Twelve in a room in America: decoding West Side Story

West Side Story is a well-known reworking of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. It appeared on Broadway in 1957. The 1961 film was nominated for 11 acadamy awards and won 10. (Wikipedia)

West Side Story is about love that crosses boundaries, and it has lots of double entendres regarding the war game of right-eye (Jets) vs left-eye (Sharks).

Here is a reference to spying in the Jets song:
“You’re never alone, you’re never disconnected. You’re home with your own. When company’s expected, you’re well protected. Then you are set with a capital J which you’ll never forget ’till they cart you away..”

And here’s another: “In, out – let’s get crackin'”

There is a neighborhood police officer in West Side Story named Officer Krupke. My guess is that this name was created by combining the name of the German industrialist Krupp dynasty with the word “Key.”


Here are some highlights:

“Sometimes I don’t know which is thicker, your skull or your accent.”

Skull is a left-eye reference. Accent is probably a right-eye reference because it contains the word “cent” and it’s related to spying. She then holds up her left hand in a fist as if to fight; he grabs her left arm and kisses the backs of her fingers.

“Is Maria all right?”
“I should be so ‘right!” (she gives the “r” an extra roll) “Right” as in “right-eye.” In order to be so RIGHT she needs to ROLL.

“I mind your nose and your head broken.” The left-eye is a “head” (leader) who is blind, deaf, crippled, broke, broken. Because of that, the only way the left-eye can detect the crimes against him is through “smell.” It could also relate to the voodoo theme “I break your nose and head with my mind.”

“She was only dancing”
“With an American who is really a Polack” (Poor-lack)
“Says the Spic.” (S.P.I.C.)

Everyone says “oooooh.”

“Si (see) and Chino makes half of what the Polack makes.”
“Oh here comes the whole commercial – your mother’s a Pole, your father’s a Swede…”

“You’re the Spic and you go back in handcuffs.”
“I’m going back in a Cadillac! Air conditioned! Built-in bar! Telephone! and TELEVISION! Compatible color!” It sounds like Chuck Berry – No Money Down with a double entendre “compatible color” tacked onto the end.

“Look! Instead of a shampoo, she’s been brainwashed!” This points to how “hair” means “thoughts.”

“I like the Island Manhattan. Smoke on your pipe and put that in!”

Skyscrapers bloom in America. Cadillacs zoom in America. Industry Boom in America. Twelve in a room in America.

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