When song-and-snipe-man Tom Lehrer was in town at the end of December to oversee production of Arena Stage's popular production of "Tomfoolery," he was asked why the song "Alma" was not included in the show.
"Oh," he said, "there does seem to be an Alma cult, but for most people it would take too much explaining . . ."
So much, you might think, for Alma.
But there, lo and behold, at the base of the railroad trestle at the foot of Arizona Avenue and Canal Road, someone has spray-painted against the background of endless years of mostly unintelligible graffiti (and just in time for Valentine's Day):
"GUSTAV MAHLER ALMA."
Oh, Gustav Mahler loved her all right, but so did Walter Gropius, Franz Werfel and, as Lehrer says, "practically all the top creative men in Central Europe." Alma Schindler Mahler Gropius Werfel was, you might say, the Liz Taylor of the Bauhaus. Lehrer wrote her a ballad on the occasion of her death (at age 85) in 1964. Alma's not in "Tomfoolery," but taking that red-paint graffito as popular acclaim, we reprint it here:
"The loveliest girl in Vienna Was Alma, the smartest as well. Once you picked her up on your antenna You'd never be free of her spell. Her lovers were many and varied from the day she began her . . . beguine. There were three famous ones whom she married And God knows how many between. Alma, tell us All modern women are jealous Which of your magical wands Got you Gustav and Walter and Franz The first one she married was Mahler Whose buddies all knew him as Gustav. And each time he saw her he'd hollar 'Ach that is the fraulein I must haff' Their marriage however was murde He'd scream to the heavens above I'm writing "Das Lied von der Erde" And she only wants to make love. Alma, tell us All modern women are jealous You should have a statue in bronze For bagging Gustav and Walter and Franz While married to Gus she met Gropius And soon she was swinging with Walter Gus died and her teardrops were copious She cried all the way to the alter But he would work late at the Bauhaus And only came home now and then She said, 'Vat am I running a chowhouse?' It's time to change partners again. Alma, tell us All modern women are jealous Though you didn't even use Ponds You got Gustav and Walter and Franz While married to Walt she'd met Werfel And he too was caught in her net He married her but he was careful 'Cause Alma was no Bernadette. And that is the story of Alma Who knew how to receive and to give The body that reached her embalma Was one that had known how to live Alma tell us How can they help being jealous Ducks always envy the swans Who get Gustav and Walter -- you never did falter -- with Gustav and Walter and Franz."
-- Reprinted by permission of Tom Lehrer