David Bruce: The Funniest People in Families — Widows, Work’ The Funniest People in Families, Volume 2 — Alcohol, Animals

Widows

• Women of the west gained respect from men of the west. After a widow travelling west succeeded through sheer determination in getting her children alive through Death Valley, the men traveling with her agreed that “she was the best man of the party.”

Work

• Aryeh Labe, aka Archie Lionel, was the youngest brother of the mother of Al Capp, creator of the comic strip Li’l Abner. As a young man, he didn’t know whether to become a rabbi or a dancer. One day, Aryeh and two friends visited his sister’s family. After eating, the two friends put on a dance demonstration for the family. They were magnificent, and Al’s mother asked her brother, “Archie, kind, can you dance that way?” Archie replied, “Never in a million years.” Hearing that, she advised her brother, “Then, Archie, tierer, become a rabbi.” He did. (By the way, the friends really were magnificent dancers. Their names were Arthur and Katherine Murray.)

• Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Meyer Berger was very poor when he was growing up. As a child, he and two brothers — one older, one younger — got up early to sell newspapers in diners. After the first batch of newspapers was sold, the youngest brother quit working; after the second batch was sold, Meyer quit working; finally, after all the newspapers were sold, the oldest brother quit working. As an adult, Meyer would sometimes arrive at work carrying a dozen copies of the same newspaper — he never said no to a newsboy.

• While appearing as a lecturer across the country, Will Rogers included a comic bit in which he and his nephew moved a piano across the stage. The nephew did the hard work of moving the piano, while Will “helped” by moving the piano stool. One night, an accident occurred on stage. The piano collapsed, the audience laughed, and Will said later, “I wish it would happen every night.”

• Eugene Field wanted a raise while he was working for the Chicago Daily News. So one day he and his four small children dressed in rags and went inside the editor’s office, where the children begged, “Please, sir, won’t you raise our father’s wages?”

Alcohol

• John Steinbeck always toasted Ava Gardner whenever he began to drink. Here’s the story: While Mr. Steinbeck was in Hollywood working as a scriptwriter, he got a call from Nunnally Johnson’s wife inviting him to a party and asking if he would escort Ava Gardner. Mr. Steinbeck was agreeable, but he later received another call saying that Ms. Gardner was ill and could he escort Ann Southern instead. Once again, he was agreeable, and so he escorted Ms. Southern and her chaperone, Elaine Scott, to the party. Mr. Steinbeck and Ms. Southern dated a few times, but one night Ms. Southern was busy and so she asked him to take care of Elaine. Mr. Steinbeck took Elaine out, discovered he really liked her, and he later married her. That’s why he always began his drinking by saying, “Here’s to Ava Gardner.”

• Patricia Cockburn’s mother once discovered the butler drunk and under the dining room table moments before a dinner party was to begin. She told him, “Stay where you are, Jones, and don’t touch any of the ladies’ ankles.”

Animals

• Late in the life of Rudolf Nureyev, the great ballet dancer owned a dog named Soloria that seemed completely unmanageable no matter what language they used to scold her. One day, Jeanette Etheredge made Mr. Nureyev a lunch and went to him in order to announce that it was ready. However, when they walked into the dining room, they discovered that Soloria had eaten everything. Ms. Etheredge told Mr. Nureyev, “You have to find a language that dog can understand!” Mr. Nureyev then shouted at the dog in German, and he succeeded in frightening it so much that it ran away and hid for two hours. Finally, they had discovered a language that the dog understood. After Mr. Nureyev died, the dog was adopted by Marika Besobrasova, who succeeded in teaching it to obey commands in several languages.

• American ballet master George Balanchine once choreographed a ballet, featuring 50 elephants and 50 young women, for the Ringling Brothers Circus. But first, he called on his friend, composer Igor Stravinsky, to write the music for the ballet. Mr. Stravinsky first asked for whom the ballet would be created. Mr. Balanchine replied, “For some elephants.” Mr. Stravinsky then asked, “How old?” Hearing the answer, “Very young,” Mr. Stravinsky said, “All right. If they are very young elephants, I will do it.” The dedication of his score for the ballet Circus Polka said, “For a young elephant.”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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