I had a phone conversation last night with Elaine Stritch concerning her upcoming appearance at the Paper Mill Playhouse in “The Full Monty.” Something in her conversation put me to mind of a song written by Johnny Mercer sometime around the time I was born. I’m crazy about Mercer’s stuff – and there’s a lot to be crazy about since he wrote about a thousand songs. His lyrics were so hip; I never get tired of listening to them.

The song I was thinking about last night was “The Waiter, the Porter, and the Upstairs Maid.” This was part of the lyric:

The people in the ballroom were stuffy and arty / So I began to get just a little bit frayed / I sneaked into the kitchen, I dug me a party / The waiter and the porter / And the second storey maid. / I peeked into the parlor to see what was a-hatchin’ / In time to hear the hostess suggest a charade / But who was in the pantry a-laughin’ an’ scratchin’ / The waiter and the porter and the upstairs maid.

There’s a great recording of this song by Bing Crosby, Mary Martin, and the Jack Teagarden Orchestra. The smart-alec lyrics were perfect for Crosby.




The reason I thought of that song last night was that Elaine Stritch was telling me about the sort of egalitarian social life she leads in which she is likely to talk to and even make friends with almost anybody. “I don’t know how I’d live,” she said, “if I couldn’t talk to the consierge when I get home after a performance or a rehearsal.”

I asked her what she meant by a remark attributed to her: “Being bored is the greatest sin.”

She said: “What is boring is spending your life with the same kind of people all the time. I avoid that. I reach out. I spent half of my life in kitchens. At parties, I would end up in the kitchen, having a ball. Or I’d be with the musicans; I l0ve to hang out with musicians.”

“But,” she said with a laugh, “I also had a lovelyevening with the Queen of England, so the hell with everybody.”

Mr. Mercer — on four:

 If ever I’m invited to some fuddy-duddy’s / I ain’t-a gonna watch any harlequinade / You’ll find me in the kitchen applaudin’ my buddies / The waiter, the porter and the upstairs maid.