Diana in savannah
Sheet. The setting for Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. The events that unfolded around the fascinating characters of ‘The Book’ occurred 30 years ago. But Savannah still revels in people larger than life.
In the heart of the Victorian district is Gingerbread House, home of the wonderful musician Diana Rogers. Lavender’s Blue arrived on a sultry Sunday afternoon to meet Diana in her kitchen. Exquisitely dressed in oyster pink (hat, long gloves and real shell earrings to boot), she first entertained us with her ingenuity, homemade sugary scones and a glass or two of champagne.
His house is a collector’s paradise. Tables overflowing with ancient finds gleam in the scorching sunlight. Diana is originally from Oklahoma. “All they do there is watch TV and go to church!” she laughs out loud.
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. She soon outgrew even the jazz capital and went to the Big Apple.
In New York, Diana deftly launched herself onto the music scene. She played and sang in the best hotels and clubs: Waldorf Astoria, Harry’s Bar, One Fifth Avenue, Windows on the World…
In demand, Diana enjoyed a long engagement at Nino’s in New York throughout the 1990s. She performed at the Madison Arms in East Hampton during the summer months. Diana was flown to London and Cornwall to perform at private parties. She released a hits album in the late nineties with ‘I Know Him So Well’, ‘La Vie en Rose’ and her own composition ‘Middle Class Princess’.
In 2003, he decided it was time for a new stage in his life to begin, so he headed to the Deep South. He bought a restored clapboard 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. She has performed in over 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 her. Descending the stairs of the elegant upstairs restaurant, we hear ‘Moon River’ in sweet tones wafting through the heavy night air. Fast-forward 48 hours and we’re at her house.
“Come into the living room,” Diana waves. Keeping her gloves on, of course, she begins in a one-woman cabaret show, gleefully making 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’ 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 knows!”
Another neighbor, Patricia, come on. “She was big in Washington!” Diana confides in a stage whisper. Diana plays a medley of Johnny Mercer songs. Outside, thunder echoes in the powder-gray sky. The rain falls heavily 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 guards the house!” Diana exclaims. The cat was named after her before veterinarians determined her gender. “My worker, Mr. Tiles, has the build of Tarzan! He was upstairs working when I wasn’t there and he called to say, ‘I can’t go down the stairs! Your cat won’t let me in!’ Anyway, he had to jump out the bedroom window and slide down the porch roof!”
As we say goodbye in the late afternoon, Diana’s phone rings. More guests arrive. The party is just beginning. A competitive cacophony of church bells and thunder erupts, but it goes unnoticed, drowned out by echoes of laughter, clinking glasses and Diana upping the tempo with ‘All That Jazz’.