Diana in Savannah
Bed sheet. The Midnight setting in the Garden of Good and Evil. The events that unfolded around the fascinating characters in ‘The Book’ happened 30 years ago. But Savannah still delights in larger-than-life people.
In the heart of the Victorian district is Gingerbread House, home to the wonderful musician Diana Rogers. Lavender’s Blue arrived on a sweltering Sunday afternoon to meet Diana in her kitchen. Exquisitely dressed in oyster pink (hat, long gloves, and real shell earrings, to begin with), at first she entertained us with her quirks, homemade sugary scones and a glass or two of champagne.
His home is a collector’s paradise. Tables brimming with antique finds gleam in the scorching sunlight. Diana is originally from Oklahoma. “All they do there is watch TV and go to church!” she howls with laughter.
Rural life was not for her. A classically trained pianist and singer, her wonderfully intoxicating voice, not to mention her superlative keyboard skills, ensured that she was an instant blues hit in New Orleans. It soon overtook even the jazz capital and went to the Big Apple.
In New York, Diana deftly launched herself onto the music scene. He played and sang in the best hotels and clubs: the Waldorf Astoria, Harry’s Bar, One Fifth Avenue, Windows on the World …
Diana, in high demand, enjoyed a long engagement at Nino’s in New York during the 1990s. He performed at the Madison Arms in East Hampton during the summer months. Diana was flown to London and Cornwall to perform at private parties. He released a hit album in the late nineties with ‘I Know Him So Well’, ‘La Vie en Rose’ and his own composition ‘Middle Class Princess’.
In 2003 he decided it was time for a new phase in his life to begin, so he went to the Deep South. He bought a restored wooden Victorian house on East Gaston Street, lined with pink azaleas, in Savannah.
“I still go back to New York every two months,” he confesses. “The last time I was there I spent $ 2,000 on a hat. But it’s a really nice hat. My wardrobe takes up the entire top floor of the house.”
Diana has fully established herself as a fixture on the Savannah music circuit. He has performed in more than a dozen venues and can currently be heard in The Olde Pink House’s basement piano bar. In fact, that’s where Lavender’s Blue first found it. As we descended the stairs from the elegant restaurant upstairs, we heard ‘Moon River’ in sweet tones floating through the heavy night air. Fast forward 48 hours and we are at your place.
“Come to the living room,” Diana greets. Gloves on, naturally, she embarks on a one-woman cabaret show, gleefully weaving her way through the music of Cole Porter and George Gershwin before celebrating the present with Andrew Lloyd Weber and John Kander.
Diana reveals: “Imelda Marcos’s daughter lives next door. And Jerry Spence, the hairdresser mentioned in The Book, is a frequent visitor.” Honey, you can find me on page 47! “He tells everyone he meets!”
Another neighbor arrives, Patricia. “She was great in Washington!” Diana confesses in a stage whisper. Diana plays a medley of Johnny Mercer songs. Outside, thunder echoes through the gunpowder gray sky. The rain falls hard on the terrace. But it doesn’t dampen the decadent party spirit inside.
Leopold, a large tortoiseshell cat appears at the door of the living room. “She keeps the house!” Diana exclaims. The cat got her name before veterinarians determined her gender. “My worker, Mr. Tiles, has the constitution of Tarzan! He was upstairs working when I was out and he called to say, ‘I can’t go downstairs! Your cat won’t let me pass!’ Anyway, he had to jump out the bedroom window and slide off the porch roof! “
As we say goodbye in the late afternoon, Diana’s phone rings. More guests are coming. The party has just started. A competitive cacophony of church bells and thunder erupts but goes unnoticed, drowned out by echoes of laughter, clinking glasses and Diana picking up the pace with ‘All That Jazz’.