David Bruce: The Funniest People in Families — Husbands and Wives, Illness

Husbands and Wives

• Robert Dole and his wife, Elizabeth, once made the bed while posing for People magazine. When the photographs were published, a man wrote Senator Dole, complaining that he was making things tough for men all over the country. Senator Dole wrote back, “You don’t know the half of it. The only reason she was helping was because they were taking pictures.”

• Journalist Heywood Broun met and married Ruth Hale, who was also a journalist. On their first date, they walked in the park, where a squirrel came up to them and begged for food. Ms. Hale told Mr. Broun that she wished she had some nuts for the squirrel, and Mr. Broun replied, “I can’t help you except to give him a nickel so he can go and buy his own.”

• Donald Grey Barnhouse, a pastor, once stayed at the house of an Australian man who had married an American woman. Before the two were married, the woman had never allowed her future husband to kiss her, so their first kiss took place before the altar of the church. “But,” said her husband, “after I got the first one, the rest came easy.”

• Terence Grey, the owner of a British theater, once heard that his wife was having an affair. He rushed home, grabbed an axe, used it to beat his way through the bedroom door, and stood with the axe raised in front of the bed, on which lay his cowering wife and her cowering lover. Then he lowered the axe and stuck out his tongue at them.

• The wife of Albert Einstein, the great physicist and mathematician, once toured the Mt. Wilson Observatory in California, where her tour guide explained that all this expensive, modern equipment was being used to “find out the shape of the universe.” Mrs. Einstein replied, “Oh, my husband does that on the back of an old envelope.”

• Harry Belafonte talked about his family while he was on The Mike Douglas Show, mentioning that his oldest child was 24 years old. When Mike Douglas asked how long he had been married, he answered, “Seventeen years.” Mr. Douglas began to count on his fingers, and Mr. Belafonte added, “Hey, I’ve been married before.”

• Rusty Kothavala was a proctor and instructor at Harvard. After getting married and fathering a daughter, he discovered he was gay and began frequenting gay bars. When he eventually told his wife, she was very understanding: “Is that all? Here I thought you were one of these international criminals or something.”

• During World War I, dancer Ted Shawn joined the United States Army. His wife, Ruth St. Denis, performed for the troops and then the next day watched a parade in which her husband took part. When Ms. St. Denis was asked what she thought of the parade, she replied, “Oh, I thought he was grand.”

• Mark Twain enjoyed reading and writing in bed. One day, a reporter was coming over to interview him, so his wife, Livy, said, “Don’t you think it would be a bit embarrassing for the reporter — your being in bed?” Mr. Twain replied, “Why, Livy, if you think so, we might have the other bed made up for him.”

• Anna Pavlova, in addition to being a dancer, was also a wife. People going backstage at the New York Metropolitan Opera House were once treated to the sight of Ms. Pavlova throwing ballet slippers at the back of her retreating husband, Victor Dandré, while she shouted at him in Russian.

• Stand-up comedian Rita Rudner used to do a lot of jokes about being single, and when she got married, she worried about losing 20 minutes of comic material. Still, she was glad she got married. In fact, she says, “For him, I would have given up 40 minutes.”

• Jack Gilford’s wife, Madeline, had been married before. She remained married for eight years, then got a divorce. On his 8th anniversary, Mr. Gilford told a friend, “I better run home and see if my option has been picked up.”

Illness

• The late Mister Rogers really did answer his fan mail — as is shown by the book Dear Mister Rogers, Does It Ever Rain in Your Neighborhood? One letter was from a mother whose daughter, Michelle — only five-and-a-half years old — needed radiation treatment for an inoperable brain tumor. Michelle refused to undergo the treatment because she had to be alone, even though the treatment would last just one minute. After a few days of refusing the treatment, Michelle asked, “What’s a minute?” Her mother answered by singing part of Mister Rogers’ theme song, “It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” and said, “Oops! The minute is up. I can’t even finish Mister Rogers’ song.” Michelle then exclaimed, “Is that a minute? I can do that!” — and did.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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