David Bruce: Create, Then Take a Break — Education, Food

Education

• Isaac Stern brought the child prodigy Itzhak Perlman, a violinist, to the attention of agent Sol Hurok. Itzhak was only 12 years old and had been crippled by polio, so Mr. Hurok wondered if he could ever be a success. Mr. Stern replied, “If you risk it, you’ll pay for his lessons and his fiddle and give him $500 a week for two years. He will play six concerts a year, not more. He’ll study. In two years you’ll make a new contract, mutually agreeable. In five years he will be worth a fortune.” Mr. Hurok took Mr. Stern’s advice, and young Itzhak turned out to be the success Mr. Stern had predicted.

• As a teenager, Charles MacArthur attended the Wilson Memorial Academy, whose yearbook showed his photograph and a blank space normally reserved for the listing of accomplishments of the person in the photograph—Glee Club, Spanish Club, 4-H Club, Member of the Wrestling Team, etc. After Mr. MacArthur became a successful playwright and screenwriter, he went back to the academy, where he was invited to fill in the space in the yearbook. He wrote, “Pres. Late Sleepers Club; Trustee: Bar Companions (a Pub); Editor: Who’s Who (a Humor Sheet).”

• Mathilde Marchesi, the voice teacher of Francis Alda, could be temperamental. Once, she angrily told Ms. Alda to leave at once: “And don’t come back. I will teach you no more.” Ms. Alda believed her, but the following afternoon Ms. Marchesi’s valet stopped by Ms. Alda’s apartment to ask her why she hadn’t shown up for her usual morning voice lesson.

Fans

• Russell Johnson has many fans because he played the Professor on Gilligan’s Island. Once, a fan asked for a special autograph, saying that he wanted him to write, “Thanks for saving my life in ’Nam.” Because this made Mr. Russell laugh, he wrote the autograph exactly as requested. Dawn Wells, who played Mary Ann on Gilligan’s Island, also has many fans. Once, she boarded an airplane and all the passengers sang the theme song from Gilligan’s Island. On another occasion, she was touring a castle in Bavaria and some fans came running up to her, crying, “Mary Ann! Mary Ann!”

• Customs vary from culture to culture. While Alexandra Danilova and Alicia Markova were dancing in Rio de Janeiro, fans would wait by the stage door after the performance. To show their appreciation for a fine performance, the fans threw firecrackers at the ballet dancers’ feet. By the way, in Monte Carlo, Ms. Danilova and George Balanchine stayed in a room next door to that of world-famous pianist Vladimir Horowitz. Each morning, they were awakened by Mr. Horowitz’ playing of Liszt’s “Valse Oubliée.”

• While appearing in Charlot’s Revue in New York City, both Gertrude Lawrence and Beatrice Lillie scored notable successes. When the show finally closed in 1924, Ms. Lawrence and Ms. Lillie left the theater only to discover that some of their more enthusiastic admirers were sitting on top of the taxi that they had waiting for them. Their admirers sang the actresses’ own songs to them and even accompanied them during their ride home.

Food

• Amelie, the daughter of Lars Gronholt, sometimes did not eat her lunch, so he began to draw cartoons featuring superheroes who encouraged her to eat her lunch. In one cartoon, Thor bites into a sandwich, raises it high in the air, and says, “This sandwich—I like it! Another!” In a comment on a story about Amelie and Lars, a woman who posts online using the name Napsauce wrote, “When I was in first grade, my dad drew on my lunch bags. Every single day, I got a new, full-color installment of ‘The Adventures of Lunchman in Lunchland,’ along with Lunchman’s trusty sidekick, Alphonse the Armadillo. After lunch, I would carefully cut the illustration off the bag and paste it into a book. At the end of the school year I surprised him with the book of all his illustrations … and 34 years later, he still has it, yellowed, faded, and a little crumbly, but still incredible. I was a lucky, lucky little girl.” And GiantRubberGorilla wrote, “I used to take oranges and with my fingernail carve out two eyes and a smile—then I’d hand it to the kid and say—‘Here. Tear off his face.’ She loved it.” And BigDaddy-O wrote, “I do a funny joke every day in my grade schooler’s lunchbox. Something like: Q: Why did the rubber chicken cross the road? A: She wanted to stretch her legs. Then I say Love, Papa! I missed one day of doing this, and she was really put out! ;}”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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