“She was once like Whistler’s Mother – now they whistle when she passes.”
Ladies and Gentleman, it is time once again to revisit that late great dynamic lady of song, Madame Spivy LaVoe (1906-1970), also known simply as Spivy. A lesbian entertainer, nightclub owner and character actress, Spivy has been described as “The Female Noel Coward” – to which I add “…. if he was born Bertha Levine in Brooklyn.” You can see earlier posts about her here and here.
Since my last Spivy post, I was thrilled to see that she had been profiled on Dennis Dermody’s Cinemaniac website, and even happier to see that, after a little nudge, I was given some credit for all the “borrowed” photos, video and large portions of my previous posts. Bless his heart, I’m sure it was just an oversight.
Moving on… today we will be listening to Auntie’s Face, a song written by Broadway actor and fellow nightclub performer Guy Moneypenny. Spivy’s recording was featured on her 1949 album An Evening With Spivy.
Spivy had something of a catchphrase that she would use to introduce a song: A solemn pronouncement that “This is VERY sad and we must be VERY quiet, please.” She would then launch into a number that was anything but either of those things. At least four of her recordings contain this introduction – one can imagine that it was a playful way to get the attention of a noisy nightclub audience.
We all have strange relatives… but let me tell you about my Aunt Grace.
She’s a MAD thing. This is very sad and we must be very quiet, please.
This is the tragedy of poor Aunt Grace – how she became a complete disgrace
It all began when she lifted her face and decided to be young and gay.
Since she’s become a rejuvenated case, the whole house suffers from her madcap pace
There’s no longer any quiet in the whole damn place
So we lift our eyes to heaven and pray.
Please God make Auntie’s face fall. For we’ve all got our backs to the wall.
Her reputation’s battered. Our principals are shattered. She hasn’t any moral code at all.
Her breath now reeks of bathtub gin. Goes out nights in search of sin.
We wake up in the morning to find her coming in… from an all night brawl.
We’re all in such a dither, for heaven knows she’s coarse.
When she brings the milkman with her – wait ‘til you hear this one – why must she bring his horse?
Please God make Auntie’s face fall. For nothing is sacred at all.
We caught her teaching Granny to manipulate her fanny in a rhumba with a cashmere shawl.
And just last night they phoned from the jail – it seems they’re holding Auntie ‘til we fork up the bail
They found her on Broadway singing Love For Sale. Yes they did! And the price was small.
She steals cigars from brother. She’s thrown away her glasses.
She was once like Whistler’s Mother – now they whistle when she passes.
She thinks she’s the belle of the ball. We’re afraid that she’s going on call
Dear God we beg your pardon but to hell with Lizzie Arden
If you’ve any mercy left at all… please God make Auntie’s face fall!
Some of Spivy’s other recordings contain obscure references that require a little research and explanation. Not so with Auntie’s Face: Cole Porter’s song Love For Sale is still a well-known standard. The line “To Hell with Lizzie Arden” is a reference to cosmetics queen Elizabeth Arden, whose beauty product empire still stands. And who isn’t familiar with Whistler’s Mother? Furthermore… a song about plastic surgery certainly rings truer today than it did 70 years ago. It may come as a shock to fans of the Real Housewives that the first facelift procedures took place in the early 1900’s.
Be sure to check back – more Spivy to come soon! (Update: Here)