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If Cole Porter had been there, he would have proclaimed the party “magnifique.” June 9 would have been the late composer’s 116th birthday, and Nixon Peabody partners Andrew Potts and Randall Kelly, resplendent in white dinner jackets with pink carnations, did their best to throw a party Porter would have adored. There were sparkling drinks, yummy hors d’oeuvres, and witty love songs. This is the fifth year that the two colleagues have celebrated Porter’s birthday, but the first in which they decided to use the frivolities to good purpose — in this case, to drum up funds to help restore the Peru, Ind., home where Porter was born and wrote his first lyrics. “I love Cole Porter music, and I wanted to introduce more people to Cole Porter music,” says Potts, another native Hoosier. “And Cole Porter embodied fun — he was just a sort of whirl of amusement and fun for anyone who wants to throw a good party.” This year’s event was held downtown at the Arts Club of Washington, once the stately home of President James Monroe. Today the building hosts art exhibitions, literary events, and the occasional soiree. The party was dubbed “An Evening at 13 rue Monsieur,” after Porter’s reportedly fabulous Paris address. And oh, what a swell party it was. Local cabaret and opera singers, as well as members of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, D.C., trilled their way through such standards as “Begin the Beguine,” “It’s De-Lovely,” and “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To.” The hosts say they exceeded their fund-raising goal of $7,500. That money will go to the Ole Olsen Memorial Theatre, a nonprofit group that purchased the home and established the Cole Porter Birthplace Restoration Committee in 2004. The building had fallen into disrepair over the years. Indeed the police raided it in 2003 to close down a clandestine methamphetamine lab. But now it’s well on its way to becoming a combination museum and three-suite bed and breakfast. Potts says that his Nixon Peabody colleagues have had a grand time helping out with the party. In fact, he ventures, “I feel fairly comfortable at this point that the staff and lawyers at Nixon Peabody have a higher Cole Porter acuity than any other firm in the city.” Then is it time for Potts, who specializes in affordable housing and historic rehabilitation, to move on to another firm and introduce the songwriter to a new set of lawyers? Potts laughs: “I’d be making the world safe for American musical theater one law firm at a time.” Better yet, he says, maybe he’ll try to introduce Nixon Peabody to another musician. Porter briefly attended Harvard Law School, Potts notes, until Porter realized he preferred music. An Indiana-born songwriter with even more legal credentials was Hoagy Carmichael, who actually practiced law for a brief period. Maybe it’s time for a new party.
Debra Bruno can be contacted at [email protected].

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