Venus, King Kong, Porter, Berlin

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sat Dec 21 19:16:10 UTC 2002

John Baker calls our attention to the following parody verses of Cole
Porter's "You're the Top":
[posted by Gregory Hlatky, July 27, 2002]
You're the top.
You're Miss Pinkham's tonic.
You're the top.
You're a high colonic.
You're the burning heat of a bridal suite in use.
You're the breast [sic; typo for "breasts"] of Venus,
You're King Kong's penis,
You're self-abuse!
You're an arch from the Rome collection.
You're the starch in a groom's erection.
I'm a eunuch that has undergone an "op."
But if, baby, I'm the bottom, you're the top!

The only problem is that this doesn't really *sound* like Irving
Berlin, who was extremely straight and generally pretty humorless
(but see below).  It sounds much more like Cole Porter himself--and I
say that not only because of the latter's Yale connections.  A
colleague off-list calls my attention to a passage in the dual
biography _Genius and Lust : The Creativity and Sexuality of Noel
Coward and Cole Porter_, by Joseph Morella and George Mazzei (New
York: Carroll & Graf, 1995) [not to be confused with _Genius and Lust
: A Journey through the Major Writings of Henry Miller_,   compiled
by Norman Mailer (New York: Grove Press, 1976)], in which virtually
identical verses are attributed to Cole Porter himself, not to Berlin:

"Throughout his career Porter would write saltier lyrics to his songs,
which he'd sing at parties. Most of the lyrics were never written down --
few even survive. One of the classics, however, was the party version of
"You're the Top" [verses as above]. (Morella and Mazzei 1995: 151)

A surf through the web finds the same verses cited at
and attributed to "Bro Bus", another refers to it mysteriously as
'Cole Porter's own (but
spurious) parody of his "You're the Top".'  Apparently David Hyde
Pierce sang the above version at a Mark Taper Forum tribute to Cole
Porter last January, again suggesting (but not proving) Porter's
authorship.  Other appearances on the web are unattributed, BUT there
is one that supports the dogslife.blogspot assertion, from a
biosketch of Irving Berlin written a year ago by Richard Corliss:,8599,190220,00.html
Often he showed his collegiality the best way he knew, by writing in
the style of other composers'
work. As a bon-voyage gift to Cole Porter before a 1935 sailing,
Berlin roguishly parodied Porter's
recent hit "You're the Top: "You're the burning heat/ Of a bridal
suite/ In use,/ You're the breasts of
Venus/ You're King Kong's penis/ You're self-abuse!"

So the authorship of these lines remains very much in dispute.


P.S.  See for a few
additional verses.

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