Tuesday, September 24, 1996
Is the Lady a Tramp or a Fool?
by MF Selena

Poor Lorenz Milton Hart. You know him, right? With his trusty sidekick Richard Rodgers, he co-wrote such gems as "My Funny Valentine," "Blue Moon," and "Isn't It Romantic." It's the kind of music my dad likes -- partly because, "At least I can understand the words!"

Why am I pitying this man? Because he was too far ahead of his time. Back in the 30s and early 40s, Lorenz Hart was essentially a Fool without Fooldom. A jester without a belled cap. He had all the makings of a well-rounded Fool, but no online community where he could discuss his favorite investments.

"Wait a minute," I hear you music mavens cry. "Was Hart really into investing? He certainly didn't write many songs about it." Well, you got me. I really don't know if he was looking for outstanding long-term gains or not. I haven't read a biography of him and there aren't any online message folder archives dating back to the first half of this century. I did learn that he died too soon, though -- at the age of 48 in 1943.

But back to my point. (Yes, I do have one.) Lorenz Hart wrote many songs which still delight people today. One of my favorite Hart ditties is "The Lady is a Tramp," sung

originally in the musical "Babes in Arms" at the Schubert Theater in New York City in 1937. Unfortunately, I didn't catch that show, as I was still 25 years away from being born. But Ella Fitzgerald sings it marvelously on one of my CDs.

Check out the lyrics:

I get too hungry for dinner at eight.
I like the theater, but never come late.
I never bother with people I hate.
That's why the lady is a tramp.

Isn't that Foolish? This Tramp/Fool is enjoying life as much as possible. She isn't going to wait around to eat at the most fashionable time and isn't going to waste time making small talk with people she doesn't care for. I would bet that she wouldn't be inclined to just plunk down her money into fashionable mutual funds, either. Nor would she be lured by the initial public offering of that new mining and fingerprinting company on the Saskatchewan Stock Exchange -- you know, the one everyone's talking about.

Let's listen some more...

I like a prizefight that isn't a fake.
I love the rowing on Central Park Lake.
I go to opera and stay wide awake.
That's why the lady is a tramp.

Clearly, Mr. Hart felt that we should focus on the things in life that we enjoy, and not waste time doing what others expect us to do. This is a very Foolish attitude. Most people either ignore financial planning and investing entirely in their lives, or focus on it too much, or in the wrong way. Any of these routes lead to a lower maximum possible quality of life. For example, you might think that those who ignore investing can lead blissful lives. Perhaps. But more likely, I suspect that they live with a constant small, nagging worry in the back of their minds -- about whether they'll end up with enough to live on, come retirement. Those who focus too much on investing are obviously not finding the time to notice cloud formations or how quickly the kid next door is growing. And those who focus on investing in the wrong way... well, we've said a lot about them already. Maybe they focus on technical analysis, not seeing the forest for the breeze or the rainfall. Maybe they pore over investment newsletters, worrying about which is the best "hot stock."

Poor Lorenz Hart. His philosophy of life is just so... well, so Foolish. Too bad he was born too early. Fools advise people to learn enough about investing to be able to rely on themselves and not any other financial "experts." We also teach simple ways of earning solid returns -- some of which take hardly any time at all, such as the Dow Dividend Approach. And finally, we hope that with our help, people will get their financial ducks in a row, will invest in strong companies for the long-term, will focus on enjoying life as much as possible, and will sleep more soundly at night. Call us tramps or Fools (well, we'd rather you call us Fools, actually), but hopefully, we see a lot of ourselves in this song. I bet that had Mr. Hart experienced Fooldom, he might have added a few more verses to the song. Like:

I look for cash piled on my balance sheets.
I read MF Yorick's discussions on REITs.
I run my stock picks through Bogey's Decathlon heats...
That's why the lady is a Fool.

My portfolio's rich in Dow Dividend stocks.
I've read Buff't and Lynch and think they're the tops.
You won't catch me in bonds or other long-term flops.
That's why the lady is a Fool.

But let's go back to the original song one last time. There's one more line in it which points soundly to Fooldom. It's perhaps the saddest line, and it goes like this:

I'm all alone when I lower my laugh.
That's why the lady is a tramp.

It's sad because had Fooldom existed for the lady and for Lorenz Hart, they wouldn't have had to relax and be themselves all alone. They could have enjoyed the company of an exciting online investing community. The Motley Tramp, perhaps.

Transmitted: 9/24/96