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David Bruce: Don’t Fear the Reaper — Mishaps, Money


• Some glamorous, rich, and famous people had to work their way up from the bottom. Pop artist Andy Warhol lived in a cockroach-infested apartment during his early days working as a commercial artist in New York City. He once delivered some drawings to Carmel Snow, art director of Harper’s Bazaar. As he pulled his drawings out of a paper bag in this very elegant setting, a cockroach crept out from between two of the pages.

• Ballet dancer Maria Tallchief spoke her mind at times. During a rehearsal, choreographer George Balanchine was changing steps, as he was wont to do. Of course, this can make knowing what to do next very confusing. André Eglevsky turned, which was the old step, instead of lifting, which was the new step — and Ms. Tallchief fell on her face. As Mr. Eglevsky put it later, “She got up and looked back at me and was blunt.”

• Courtland Byrd once made a mistake. A barber, he cut the hair of a longtime customer named Murphy, and then he held up a hand mirror for Murphy to take to look at his haircut. But Murphy did not take the hand mirror, and suddenly Courtland remembered that Murphy was blind. Of course, the other barbers and the customers laughed. Courtland says, “If you make a donkey of yourself in the barber shop, they’ll ride you.”

• Early in her career, Natalia Makarova had trouble dancing in Swan Lake. The character of Odile dances 32 fouettés in a row — a very difficult feat. The first time Ms. Makarova danced in Swan Lake she moved too much during the fouettés, finishing them in a rear wing, where the audience could not see her. According to Ms. Makarova, “It was as if I had been blown off-stage by the wind.”

• Dancing Giselle can be hazardous to your health. In Israel, at the end of Act 1 Alicia Markova performed a death fall that carried complete conviction — she knocked herself unconscious on the hard floor of the makeshift stage. Her fellow performers had to carry her offstage and pretend this was part of the ballet so the audience would not know what had happened.

• When Ted Shawn met Ruth St. Denis for the first time, he was in her home, waiting for her to appear. Suddenly, he heard a clomping on the stairs, and he thought to himself, “Not even a maid should be permitted to make such a racket in this temple, in this home of a goddess.” The clomper then walked up to Mr. Shawn and held out her hand — the clomper was Miss Ruth.

• One of Anna Russell’s aunts once gave her a hat. Ms. Russell didn’t much care for the hat, but she wore it a few times because, after all, it was a present from a loved one. However, when her aunt saw her wearing the hat, she had hysterics laughing. Finally, Ms. Russell’s aunt told her, “That’s not a hat — it’s a lavatory seat cover.”

• Ian Reid once conducted the opera Carmen at Heidelberg. Unfortunately, one night the singer playing Don José forgot his knife in the stabbing scene in which he murders Carmen, so he decided to strangle her instead. The singer playing Carmen didn’t know what he was doing, so she fiercely fought him.

• English entertainer Joyce Grenfell knew a man whom she described as being a “dangerous” smoker: Stephen Potter. His friends’ carpets were dotted with small burn marks. In his worst disaster, he accidentally set on fire and burned a sofa.


• Andrew Tobias is a personal finance expert who spends a lot of time thinking about money. His significant other, Charles Nolan, was a fashion designer who spent a lot of time thinking about fashion. Charles was able to figure out the economics of fashion design — how to design something both fashionable and profitable. However, in his personal life, he made a lot of money, spent a lot of money, and wasted (chances are, this would be his choice of words) little time thinking about money. Each night, he would empty the money from his pockets into some handy place like a shopping bag. Whenever he returned home after visiting another country, he would do the same thing with the foreign money he had brought home with him. After Charles died, Andrew gathered up the foreign money — which made a 4-inch-high stack of paper bills. Andrew tells this anecdote about Charles’ relationship to money: “Charles once gave a friend a pile of old magazines. A few weeks later, the friend came by to return a forgotten $5,000 that he had found tucked into one of them.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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