David Bruce: The Funniest People in Families: Volume 3 — Music, Names, Old Age


• In January of 1991, Yo-Yo Ma played all six Bach cello suites in one evening for a New York audience. Afterward, he celebrated, and when he returned to the apartment of his wife’s parents, with whom he was staying, he discovered that he had forgotten his key to the apartment. Because the time was 3 a.m., he did not want to wake them up, so he slept in the hallway. They discovered him at 6:30 a.m. when they opened the door to get the newspaper.

• Children can be the harshest critics. Luigi Arditi, a conductor, was playing the score of Tannhäuser on the piano when his daughter, who was in another room, asked, “Who’s playing the piano, mama?” Her mother replied that her father was playing the piano, and the little girl said, “Oh, I thought it was the piano tuner.”

• When African-American conductor Dean Dixon was growing up, the radio was off limits to him because his parents wanted him to listen to good music, not popular music. (At the time, classical music was not often played on the radio in his area.)


• When the youngest sibling of young people’s author William Sleator was born, William’s parents did not know what to name the boy, so they did not name him right away. He was called the New Baby, which was soon shortened to Newby. When Newby was two years old, the Sleators decided that it was time to name him, so they named him everything: Tycho Barney George Clement Newby Sleator. However, since the new baby was used to being called Newby, he would not answer to his new official name of Tycho, but would pout and look away when he was called that. His older siblings found this response hysterical.

• How did Ben and Jerry’s ice cream get its name? Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield were friends who knew that they wanted to name their company either Ben and Jerry’s or Jerry and Ben’s. They spoke out loud the two combinations of names and decided that Ben and Jerry’s sounded better. Don’t worry about Jerry, however, because he got a remarkable consolation prize. To make things fair between the two partners, Jerry got to be the president of their company, while Ben became the vice president.

• In 1953, macho actors Burt Lancaster and Frank Sinatra worked together on the film From Here to Eternity. Mr. Sinatra spent a lot of nights getting drunk, and Mr. Lancaster spent a lot of nights taking Mr. Sinatra home, undressing him, and putting him in bed. Because of this, Mr. Sinatra started addressing Mr. Lancaster by a special nickname: Mom. Later, Mr. Lancaster said, “He’ll find me on my birthday no matter where I am, and say, ‘Happy birthday, Mom.’”

• Alison Smith had a difficult time remembering names. After marrying writer Russel Crouse (co-author of the Broadway hit Life With Father), she tried to introduce him to Alexander Woollcott, saying, “Alec, this is Mister … Mister ….” Mr. Crouse reached into his wallet, pulled out one of his cards, gave it to his wife, and said, “Crouse is the name, dear.”

• All of the children of Bill and Camille Cosby have names that begin with E: Erika, Erinn, Ennis, Ensa, and Evin. Why? According to Mr. Cosby, because E stands for Excellence.

Old Age

• In 1970, when Maggie Kuhn reached the age of 65, she was forced to retire by the Presbyterian Church, which gave her a sewing machine. Ms. Kuhn never even took the sewing machine out of the box, preferring instead to form the Gray Panthers, an organization dedicated to fighting ageism: discrimination against seniors. She believed that seniors have a lot to contribute to society, saying, “We are the elders of the tribe; the elders are concerned with the tribe’s survival and not their own.”

• Six months before she died of old age, Anna Sokolow was still choreographing, despite her need for round-the-clock care. Her caregiver, Jason, would watch her, and he knew that she was still creating steps: “Anna still choreographs, you know. She choreographs in her mind. At night I watch her eyes moving behind her lids. She sees movement. She hears music. Dance is her life.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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