David Bruce: The Funniest People in Families, Volume 2 — Children, Christmas, Couples


• When poet Edna St. Vincent Millay was a child, the pipes burst in her family’s kitchen during winter, flooding the floor with water that quickly froze—so Edna and her sisters ice skated in the kitchen.

• Ballerina Yvette Chauviré has always loved to dance. When she was a child, she drew the attention of passersby as she danced arabesques on country lanes.


• Ben, a young nephew of lesbian humorist Ellen Orleans, wanted a Barbie for Christmas, but not for his birthday, because he didn’t want the other kids to see what he was getting. Ms. Orleans was a little surprised by the request, and she asked her sister-in-law about it. As it happened, the sister-in-law didn’t particularly like her son’s desire in toys, but only because she regards Barbie as a sexist toy. Ms. Orleans ended up buying her nephew a Barbie and two outfits: a white satin dress and a cowboy outfit—the cowboy outfit had actually been created for Barbie’s boyfriend, Ken. She sent it to her nephew in a box marked “Private! For Ben Only!” She also enclosed this note: “Remember, Ben, in real life women do not have permanently arched feet.” Later, she received a note from her sister-in-law about the gift: “Great minds think alike. I bought Ben a Dancin’ Barbie. He’s in heaven.”

• Christmas of 1950 was a lean one for the family of impoverished actor Patrick Macnee, who later became famous as John Steed in the British TV cult classic series The Avengers. He bought a small turkey, but a stray dog grabbed the turkey and ran away. Things looked bleak, but James, Mr. Macnee’s brother, saved the day by disappearing and later returning with a huge turkey. He absolutely refused to say where the turkey had come from, but his clothes were streaked with mud and the recently deceased turkey was still warm.

• Figure skater Lucinda Ruh is known for her spins, as is another athlete born in Switzerland, Denise Biellmann, who invented a spin in which she raises her foot backwards above her head. When Lucinda was nine years old, her father saw Ms. Biellmann do her famous spin and suggested to Lucinda that she learn how to do it. Just before Christmas, Lucinda asked her father to come to the ice rink, where she gave him his Christmas present—she performed the Biellmann spin for him.


• The original edition of Gilbert Seldes’ book The Seven Lively Arts once figured in a romantic escapade. Several of the people Mr. Seldes wrote about in the book were illustrated by photographs. One of the men so illustrated fell in love with a woman whose parents opposed their marriage. Because the woman was forbidden to have a photograph of the man, she carried around a copy of The Seven Lively Arts instead—until her parents found out why she was carrying the book around. Eventually all ended happily with the marriage of the young woman and the young man: Ellin Mackay and Irving Berlin.

• A gay man at work was surrounded by women who were always trying to fix him up with other women. One day, the man he was currently dating came to the office, and he told the women that the man was his date. They laughed at the idea, so a couple of days later, he showed them a few photographs of him and the man hugging and kissing, so they knew. However, they treated him the same way they had treated him before—except that now they tried to fix him up with other gay men.

• Andrew Tobias and his former significant other, the late Charles Nolan, were opposites. Mr. Tobias wrote about finance, and Mr. Nolan designed women’s clothing. Mr. Tobias described the difference between them by saying that when the federal budget is published, he is excited by the numbers inside (“Look what they’ve done with defense!”), while Mr. Nolan was excited by the binding outside (“Blue and gold! Someone is Washington is finally getting it!”).

• Readers of the comic strip Peanuts know that Charlie Brown is in love with a little red-haired girl who doesn’t know that he exists. When Charles Schulz, the creator of Peanuts, was a young man, he fell in love with a red-haired woman named Donna Mae Johnson. She dated other men as well as Mr. Schulz, and eventually she accepted the marriage proposal of another man, devastating Mr. Schulz.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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