A Guide to Rodgers & Hart's 'Zip'

A Guide to Rodgers & Hart's 'Zip' PASSING STAGES
In Rodgers and Hart's landmark musical Pal Joey, a perennial show-stopper is a song called "Zip," which is performed by a character who only appears in one scene of the show. She is a reporter (originally played by Jean Casto, later by Elaine Stritch) who reveals to the audience that she once interviewed the "intellectual" stripper Gypsy Rose Lee, who told her what her cultural thoughts were as she unzipped each zipper.

PASSING STAGES
In Rodgers and Hart's landmark musical Pal Joey, a perennial show-stopper is a song called "Zip," which is performed by a character who only appears in one scene of the show. She is a reporter (originally played by Jean Casto, later by Elaine Stritch) who reveals to the audience that she once interviewed the "intellectual" stripper Gypsy Rose Lee, who told her what her cultural thoughts were as she unzipped each zipper.

Sample lyric:
"Zip! Walter Lippmann wasn't brilliant today.
Zip! Will Saroyan ever write a great play?"

How many people today remember that Walter Lippmann (1889 1974) was a celebrated author, pundit and columnist ("Today and Tomorrow" was a national must-read) and that William Saroyan (1908 1981) really only had one hit play on Broadway--The Time of Your Life, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1939, which he refused, saying that he did not wish to be tainted by it.

The rest of the stripper's thoughts while unzipping include the following references:

Schopenhauer (1788-1860), the pessimistic German philosopher; Zorina (1917--still living) Vera Zorina, beautiful German ballerina, second wife of George Balanchine, star of the Broadway musicals I Married An Angel and Louisiana Purchase. Cobina: Cobina Wright, Jr. (1921-still living), socialite who, with Brenda Frazier, was the most publicized debutante of the 1930s. They were parodied in a popular 1930s radio serial, "Brenda and Cobina." Cobina also became a minor movie star. At the end of each refrain, the stripper asks the following questions: "Who the hell is Margie Hart?" "Who the hell is Lili St. Cyr?" "Who the hell is Sally Rand?" Hart and St. Cyr were celebrated strippers of the 30s and 40s; Sally Rand was a famous fan dancer whose totally nude body was deftly covered by movements of two huge fans made of ostrich feathers.

The stripper considers Dali's paintings passe. Salvador Dali (1904-1989), eccentric Spanish surrealistic painter. She has read the great Kabala (also Cabala, a system of esoteric theosophy and theurgy developed by rabbis from the 7th to the 18th centuries). She doesen't care for Charley's Aunt (the popular 1892 farce by Brandon Thomas) nor for Shubert's brother (there were three Shubert brothers--Sam, J.J. and Lee, who owned the most legitimate theatres on Broadway).

The stripper admires Toscanini (Arturo Toscanini--18671957, famous Italian conductor of the NBC Symphony) and thinks that Jergen's Lotion keeps his hands in shape (a still popular hand lotion). She would like to see Tyrone Power play Rip Van Winkle on the screen (Tyrone Power -- 1913-1958--stage and screen idol of the 1930s and 1940s; Rip Van Winkle -- Washington Irving's sleepy hero. Finally, the stripper confides that she dislikes the two Mickeys--Mouse and Rooney. Ironically, Mickey Rooney played lyricist Lorenz Hart, who wrote this song, in the film biography of Rodgers and Hart called Words and Music (1948). Fortunately, Hart did not live to see this preposterous bio.

-- By Louis Botto