I get all the lyrics to The Lady is a Tramp except this one. Please explain...

Okay, the way I’ve long interpreted the Rodgers & Hart standard *The Lady is a Tramp * is that a perfectly reasonably-acting woman who is new to weathy circles is considered common (“a tramp”) because she does not indulge in the taudry practices that privledged folks consider badges of their status – things like coming late to the theater and spreading social gossip.

But the line I don’t get is this: “She hates California. It’s cold and it’s damp.”

This may speak to her newness to the bicoastal upper classes, but it does not fit the other examples and makes her look dumb, not blessed with common wisdom.

Of course the line might just be one of the overdue, borderline lyrics that RR had to squeeze out of LH as he lay drooling in a gutter, fresh off a bender of booze and male hustlers, but I thought I’d give Larry the benefit of the doubt and ask about it here first.

One of my favorite songs that Sinatra made popular. I have always thought it meant Northern California and not Southern. Frisco and points north. If I recall right, Pal Joey was set in San Fran. That help?

I guess I always assumed that:

a) it rhymes with “tramp”; and
b) her reasons don’t have to make sense - she’s a tramp and its her prerogative to claims what she wants…

eh, but what do I know?

A joke that gets obliterated when the lyrics are changed – as I have often heard lately – to “That’s why the lady is a champ.”


Zeldar, yours is a solid theory, to be sure – the only California she knows is the damp part in the north. Sadly, your supporting evidence does not really help, though; the song is from the show Babes in Arms. They stuck it into the film *Pal Joey * later. *Pal Joey * – at least the Broadway show – took place in Chicago, in any case.

The theory still holds up, however.

I’m copying some of this from an earlier post

In BABES IN ARMS the song refers to some specific stuff stuff from the show–it wasn’t really intended as a stand-alone song, and it was written to be sung by a woman about herself in first person (“I hate California/It’s cold and it’s damp…”). Also, it was written in ~1934.

The female character who sings the song about herself (“Billie”) isn’t a newly weathly woman who’s being snubbed by old-money rich people, she’s a wanna-be actress who’s hitchhiked across the country to go to Hollywood where she’s sure she’ll be a big star who’s…well, a plot synopsis will make it (a bit) clearer.

She meets up with Val, a philosophy student who’s parents are vaudvilleians and they’ve decided to send Val to a “work farm” while they go on the road (all the other unemployed kids are being sent there too) but the kids say that they can survive on their own by putting on a show to raise money so they won’t have to go and Billie gets caught up in it but because Val has punched out a racist and the show’s not gonna go on they’re all gonna be sent to the work farm after all and she’s gonna be sent to the work farm too but …oh hell, the plot gets convoluted as only a '30s era screwball comedy musical can get :stuck_out_tongue: with all sorts of stuff about a French aviator, etc.

Just before the song, Val has punched out a racist (during the show), causing it to fail. A party’s being thrown for the main characters before they get sent off to the “work farm” (apparently a charming combination of summer camp and chain gang) and as Val goes off to get some punch ‘n’ cookies, Billie wonders if she’ll ever fit in with the other kids (who may have been snotty to her) and considers going back on the road: She thinks it’s better than being sent to a “work farm” (I agree, btw), and sings the song “The Lady Is A Tramp” to justify her leaving and finishing her journey to Hollywood

Anyway, in the (rarely sung) intro to the song, Billie sings:
*I’ve wined and dined on Mulligan Stew, and never wished for turkey
As I hitched and hiked and grifted too, from Maine to Albuquerque
Alas, I missed the Beaux Arts Ball, and what is twice as sad
I was never at a party where they honored Noel Cad (Coward)
But social circles spin too fast for me
My “hobo-hemia” is the place to be.

I get too tired for dinner at eight…etc*

Val hears her singing/talking about this and says (something like ) “What, you’re gonna run out on us at a time like this?”

Billie, stung by this, replies (again, from memory) “Run out? What kinda girl do you think I am? I’ll stick it out! We’ll think of somethin’.”

Val replies (more or less) “You’re one of the good ones. The tramp is a lady”

Billie says something like “No, you’ve got that backwards…” and bursts into a reprise of “The Lady Is A Tramp”

*…folks went to London and left me behind
I missed the crowning, Queen Mary didn’t mind
Won’t play Scarlett in Gone with the “Wynde”
That’s why the lady is a tramp
I like to hang my hat where I please
Sail with the breeze
No dough! Hey-ho!
I still like Roosevelt, and think he’s a champ
That’s why the lady is a tramp *

The California thing is about (IIRC) how she’s so anxious to be an actress that she’ll even suffer California’s yucky climate to achive her dream. I can understand that she considers Hollywood’s climate to be yuk (too hot and humid for my tastes)but I have no idea why she’d consider Hollywood cold and damp.


*So there’s they “tramp”=uncultured woman AND the “tramp”=“hobo” thing going on.

Sinatra’s invention, I believe, but since AFAIK he’s also responsible for popularizing the song, we must forgive him.


Impressive, Fenris. And nary a comic book or Viking archetype in sight. Each time we see you, there are new layers, unplumbed depths.

[aside] Any meetings of the SDMB One-Trick Pony and Chowder Society to report on lately? I really miss those. [/aside]

“The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.”