Leggs Up & Dancing with Lady Di
He’s the voice of WOMR’s Leggs Up and Dancing, the minister who has officiated at over 700 weddings, and a good part of the reason that our beaches have mobility mats today. Vernon Porter (also known as the lovely Lady Di) seems to have limitless energy for the things he’s passionate about: people, music, weddings, people, coaching, Masons…did I mention people? “I always want to help people,” Porter explains. “Anytime, anyone who needs me, I’m there.” His past work on the disability commission helped enable all visitors to enjoy Provincetown, and his former position as secretary to the Board of Selectmen as well as his current work as a life coach keep him engaged with people: “I enjoy dealing with the general public and helping with their concerns.”
He loves performing weddings, “especially that moment when they realize that they’re really married. That’s my favorite.” The people he marries remember him fondly, share family photos, return to town for dinners, send him Christmas cards.
But it’s as a DJ that he’s the most famous, both here in Ptown and (literally) across the world. Lady Di’s Leggs Up and Dancing is WOMR’s most popular show—“and I’m unanimous in my opinion!”—as he brings together oldies, country and western, and the most dance-able music around every Friday from 5-7 pm.
How did the show come to be? “Town Hall was doing something called Curtain Up on Sundays—Broadway tunes—and it coincided with WOMR’s summer pledge drive,” says Porter. “And I thought, I can extend this with a contest. This was in 2002. But you know, I’d always loved radio. I practiced when I was a young kid, up in Nova Scotia, I used to pretend I was a DJ. I always played like that. When I came to Ptown, after spending years and years teaching dancing, David Atkinson said to me, ‘you have a great radio voice.’ So I spoke to Diana Fabbri and asked about what I should play, and she said, whatever you want to play. They put me on the air and the phones started ringing off the hook!”
Leggs up and Dancing (the misspelling was an accidental typo, but its whimsical air became part of the show’s persona) now has a steady stream of fans, people who call from cars and kitchens and workplaces, who pledge memberships, who just want to say hello. Porter started taking requests, and now every week they pour in by email and phone.
But…what about the singing? Listen to the show for at least 20 minutes and you’ll hear Porter accompanying bits and pieces of songs in his own inimitable voice. “I love this music so much,” he explains, “that I just always sing along. But one night I left the mike on by accident when I did, and the phones just lit up!” He claims that only four of the calls were to ask him to be quiet; and so the sing-alongs, became one of the hallmarks of Leggs Up. “Now, if I don’t sing, people call and ask me if I’m all right!” he says. “When the music comes on, I just start singing. I don’t know how I know the words. They just come to me. Everyone says, how do you know all the words, and I don’t. Sometimes I get them wrong, and who cares?”
Who cares indeed; certainly not Porter’s fanatical following. On a recent Friday night show, a typical call came in, from “Jim” working up in Bass River. “I listen in every week,” Jim said, “and if I’m in a bad mood, the show turns it right around.” It seems to be the general consensus: Porter’s choices are cheerful, upbeat, just right as the background to fixing dinner or getting ready to go out for the evening.
To say that the music is eclectic is to make a tremendous understatement. “I don’t actually choose all the music,” Porter admits. “I’m guided a lot by people’s requests, and the earlier they get them in, the more likely I am to be able to get them on the air.” He takes his list and goes into the basement of his condo, where he keeps shelves and shelves of CDs, many of them compilations. “I go downstairs, and I look at people’s requests. And then I look at my collections: I have the ‘60s, the ‘70s, the ‘80s—and everything in between.” It’s not for the faint of heart: Porter receives between 15 and 40 requests every week for a two-hour show. “I can hardly keep up with them all!” he exclaims.
Then he becomes more pensive. “Music is the heart and soul of everyone,” he says. “Music speaks to everyone, no matter what else is going on with them, no matter what country they’re from, no matter what religion they practice. It’s a universal language.” And he loves his audience. “It’s never about the numbers, its about the community,” he says. He takes care to include everyone: “they love when I say their name on-air, when I say where they’re from.”
“I have a real relationship with the people,” he says. “I come in every Friday night and no matter how I feel, once I’m here, once I’m Lady Di, everything goes away. It’s just me and the people.”
His final admonition before he signs off every Friday night: “Don’t forget to hug someone today, because a hug is worth a thousand words. Hugs are all that matter. There are no parts to break down. And do it cheek to cheek.”
Porter is out to bring happiness to the world, one ‘60s tune at a time.