David Bruce: The Funniest People in Families, Volume 2 — Birth, Children and Teenagers

Birth

• An expectant father was waiting by the delivery room, from which screams were coming. The father paced up and down, sweating and wringing his hands as he listened to the screams. Finally, the screams stopped and the physician came to him and said, “Congratulations, you are the father of a healthy baby girl.” “Thank God,” said the father. “She’ll never have to go through what I just went through.”

• Richard Wagner was happy at the birth of his son, Siegfried, and to celebrate, he wrote his Siegfried Idyll. The first person to hear it—other than the musicians who practiced it—was his wife, Cosima. Mr. Wagner brought a small orchestra of 11 men into his house, stationed them beneath a staircase that led to his wife’s bedroom, then conducted them in the music honoring the birth of his son.

• Composer Arnold Schoenberg was visiting fellow composer George Gershwin’s estate and playing tennis one day when he said, “Somehow I feel tired. I can’t understand it.” He thought a moment, then added, “That’s right. I was up at five this morning. My wife gave birth to a boy.”

• Conductor Arturo Toscanini felt that Walter, his son, was not punctual. According to Mr. Toscanini, only once was his son punctual: “I was married June 21; he was born March 21.”

Books

• Aby Warburg could have been an important banker since he was the oldest son of the famous Warburg banking family. However, he was bookish, so he entered into an agreement with Max, the second-oldest son, to allow Max to take over the banking business in return for buying Aby all the books he wanted. Aby profited immensely by the deal, acquiring 80,000 books—many of them rare and costly—during his lifetime. At one point, Aby’s house was filled to bursting with books, so his brothers decided to build him a library next door to house his collection.

• Small children know what they like, and they like to hear their favorite stories read to them over and over. After having Beatrix Potter’s Tale of Two Bad Mice read to her, Carol, Dorothy White’s daughter, said, “I love it, I love it, I love it. Again!”

• Angelica Shirley Carpenter and Jean Shirley are a daughter-and-mother writing team who collaborate on biographies by each writing a biography on the same person, then combining the two books into one volume.

Children and Teenagers

• Al Capp, creator of the comic strip Li’l Abner, was forced to use a wooden leg after falling into the path of a trolley car when he was nine years old. Of course, his limp made children curious. Often, a child would see Mr. Capp limping, then ask him what was wrong with his leg. Mr. Capp handled such situations by telling the truth, and if the child wanted to see his wooden leg, he would show it to him. Usually, that worked best, but once it didn’t work at all. He showed his leg to one boy, but the next day the boy and a friend were waiting for him, and they demanded that he show them his wooden leg. That was a little less fine, but the following day four children were waiting for him, and their leader danced around him, demanding, “Lift up your pants, and show us all your wooden leg.” Mr. Capp managed to stop further escalation by yelling at the children: “You all get the hell out of here—or I’ll kick you with it!

• As a little girl in Honolulu, Bette Midler went to hula dancing school, where she was not the best student. In fact, her teacher put her in the back row because young Bette could not remember the movements and got by only through watching what the other young dancers were doing. At a recital, her teacher fixed young Bette’s hair, pulling it back so tightly that her eyes were slits she could barely see out of, with the result that she couldn’t watch the other young dancers and imitate them. On stage, young Bette danced, accidentally smacking into the other dancers and knocking them down, thus giving herself the prominent position of front and center. The audience laughed and roared its approval, and young Bette decided to go into show business.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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