Baby, It’s Scold Outside

December 18th, 2018 by Max Allan Collins
I really can’t stay (but baby, it’s cold outside)
I’ve got to go away (but baby, it’s cold outside)
This evening has been (been hoping that you’d drop in)
So very nice (I’ll hold your hands, they’re just like ice)
My mother will start to worry (beautiful what’s your hurry?)
My father will be pacing the floor (listen to the fireplace roar)
So really I’d better scurry (beautiful please don’t hurry)
But maybe just a half a drink more (put some records on while I pour)
The neighbors might think (baby, it’s bad out there)
Say what’s in this drink? (no cabs to be had out there)
I wish I knew how (your eyes are like starlight now)
To break this spell (I’ll take your hat, your hair looks swell)
I ought to say, no, no, no sir (mind if I move in closer?)
At least I’m gonna say that I tried (what’s the sense in hurtin’ my pride?)
I really can’t stay (oh baby don’t hold out)
But baby, it’s cold outside
I simply must go (but baby, it’s cold outside)
The answer is no (but baby, it’s cold outside)
Your welcome has been(how lucky that you dropped in)
So nice and warm (look out the window at this dawn)
My sister will be suspicious (gosh your lips look delicious)
My brother will be there at the door (waves upon the tropical shore)
My maiden aunts mind is vicious (gosh your lips are delicious)
But maybe just a cigarette more (never such a blizzard before)
I’ve gotta get home (but baby, you’d freeze out there)
Say lend me a coat (it’s up to your knees out there)
You’ve really been grand (I thrill when you touch my hand)
But don’t you see? (how can you do this thing to me?)
There’s bound to be talk tomorrow (think of my lifelong sorrow)
At least there will be plenty implied (if you got pneumonia and died)
I really can’t stay (get over that old out)
Baby, it’s cold
Baby, it’s cold outside

Songwriter: Frank Loesser
Baby, It’s Cold Outside lyrics © Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.

The controversy over “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” – a song four years older than my ancient ass – just rolls on, as Millennials and Generation Z (or whatever they’re called) continue their smug condemnation of anyone who wasn’t “woke” long before that word came to represent a lack of social awareness.

Here’s what a writer in USA Today said last year about “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”:

“Is this the year we finally retire ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside?’ In 2017, America woke up to the systemic sexual predation that pervades every corner of society, but some of our Christmas carols are stuck in the past. In particular, the drumbeat against ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’ is getting too loud to ignore.”

Ah, the drumbeat. Before you know it, Frank Loesser won’t be asked to host the Oscars.

Who is Frank Loesser, you ask? Who was Frank Loesser is the more pertinent question. He was one of the great songwriters of the Broadway stage – don’t take my word for it, ask Stephen Sondheim. Guys and Dolls is still considered by many to be the perfect American musical. Among Loesser’s greater accomplishments are the witty and satirical (and tunefully presented) lyrics of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, which skewered the hypocritical and often sexist “big business” workplace environment of the l950s and early 1960s. The love song “I Believe in You” was sung by the anti-hero to himself in the mirror (Merry Christmas, Robert Morse!).

Frank Loesser was cynical and defiantly New York, even when he was Hollywood’s “go to” songwriter. He is an American treasure – or he would be (some seem to insist) if only he’d held the attitudes of progressives of 2018 seventy-four years ago.

I’m not going to go into great detail to defend “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” which is a sexy, clever and catchy song designed for adults – Loesser wrote it for himself and his wife to sing together at parties and it only went public when a Hollywood producer, who heard it sung at one such gathering, wanted to use it in a film (it won the Academy Award for Best Song).

songwriter Frank Loesser and his wife Lynn Garland sing “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” at a party.

But let’s start with this: “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is not “a Christmas carol.” It’s not even a Christmas song. Of course a lot of songs from the Great American Songbook – enduring American popular songs and jazz standards from the early 20th century – that get played as Christmas songs are just winter-theme tunes: “Winter Wonderland,” “Let It Snow,” “Sleigh Ride.” None are “carols.”

As for “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” being “rapey,” let’s examine the most notorious lyric, “Say, what’s in this drink?” That refers to, is this punch or is there alcohol in this thing? How much booze did you put in this, buster? Still, the guy may be a letch, and may even want to get laid, but the woman is presumably twenty-one, knows she’s alone in the company of a man and is in charge of her own destiny. A man wanting to have sex with a woman isn’t a crime, and if it were, the species is who would be screwed. I am fairly sure that, at some point this evening, a male will buy a female a drink or glass of wine in a bar or restaurant, in hopes it will relax her and perhaps improve his chances.

Ah, but chances for what?

Well, let’s back up. The answer to, “Say what’s in this drink?” is not “a roofie.” Please. Bill Cosby was seven years old when the song came out.

Hard as it may be to believe by people born in the late 20th century or (shudder) this century, a male could want a female to stick around so they could have some harmless fun, like kissing and maybe (shocking!) petting. Sexual intercourse was not necessarily on the menu. Forced or coerced sex certainly wasn’t. People in 1949 watching the film in which the song first appeared were not thinking, “That Ricardo Montalban is trying to rape Esther Williams!” Most didn’t think Ricardo was after sex – just feminine affection.

The serious issue here is the dangerous trend of judging yesterday by today – specifically, the attitudes of yesterday that many (including me) agree were misjudged. But there’s a corollary to “Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it”: those who don’t attempt to understand the context of yesterday are going to be denied the pleasures of the past…and a better understanding of it.

The current couple of generations have no monopoly on thinking prior generations were a bunch of louts. Trust me – we Baby Boomers are no prize. Once the Beatles arrived, we dismissed our parents’ culture with smug know-it-all-ness.

Important pop culture figures like Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope and John Wayne were ridiculed and even despised. Of course, it must be said that all three of those aided and abetted in their own ridicule as they grew older. Sinatra covered the Beatles embarrassingly (“Something in the way she moves, Jack!”), Bob Hope became a hopeless self-parody, and John Wayne made political comments that make your drunk uncle at Thanksgiving seem like a pundit.

My generation talked peace and love, sang of Aquarius and went to Woodstock. Then we aged into old people who have made war and racism popular again. When somebody (and this happens a lot) tells me Mickey Spillane was a misogynist, I say, “You’ve confused misogyny with misanthropy.” (And clearly they have never really read the books.)

We have a lot of problems in this country and in this world. I am on the liberal side of the center line, but it troubles me – and even frightens me – that seemingly so many young progressives have such a rigid, idealistic, self-righteous view of things. Kids in cages, government corruption, climate change, child abuse, real sexual predators…so many problems that make the Christmas season at once a solace we seek and a terrible ironic thing that has ceased to mean anything. Real problems, not priggish superiority over the “rapey” lyrics to a seventy-four-year-old song.

Bing Crosby sang with David Bowie about “Peace on earth.” If those two had respect for each other, and could overlook what must have seemed like flawed behavior in each other, can’t we sit by the fire and drink some egg nog?

Hey! How much rum did you put in this, Barb?


17 Responses to “Baby, It’s Scold Outside”

  1. Paul.Griffith says:

    Bravo! Bravo! Very well broken down as to what we face today with the culture of America (and the world), I laughed out loud at the humorous unfolding of what is really occurring with the trashing of the past. Though many may want to rewrite history to fit their views the underlying problems aren’t the past or past generations, it is in the failure of the present generations to understand that they CAN make a difference, not by eliminating the past, but by offering hope and change for the future. Thanks for a very insightful and entertaining analysis of the current state of things. Merry Christmas to you and the family Max!

  2. Richard Duval says:

    Thank you Max. Well put. A voice of reason still survives.

  3. Thomas Zappe says:

    Max, I have never agreed with you more than I just did reading the above piece. It’s like the old saying “Those who fail to learn history are doomed to repeat it the next semester”.

    This came into focus most recently over the weekend.

    I was at my friendly neighborhood music store getting some of my horns adjusted. There was a fine young lad [22 years of age] repairing a bassoon who didn’t seem to get the context of what some of us really old people [70 years of age] were saying. A short quiz brought to light that he had never heard of a rotary phone, wasn’t totally clear on how telephone directorys worked and why they were in different colors and had only a vague memory of having seen perhaps one Western movie in his life.

    I have to ask myself if someone in that condition is even an American or if he will ever be in a position to understand the meaning and/or the importance of the term “context”?

    None of this is his fault. We aren’t born [so it would seem] with an innate appreciation of the past, especially when everything around us is trying to sell us “the next big thing”. I guess that phrase is out of date also.

    This dovetails nicely into the question of what to do with all the fine work that now “disgraced” people have done. Do we throw out all the great interviews Charlie Rose did? How about Thomas Jefferson, do we neen a new Declaration of Independence? He kept slaves, you know. Benjamin Franklin never bothered to marry the mother of his children, whatcha’ gonna’ do about that?

    I wish I had some WORKABLE solutions to this SNAFU.

  4. Mike Doran says:

    The Problem:
    Nobody these days seems to have a sense of history.
    Or. for that matter, a sense of context.
    And it’s not limited to The Younger Ones.

    Not long ago, I took a look at Neptune’s Daughter, with its two (2) performances of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”:
    First, Esther Williams and Ricardo Montalban;
    Next, the immediate reprise with Betty Garrett and Red Skelton – with the roles reversed.
    Nobody seems to recall the twofer, but there it is on the DVD, for all the world to see.

    That “Baby …” became a standard during our lifetime – that it became a reliable duet for any boy-girl combo for generations to come – well, all that happened before the New Generation (whatever they choose to call themselves) even existed, So There Too.

    That it’s a superb piece of music, then (the movie in the ’40s) and now (ever catch the SNL version a few years back, with Jimmy Fallon and Cecily Strong?) …
    … well, that’s Ancient History, and who cares about that?

    You and I are two years apart, agewise.
    In the Frabjous Fifties, everything was in transition: 78s to 45s, radio to TV, B/W to color movies, Academy Frame to Widescreen, not to mention all the fads and trends within all of the above (feel free to fill in your own favorites) …
    The point (?) being that we were exposed to all of it: we got the whole smorgasbord to choose from, and we didn’t limit ourselves (well, I didn’t, anyway).
    Whether this makes us more well-rounded, at the very least we learned perspective; we learned that there was such a thing as context; we learned that time passed and that no one was immune to that.
    Putting it another way – we LEARNED.
    A practice that seems to have gone out of style.

    That enough Old Man Talk for you guys?
    Yeah, I’m bored too – and I wrote this, fer cry-eye.

    Now I’m just sitting back, waiting for the Sociopath-In-Chief’s next gift to us all (he’s saving it up for Xmas Week, so all the comics will be off for the week [Coincidence? You decide]).

    Meantimes, all best to the Collins Dynasty for whatever holidays you might choose to observe – and here’s hoping that 1990-whosis turns out to be Even Better!

  5. Keith Dickens says:

    Here’s the thing, I don’t know anyone who actually cares about the issue like what media outlets are saying. I’ve trained new hires on IT policies and Lean principles for almost a decade. That equates to hundreds of millennials entering the job force in a corporate setting and not one gives a damn about any of the things these stories elude to. They express deep concerns over the fact that some “credible” sources make it seem like millennial are on a PC warpath and I hear it all the time. I’m convinced it’s just made up garbage to make them look as bad as possible as they enter the workforce and begin to take up political offices. The vast majority of millennials I’ve ever met are hardworking and laser focused. They do worry about a lot of stuff in their future us Gen Xers didn’t so much. Sure I still have student loans and my generation made recycling a part of life, but Gen Xers worry about paying those loans for decades longer and they wonder if climate change will wipe out their hometown. Yay, recycling!

    It’s a part of the greater general liberal hatred in the media that is mostly cooked up by conservatives needing to desperately discredit the liberal mindset fundamentally. They use crazy talk like “now liberals want to put a police officer in your bathroom!” WTF? No they don’t. At least half of the stuff that liberals are associated with these days even the liberalest of liberals think is crazy nonsense.

    I’m just saying that someone started this and I don’t think millennials give a shit. Seriously, outside of the media who simply took off with another population dividing story, find one who really cares. At best, one group of crazies who officially represent no one, said something and now it’s forever associated with millennials. It’s like saying the Westboro Baptist Church’s craziness represents all conservative Christians. As much as I’m not a fan of the conservative Christian ideology, I know too many to believe that the WBC represents anyone except members of the WBC.

  6. Thomas Zappe says:

    Mike, thanks for the reference to the Betty Garrett/Red Skelton rendition. As long as a song can be reversed like that it’s hard to complain about something being too “politically incorrect”, another old time term.

  7. Bob Millikin says:

    Thanks. Frank Loesser was a proud graduate of the University of North Carolina(first and the finest state university). Go Heels.

  8. Love these posts.

    But Keith, I at least mildly disagree with you. A politically correct rewrite of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” by Lydia Liza and Josiah Lemanski has over 800,000 You Tube hits — two millennials who deem themselves worthy of correcting and rewriting Frank Loesser. There are a bunch of others, some that depict “consent” (again, operating from the assumption that this song is about sexual coercion), and what they all have in common (besides viewing Loesser’s song from a 2018 telescope) is the rewrites are awkward and clumsy and stupid in their political correctness (“No means no!”). We’re not talking about millennials who are going out for a police force (unless it’s thought police). We’re talking about the politically active bunch who are likely to impose a purist litmus test on any potential Democratic candidate (that’s “Democrat candidate” for you Republicans). Meanwhile, the media (as you say) keeps running stories on these various rewrites with the hosts (both TV and radio) giggling approvingly. Guess rape’s funny, huh? You kids should be ashamed….

  9. Here’s the Red Skelton and Betty Garrett version from NEPTUNE’S DAUGHTER, the 1949 movie the song was introduced in:

    Somehow it seems appropriate to mention that Betty Garrett was a victim of the McCarthy era blacklisting, as was her husband, Larry Parks (who was obviously a terrible person, since he wore blackface in a few numbers when he starred in THE JOLSON STORY).

    Probably the smartest thing I ever said is the following: “The place where the left and the right meet is at a book burning. They just bring different books.”

  10. Keith Dickens says:


    I’d like to disagree with you, but I really can’t.

    You’re not wrong in any way about the PC rewrites. I’ll stand by what I said as a generalization about millennials and media treatment of liberal mindsets, but I do recognize that there is a movement in the half-ass-thought-through PC direction. I just don’t think, not even with 800k hits (half of them probably like you and me going to check it out and see what all the commotion is about, just to wind up disgusted by the modification) that we’re talking about any real critical mass. Maybe I’m wrong, but everyone has there thing and if these people want to start a new genre of music called “PC Rewrites” kudos to them. It’s not going to stop me from blaring my Rat Pack and 80s hair band albums. I’m just not very PC I guess, haha!

  11. Andy Lind says:

    I am 15 years older than most of my friends (I am 39 and most of my friends turned 24 this year) I am proud to say that when most of them hear stuff like this, they tell their peers to “let it go,” but they are still shocked by some of the things people did in the 30’s and 40’s. The first example that comes to my mind is the black-face scene in the movie HOLIDAY INN. They understand this was something done at the time, but still, they find it shocking (just like they find it shocking how throughout much of history, people only took baths once a year). While some Millenials and Gen-Z ers are quick to say, “I am offended,” the vast majority of their peers are quicker to say, “Shut up and drink your eggnog.”

  12. Andrew Hudson says:

    Millennial (a.k.a Gen Y) and Gen Z (a.k.a iGen) can be confusing but Millennials are born between 1980-1994, while Gen Z are born between 1995-2015.

    I can’t say much about Gen Z but to be honest, I don’t think most Millennials care about “Baby It’s Cold Outside” one way or the other. Truth be told, other than the common sense political correctness of not being an insensitive prick to other people, I don’t think most people across generations care about extreme political correctness and can put things into the context of the era they’re from.

    It’s just that you get a few people on twitter that get infuriated about some nontroversy and then a few journalists cover it for clicks (Bill Maher explains it pretty well

    As far as the “infamous” line, “what’s in the drink?” was a stock joke at the time and wasn’t intended to be interpreted as date rape. And anyone who actually looks at the time and context realizes it’s a back and forth flirtation about a girl who wants to have a good time but doesn’t want to be perceived as a slut.

    Having worked retail once makes me wish that all Christmas songs would be banned permanently.

  13. Brain Drake says:


    May I change gears a moment to talk about something you wrote?

    My new wife and I are emptying my storage unit and moving boxes and boxes full of books into our home, and tonight I pulled out “Blue Christmas and Other Holiday Homicides” from a box that must contain all of your books–Hellers especially. I frankly forgot about this 2001 collection, and I’m going to read it again over the rest of the week and next, because why not? I enjoyed the Richard Stone stories a lot when I first read them, and look forward to enjoying them again.

  14. Aaron Hilton says:

    Thank you for this. It hits the nail right on the head. Merry Christmas!

  15. Gary Bush says:

    Boy, did you get it right. I’m tired of the thought police. A friend was attending an academic conference, a group of people got into an elevator, a guy by the buttons asked people to call out their floors. 2,5,10 etc. When someone said “ladies lingerie.” A woman got so angry asked that he be banned from the conference. (He wasn’t). At this rate, they’ll ban Mel Brooks’s movies.

  16. Thomas Zappe says:

    Again, it’s just a question of which books or movies they bring to the weenie roast. Is that gonna get me in trouble too?

    Many years ago that great philosopher Hugh Hefner defined a prude as ” a person who lives in deadly fear that someone, somehow, somewhere is having a good time”.

  17. Glen Davis says:

    Dino’s version of the song is back in the top ten, I read.