porter, the man who once seemed the embodiment of Manhattan sophistication was fated to fall out of favor—just as Capote would, just as anyone does who lingers on the stage after new generations of taste makers arrive. The “Anything Goes” composer of the 1930s was less successful in later years, Mr. Mordden says, criticized by reviewers who “thought he was repeating himself when in fact he was developing a personal style.” The author makes an impassioned plea for Porter’s “Can-Can” score in the 1950s to be ranked among his best. Mr. Mordden also notes that even though Porter and Capote no longer made the A list, their work continues to exert significant influence in their chosen fields. Read More: a

Dorothy Thompson. Mordden: In any compendium, I look for novelties, because they're more fun to write about and more fun for the reader. He wants surprise. I was fascinated by the war between Dorothy Thompson and Charles Lindbergh over American intervention in World War II. It was not only that he turned out to be a even-tempered but all the same fanatic Nazi, but that she was the most famous American woman after Mrs. Roosevelt, and now she's not even a has-been. She's utterly gone. And of course she married Sinclair Lewis and he wrote a novel about a Nazi takeover of America, and all of that is the very center of the book. It's the city woman against the narrow-cultured hayseed. And, no, I didn't leave anyone out for the sake of discretion. I don't have any discretion. read more: image:


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