David Bruce: Create, Then Take a Break — Education


• Ballerina Illaria Obidenna Ladré lived through interesting times. When the Titanic struck an iceberg in 1912, she saw a huge sign on the main street in Petrograd: “Titanic Sunk.” She also witnessed the Russian Tsar giving a watch to retiring actor Korgen Krukovskoy on 18 February 1917. It was the last watch the Tsar ever awarded because that night the Russian Revolution started. As Illaria left the theater with her mother, they heard shooting. Life during the Revolution was difficult. Illaria’s sister got tuberculosis, so their mother bought a goat for its milk. Because they lived in a third-floor apartment, they arranged for another family to take care of the goat. Unfortunately, within three days the goat had disappeared—the other family had eaten it! Illaria and her family survived the Revolution, but at times the only food they had to eat was American kidney beans and Crisco. Sometimes, to get fuel to cook with, they were forced to tear up the parquet flooring from their apartment and burn it in a tin oven.

• Reb Levi Yitzhak had a knack for looking on the bright side of things. Once he found a Jew eating during Tisha B’Av, the fast day set aside to remember the destruction of the Temple. Reb Yitzhak asked, “I suppose that you forgot that today is Tisha B’Av?” The Jew replied that he knew what day it was. Reb Yitzhak next asked, “I suppose you forgot that today is a fast day?” The Jew replied that he had not forgotten it. Reb Yitzhak then asked, “I suppose that you are ill and your physician has ordered you to eat on this fast day?” The Jew replied that he was in perfect health. Reb Yitzhak then prayed, “Lord of the Universe, see what a remarkable people Israel is! An Israelite will rather admit that he is a sinner than tell a lie!”

• When George Balanchine took his New York City Ballet on tour to his native Russia, he was displeased with the behavior of his dancers, who engaged in a food fight in a Russian dining room because they found the food unappetizing. Mr. Balanchine chewed out his dancers, telling them that they were ambassadors from the United States to Russia and such behavior was unacceptable. Suzanne Farrell once mentioned to him that she liked the omelets, and trying to be helpful, Mr. Balanchine arranged with the Russian cooks to feed her omelets for breakfast, lunch, and supper. She ate hundreds of eggs during the tour.

• An admirer of the young Margot Fonteyn invited her to dinner. She ordered the same thing he did—a sole meunière. Unfortunately, she had not eaten this dish before and soon found her mouth filled with bones. Her date ended up teaching her the finer points of eating fish. By the way, while in China, Ms. Fonteyn’s father became a member of the Shanghai Club, where he was given advice about how to ward off illness in a foreign climate: “If you just remember always to keep about two inches of whiskey in the bottom of your stomach you will never have any trouble.” He spent 20 years in China, and was never ill.

• Clarinet player Irving Fazola liked hamburgers. Before a concert, he ate so many hamburgers that he got stuck—really stuck—in a chair and could not get up. Al Rose had hired him for the concert and wanted to play, so he used an ambulance and some strong men to carry Mr. Fazola and the chair to the concert stage. During intermission, Mr. Fazola was finally able to get out of the chair with the help of some strong men. He was even able to stand for his solos. After the concert, Mr. Fazola went to a restaurant—and ordered hamburgers.

• While opera singer Mary Garden was sailing on the Alfonso XIII, she walked by—and smelled—the ship’s kitchen, and she resolved never to eat anything that came out of that kitchen. Fortunately, she had some baskets of fruit that friends had given her as going-away gifts, and she lived off those. Whenever there was stormy weather, the fruit would tumble out of the baskets and bounce around the room. Ms. Garden amused herself by watching to see which fruit made it around the room first—it was always the pineapple.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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