David Bruce: Gifts Anecdotes

Eric Roberts acted in It’s My Party, a movie in which he had a number of flashback scenes with a white horse. The horse’s name was Silk, and it was a gift to Mr. Roberts from Wayne Newton, whom Mr. Roberts had helped to be cast in the movie Best of the Best 2 and had become friends with. After Mr. Newton gave Mr. Roberts the horse, but it had not been delivered yet, Mr. Robert heard on the news that Mr. Newton owed $7 million in back taxes. He immediately thought, “Well, I’ll never see that horse, but I love that guy, anyway.” Of course, he had underestimated Mr. Newton, as many people do. A month later, he received a telephone call asking him where the horse should be delivered. He arranged a spot for her at the equestrian center in Los Angeles, and very quickly the mare arrived. Why had it taken a month for the horse to arrive? Mr. Newton had taken the time to have her bred. Soon, she gave birth to a male that Mr. Roberts named Sagan (after Carl Sagan).

The gift of a dress and stockings saved the life of a Jewish woman known as “FF” during the Holocaust. At Auschwitz, FF dug trenches. One day, she saw a Gentile boy who looked familiar. He was Kazik Wonisowski, a political prisoner who was originally from her hometown: Mozowircki. The following day, she saw Zosia, Kazik’s sister, who was also a political prisoner. Zosia gave FF a dress and stockings. How did this gift save her life? Frequently, the Jews at Auschwitz were forced to submit to inspections, during which they were looked over for signs of illness such as sores, boils, and scabs. Jews showing such signs were killed. The gift of the dress and stockings saved FF because although at inspections the top half of her body, which was free of sores, was naked, the dress and stockings hid the lower half of her body, which was covered with sores. FF survived the Holocaust.

Before World War II, Lucy Carrington Wertheimer ran an art gallery that concentrated on the work of then-modern artists. Often, she heard only criticism of these artists’ works, although many of them became well known and well respected as artists later. One late afternoon, after she had heard nothing but criticism all day, a couple of tourists dropped into her gallery and made very admiring remarks about the works of art, although unfortunately they had no money with which to buy them. Ms. Wertheim was so happy to hear their positive comments—especially about a picture by Kolle that they admired—that she gave it to them: “Please have it. Please take it away with you. Do go on enjoying it.”

Chana Levine, whose husband was Rabbi Aryeh Levine, did good deeds like her husband did. She took care of her father after he became widowed, but after making sure that he would be well taken care of, she visited her sister, who lived in Israel. Before she left, her father gave her a beautiful necklace that had belonged to his wife, her mother. After Chana had arrived in Israel, her sister asked what had happened to the necklace. Chana realized that her sister valued the necklace, so she said, “I have it, Father gave it to me to give to you.” After Chana died, her husband revealed the good deed she had done.

The family that Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Women, grew up in was poor but was also concerned about families who were poorer than they were. The Alcott family often ate two meals a day, giving away the third meal to an even poorer family. Louisa’s father, Bronson, was thoroughly impractical. A kind neighbor once gave the Alcott family a load of wood, but Bronson gave it away to a family with an ill baby, even though his own family needed it. Fortunately, another neighbor arrived with another gift of wood for the Alcotts. Branson told his family, “I told you we would not suffer.”

Learning to dance ballet with a partner can be difficult. When Chan Hon Goh, later a prima ballerina with the National Ballet of Canada, was learning to dance with Che Chun, she was terrified at first when he lifted her because she was afraid that he would drop her. Eventually, she learned to trust him, and she treasured a swan-shaped mirror he gave her before their first show together. The card that came with the gift said, “May this be a grand jeté to a brilliant career.” (It was a grand jeté to a brilliant career — and more. Later, they married.)

Soprano Lilian Stiles-Allen, who was professionally known as Stiles-Allen because early in her career some organizers of concerts disliked having long names on their programs, received several baskets of flowers after singing Hiawatha at the Albert Hall. Conductor Malcolm Sargent noticed that one basket seemed very heavy, and when Ms. Stiles-Allen looked at the basket closely she discovered that it contained two dressed ducks, green peas, and strawberries and cream! (Later, Ms. Stiles-Allen became the teacher of Julie Andrews.)

Before the game that determined the winner of the gold medal in women’s softball at the 1996 Olympic Games, a number of great softball players—pioneers of the sport—autographed a softball that they gave to United States team member Dorothy “Dot” Richardson. These players included Kathy Arendsen, Joan Joyce, Snookie Mulder, Marge Ricker, Diane Schumacher, Irene Shea, and Stephanie Tenney. Dot much appreciated the autographed softball, and she hit the gold-medal-winning home run.

Enrico Caruso enjoyed giving gifts. One day, Aimé Gerber, paymaster of the Metropolitan Opera Association, left a prized pair of cuff-links on his desk. Unfortunately, they turned up missing. Fortunately, a few days later, on Christmas Eve, Mr. Caruso brought him two packages. In one package were the missing cuff-links. In the other was a matching stick-pin. Mr. Caruso explained, “I want to make sure I get the pattern right, so I swipe cuffs and all while you were away, to show to the jeweler!”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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