New York Ranger Rod Gilbert (Public Domain)
Not every retired NHL player expects to be voted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Former New York Ranger Rod Gilbert, who played — very well, in fact — from 1960 to 1978, did not. When the call announcing his election to the Hall of Fame came in 1982, he was sound asleep, taking a nap, because he figured that no such call would be coming. Judy, his wife, answered the telephone, then woke up her husband to give him the good news.
Joe Franklin interviewed celebrities for many years on radio and TV. One of the people who got him his celebrities was Phil St. James, a man who gave people a telephone number along with the strict instruction not to call before 2 p.m. Anyone who called before that time discovered that the telephone number was for a public phone booth. Still, Mr. St. James brought talent to Mr. Franklin, including talent from the famous Cotton Club, which was noted for its African-American entertainers. In fact, Mr. Franklin was one of the first to have black people on his show, simply because he was interested in showcasing talent and didn’t care what color skin the talent came wrapped in. One day, he met a huge, intimidating, African-American security man. Fortunately, the security guard told him, “We black people, we love you. Anybody in the world can put on Sammy Davis or Harry Belafonte or Bill Cosby, but you put on the black people that nobody knows.” Mr. Franklin says, “That moment was one of the highlights of my entire life.”
Annoyances do occur in the audience during live performances, and sometimes the onstage performer gets nasty and sometimes the onstage performer handles the annoyance well. In The Iceman Cometh, actor Tim Piggott-Smith was annoyed—make that furious—because mobile telephones kept ringing in the audience. Finally, he lost it, and he said, “If that goes off again, I’ll f**king kill you.” Fellow actor Kevin Spacey was less angry when that problem occurred at the Old Vic. He simply said to the audience member with the ringing telephone, “Tell them we’re busy.” At Edinburgh, comedian Richard Herring once threw an audience member’s ringing telephone to the floor of the stage, shattering it—the telephone, not the floor. The audience members were stunned for a moment, then they gave Mr. Herring a standing ovation.
While writing his young adult novel I Am the Cheese, Robert Cormier needed to include a telephone number. He worried about making up a telephone number because he knew that people would call it, and the person whose number it was might not like the calls. Therefore, he used his own telephone number. As soon as the novel was published, his telephone started ringing. Over the years, thousands of children and teenagers have called that number and talked to him. Fortunately, Mr. Cormier has enjoyed talking to his readers. He acknowledges, “As a writer, I can’t afford to be a recluse or not involved with life.”
At the opening ceremonies of the 1992 Winter Olympic Games, figure skater Sasha Cohen was lucky enough to sit next to President George W. Bush. She called her mother to tell her, but her mother didn’t believe her, so Sasha handed her cell phone to President Bush, who spoke to her for a few minutes. (President Bush may not have enjoyed watching the Opening Ceremonies — lots of athletes kept passing their cell phones to him to talk to someone.)
Sports columnist Fred Russell of the Nashville Banner made lots of telephone calls in his business. Whenever he heard that a VIP was out and therefore unavailable to talk, he would say something like, “This is Mr. Haynes at the Cameo Pool Hall [pool halls were then regarded as disreputable places]. He left his cap over here last night. Just tell him I’ll take good care of it and he can get it tomorrow night.”
Dick Sears worked at the Walt Disney studios in the early days as head of the Story department. He once saw an unusual name in the telephone directory and decide to make a call: “Hello, is this Gisella Werberserk Piffl? … I’m an old friend of your brother’s. We were classmates at Cornell. … Oh, you’ve never had a brother who attended Cornell? I’m sorry—you must be some other Gisella Werberserk Piffl.”
Alexander Graham Bell displayed his new invention — the telephone — at the Centennial Exhibition in 1876 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Along with many other people, the Emperor of Brazil, Dom Pedro, wanted to try it. He picked the telephone up and held the receiver to his ear. When he heard a voice, he was shocked and dropped the telephone, exclaiming, “My God, it talks!”
Charles Schultz’ comic strip Peanuts was enormously popular and enormously respected. In fact, Mr. Schultz was given a retrospective at the Louvre, the first living cartoonist to be so honored. A humble man, Mr. Schultz said in an interview with Time magazine, “I’m no Andrew Wyeth.” Not long after, Mr. Wyeth telephoned him and congratulated him.
In New York, artist Louise Bourgeois held a salon on Sundays. One day, an artist called on the telephone and asked for permission to come to the salon. Ms. Bourgeois replied, “Who are you? What kind of work do you do? A painter? What size? … All right. You could come at three o’clock. Don’t come if you have a cold.”
At the 1998 Winter Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan, Tara Lipinski was in second place following the short program. However, Tara telephoned her best friend, Erin Elbe, to say, “I’m in second. Tomorrow it’ll be different.” It was different — Tara came from behind to win the gold medal in women’s figure skating.
When Ted Sizemore was a Chicago Cubs second baseman, he left this message on his answering machine: “It’s the bottom of the ninth. The bases are loaded. There are are two outs and I’m up! Here’s the pitch! There’s a grounder to third! The throw is to first and … I’m out! That’s right, I’m out!”
Phyllis Diller’s mother was no nonsense on the telephone. Whenever it rang, she answered it by saying, “State your business.”
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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