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BEST BET

April 25, 1993|M.H.

Back in the '60s, Dad and I didn't get along. He was a transplanted New Yorker, very sophisticated and dapper. I was in my tie-dyed, love-beaded, shaggy-haired phase. He was pro-Vietnam War and I was anti. Also, Dad had gone prematurely gray--he looked almost the same then as he looks now. And he liked Cole Porter songs. I thought he was the oldest of old fogies.

For a while there, Dad and I hardly talked, and when we did, it was in a kind of code. He'd put a Cole Porter song on the record player. I'd counter with Bob Dylan.

"Begin the Beguine," he'd say.

And I'd answer: "Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me."

"Night and Day," he'd say--referring, I knew, to the Protestant work ethic, not to what the song actually said.

And I'd answer: "It ain't me you're lookin' for, babe."

Then he'd roll out the heavy artillery. "Anything Goes," he'd say--meaning that his generation had gone through the Depression and World War II and had earned the right to play around in spiffy New York nightclubs, but what right did my generation have to surf and smoke pot and bellyache on college campuses?

And I'd nuke him--or so I thought--with "The Eve of Destruction."

It wasn't a tolerant time.

The thing about the '60s, I think now, is that they were so new we thought they would stay new forever. We invested so much in changing things then that we never wanted to change again for the rest of our lives. Without realizing it, we became old fogies ourselves.

I thought Dylan's raspy voice and truculent harmonica would blow Cole Porter and all that other tie-and-tails stuff out of the musical universe for good. But then one day I woke up and found Porter and Dylan twinkling side by side up there in that starry sky where all the good stuff ends up eventually, along with the Beatles and Duke Ellington and Mozart and Gregorian chants. And when I listened to the new music coming in--heavy metal and rap--I got a headache.

I could almost sympathize with Dad.

*

Cole Porter died in 1964, but William Graham is impersonating him in a show called "Heavenly Cole" at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Pepperdine Center for the Performing Arts (Smothers Theatre) in Malibu. Tickets: $20 for adults, $15 for seniors and students. Reservations: (310) 456-4522.

Graham, wearing white as befits an angel, will play the piano, sing songs from various Porter shows, accompanied by John Nickel on bass and George (Pug) Pilcher on drums, and describe his adventures in life and afterlife.

I'm going.

Why? Well, partly because of the music. And just between you and me, this Graham fellow looks an awful lot like Dad.

In fact, I'll take the old guy along.

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