David Bruce: Don’t Fear the Reaper — Food, Friends

Food

• In Trinidad, ballet dancer Alexandra Danilova decided to try passion fruit, something she had never eaten before, and so she asked her friend and fellow ballet dancer Alicia Markova to buy her some in the marketplace. Unfortunately, once she had the passion fruit, she didn’t know how to eat it. Ms. Markova passed on the advice she had received from the vendor: “You know what the man told me? He said to take off all your clothes, get into a nice warm bath, and eat the fruit.” Ms. Danilova followed the advice, which was good because she got the juice all over herself. However, she had been expecting it to be good advice for a different reason.

• World-famous choreographer Leonide Massine was also famous for his appetite. Once, he stayed at a hotel where the meals were included with the price of the rooms. Unfortunately, once the proprietors discovered how much Mr. Massine ate, they were not happy. One of the proprietors even said to ballerina Alexandra Danilova about Mr. Massine, “Mademoiselle, ce n’est pas possible — il mange tout — il gorge tout le menu.” (“Mademoiselle, it is not possible. He eats everything; he stuffs himself on the whole menu.”) Eventually, the proprietors made Mr. Massine pay extra.

• When Molly Ringwald’s oldest daughter entered kindergarten, all of the children were asked on their first day of school what was their favorite food. Half of the children answered “sushi” and one child answered “seaweed,” and Molly was afraid that she and her husband would be branded “the world’s worst parents” because their daughter, a picky eater, loved to eat something that Molly describes as “cheese-dusted packaged air.” Fortunately, one girl proudly answered that her favorite food was “Sugar!” Molly asks, “Guess who’s coming over for a playdate?”

• While touring the United States in a Volkswagon bus, Merce Cunningham and his dancers frequently had picnics. While heading toward one picnic spot, the troupe ran into problems when a large bottle of fermented passion-fruit juice popped its cork and geysered into the air. The troupe cleaned the floor of the bus — and the bottle geysered again. On one picnic, the troupe ate on the grass in front of a Howard Johnson’s. After the picnic, the troupe went inside to use the bathrooms, then drove away.

• At the Grand Hotel in Venice, Robert Benchley discovered that his room was next to the kitchen, and by listening he could hear what the cooks said about the various dishes the customers were ordering. The cooks praised certain dishes, and deprecated other dishes, so Mr. Benchley was able to learn which dishes to sample and which dishes to avoid.

• While Ted Shawn and his dance troupe toured Japan, they occasionally ran into language problems. Charles Weidman once wanted a glass of milk, so he got on all fours and mooed like a cow, while his friend George Steares pantomimed milking. The waitress returned with a steak.

• Humorist Frank Sullivan once took a large second helping, which he couldn’t finish. He remarked, “My eyes were bigger than my stomach.” Then he eyed his stomach, which was becoming quite large, and added, “But my stomach’s catching up with them fast.”

• Henny Youngman could be funny even while ordering breakfast. At a restaurant, he once ordered “burned toast, soggy eggs, cold coffee.” When the waiter said, “We don’t serve that here,” Mr. Youngman replied, “You did yesterday.”

• Actor Michael Brandon became a guest on The Tonight Show because of his mother. She wrote Johnny Carson and asked him to put her son on The Tonight Show so she could see if he was eating right.

Friends

• Debbie Anderson tells this story about her husband, John. He was friends with an elderly man named Mr. Daves. After Mr. Daves was widowed, he grew depressed, so John took Mr. Daves with him whenever he went fishing — and he often went fishing. Later, Mr. Daves suffered a stroke, paralyzing his right side and taking away his ability to speak and necessitating that he live in a nursing home. Again, Mr. Daves grew depressed. John got permission to frequently take Mr. Daves out of the nursing home and for a ride, but getting Mr. Daves in and out of John’s truck was difficult and caused Mr. Daves pain. Therefore, John announced that he was selling his truck so he could buy a van that could handle a wheelchair. In doing this, John was giving up something he dearly prized: his truck, which his wife calls a “cowboy Cadillac.” John frequently takes Mr. Daves out for a ride in his new van, and he even made a special fishing pole for Mr. Daves so that they can fish together. John’s wife says, “I don’t know anyone who would give up their prized possession to help a friend. I hope he can be an example for others to take a step to help those who are in need.”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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