David Bruce: The Funniest People in Families, Volume 2 — Siblings, Sons


• When Adele Astaire was four years old, she began to take dance lessons. Occasionally, her mother would take Adele’s younger brother, Fred, along when it was time to pick her up after class. According to a family story, Fred discovered a pair of ballet slippers, put them on, then imitated the dancers he saw by standing on his toes. Later, Fred and Adele became a famous dance team in vaudeville. After Adele retired to get married, Fred went on to become a famous movie star and danced with such luminaries as Ginger Rogers.

• When Olympic gymnastics gold medalist Mary Lou Retton was a very young child, she wanted to be a cheerleader. Her older sister, Shari, often used that fact to get what she wanted from Mary Lou. For example, when they took baths together, Shari used to say, “Now, Mary Lou, if you want to be a cheerleader when you get big, you’ve got to sit in the back.” Because Mary Lou believed her, she sat in the back of the bathtub, and so she never enjoyed bath bubbles or hot water.

• When comedian Geri Jewell was a young child, her older brother, David, taught her to believe in fairies by rigging the house with tape recorders. One day, while young Geri was recuperating at home from a bike accident, she asked the blue fairy (more than one fairy lived in the house, of course) to get her some doughnuts, then she walked down to the kitchen—on every knob of the kitchen cupboard hung a doughnut.

• Paul and Isabelle Duchesnay, a brother-and-sister ice dancing team, went through some tough times while training in Obertsdorf, Germany. Often they dined on what they called “white spaghetti,” a dish that consisted only of cooked spaghetti noodles—no butter, no sauce, no cheese. The sacrifice paid off—they were World Champions in ice dancing in 1991.

• Elfi Schlegel’s older sister, Chris, also competed in gymnastics. She was very interested in Elfi’s career, and once, when they were competing in the same meet, she was so engrossed in watching Elfi perform the floor exercise that she didn’t even hear her own name being called to compete on balance beam.

• Playwright Robert Sherwood was invited to eat dinner at the White House with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a Democrat. When Robert’s brother, Arthur, found out, he asked Robert to bring a souvenir home for him. Knowing that Arthur was a Republican, Robert asked, “What would you like—his scalp?”

• After participating in a United States men’s ice skating championship competition, skater Michael Weiss came off the ice and saw three women waiting for him: his current girlfriend, an old girlfriend, and his sister. He chose to hug his sister. He later explained, “I went with the safe one.”

• Minnie, Wilson Mizner’s sister, was a snob. When a newly rich family began to live in a mansion on a cliff above her own residence, she objected. Seeing the newly rich family hold an outdoor party, Minnie burned piles of trash, sending huge clouds of smoke upward to disrupt the party.

• John Barrymore came from a famous theatrical family whose members included his brother, Lionel, and his sister, Ethel. Once a clerk asked John his name. When he replied, “Barrymore,” the clerk asked, “Which one?” John stared at the clerk, then replied with his teeth clenched, “Ethel.”


• In an episode of Gilligan’s Island, Patrick Denver, the son of Bob Denver (who played Gilligan) guest starred as the young Gilligan. For that day’s shooting, Bob Denver’s parking spot said “Patrick Denver,” a small Gilligan costume was laid out in Bob Denver’s dressing room (which now had the name “Patrick Denver” printed on the door), a small chair with “Patrick Denver” written on it appeared in place of Bob Denver’s big chair, and everyone pretended not to recognize Bob Denver but instead paid deference to little Patrick.

• As a young man, Arthur, Groucho Marx’s son, liked to stay out late without his father’s knowing it. This was difficult, because Groucho suffered from insomnia and his bedroom was over the driveway. Coming home very late one night, Arthur turned off the engine early and coasted up to the garage, then very quietly got out of the car and tiptoed up the sidewalk. It didn’t work, because he heard Groucho’s voice above him playfully saying, “I still heard you.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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