David Bruce: The Funniest People in Families, Volume 3 — Money

Money

• Jewish comedian Sam Levenson’s mother had to drive a sharp bargain when he was growing up because money was scarce. She would go into a grocer’s, hold up two cucumbers, and ask how much they were. When the grocer replied, “Five cents,” she would hold up one cucumber, and ask how much it was. When the grocer replied, “Three cents,” she would say, “All right, I’ll take the other one.” One day, young Sam needed a tie, so she took him to a tie salesman. The tie salesman said that the price for the tie she wanted to buy was 50 cents, and she immediately agreed to pay the full price, astonishing young Sam. When he asked her about it later, she replied that she had never liked the tie salesman, and “Tonight he will kill himself because he didn’t ask me for a dollar.”

• Divorce can be expensive. Movie actor Dennis Hopper knows art, and he bought a Roy Lichtenstein painting titled Sinking Sun for $1,100. In 1969, he had his first divorce, and his ex-wife ended up with the painting. She sold it for $3,000 to west coast gallery owner Irving Blum, and she thought that she had gotten a good deal. In turn, Mr. Blum sold it for $6,000 to his partner, Bill Helman, and Mr. Blum thought that he had gotten a good deal. Mr. Helman, in turn, waited a while, and then he sold it for $15,780,000. (Something tells me that Mr. Helman thinks that he got a good deal.)

• For a while, Whoopi Goldberg was on Welfare. When she began making enough money, she gave her Welfare check back, but she kept her Welfare ID card and framed it to remind herself of her difficult years. Years later, she appeared with Senator Ted Kennedy and with Marian Wright Edelman, founder of the Children’s Defense Fund, to protest against a Republican plan to weaken Welfare. Ms. Goldberg said, “The Welfare system works. I know it works because I’m here. I’m proud of it. … The country was there for me, and the system worked for me.”

• Celebrity interviewer Joe Franklin once invited Al Jolson to be a guest on a radio show hosted by Martin Block along with a woman who had been Mr. Jolson’s girlfriend 25 years previously. Mr. Jolson explained that when the woman had been his girlfriend she had bad teeth. After Mr. Jolson had spent $5,000 of his own money to fix her teeth, she had broken up with him. Mr. Jolson added, “I didn’t mind the breakup, but I resented that she was laughing at me through my own teeth.”

• On January 1, 1965, comedian Soupy Sales got in trouble and was suspended from his daytime television children’s show because he told the children to tiptoe into Mommy and Daddy’s bedroom, look for their parents’ wallets and billfolds, then take out all the green pieces of paper and mail them to him. He told the children, “If you send me those pieces of paper, you know what I’m gonna send you? A postcard from Puerto Rico.”

• Karl Menninger, a psychiatrist, disliked all physicians who were more interested in making money than in taking care of patients who needed help. He felt that too many people “grab on to the material things of life,” and to remind himself not to overvalue the material things of life he kept a symbol on his desk: a jar of pennies.

• Wah Ming Chang once made a purse for Mildred Taylor, who was practically his foster mother. As an extra-special touch, he put her initials, M.T., on it. She joked that the purse justified the initials — it was frequently eMpTy. As an adult, Mr. Chang created special effects, including the Tribbles, for the television series Star Trek.

• Comedian Phyllis Diller used to send Peter, her son, checks for $5,000. However, he didn’t want to take her money, so he would cut the checks up into paper dolls and send them back to her.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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