• When she was eight years old, Marjorie Weinman Sharmat, author of the children’s book Gila Monsters Meet You at the Airport, became a journalist. She and a friend snooped on their neighbors so they could write and publish The Snooper’s Gazette, which achieved a circulation of exactly four: her parents and her friend’s parents.
• On June 18, 1983, Sally Ride became the first American woman in space. As a child, she had visited Disneyland when it sold tickets marked with various letters — the letter “E” was used for the most exciting rides. After being launched into space, Ms. Ride told Mission Control, “This is definitely an ‘E’ ticket.”
• When he was six years old, child prodigy John von Neumann joked with his father — in Greek! He enjoyed reading, and he refused to get a haircut unless his mother let him take a history book to the barbershop. As an adult, he created the “architecture” that allows computers to store programs.
• When photographer Margaret Bourke-White was married to author Erskine Caldwell, they worked together on a book titled You Have Seen Their Faces and dedicated it to Patricia. Patricia didn’t really exist — she was the daughter they hoped to have together but never did.
• According to comic Sam Levenson, kids used to believe that if you bought chocolate boy babies instead of chocolate girl babies, you got more chocolate.
• Perhaps the best TV series ever to be cancelled after its first year is My So-Called Life, which starred a 14-year-old Claire Danes. Its Christmas episode (“So-Called Angels”) featured a homeless gay teen who is discovered by Angela (Claire Danes’ character) after he has been beaten. The gay teen character is named Rickie Vasquez, and he is played by Wilson Cruz, whose life shared some similarities with the character. For example, Mr. Cruz is gay, and he was kicked out of his home after coming out to his family at Christmas because he wanted to be an out actor on My So-Called Life. This story does have a happy ending because his father saw the episode. As Mr. Cruz tells the story, “Two months (after shooting), when it aired, my father saw it on TV. We hadn’t spoken for a year. He called me after watching it. This episode is the reason why I have a relationship with my father today. I came out to my parents because of the show, and the thing that brought me back together with them was the show.”
• Broadway producer Florenz “Flo” Ziegfeld loved Patricia, his only child, and he bought her whatever he thought would make her happy. One day, Morris Schlesinger, the owner of a Shubert theater, told him that he had seen a special toy in a department store window. Mr. Ziegfeld and Mr. Schlesinger went to the department store to look at the “toy,” but it turned out to be an advertising display that was not for sale: a life-size figure of comedian Charlie Chaplin dressed as the Tramp with baggy pants, too-tight coat, cane, and oversized shoes. Although it was not for sale, Mr. Ziegfeld asked the department store manager, “How much?” The manager named a price of $650, an exorbitant figure in the early 20th century. Mr. Ziegfeld paid the money and gave the life-size figure to Patricia for Christmas.
• Many women find themselves under stress during the Christmas season, and many women have found unusual, but effective, ways of dealing with that stress. Linda Blair, a psychologist, recommends getting out of the house for at least half an hour each day during the Christmas season. For example, exercising for half an hour away from your house is a good way to relieve stress. Of course, you can do other things with that half hour. Ms. Blair says that “one year I spent my half hour shouting, ‘I hate this situation.’ I came back to my in-laws with a huge smile on my face. I don’t know what they thought I’d just done.”
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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