David Bruce: Good Deeds Anecdotes

Franklin Ajaye met fellow comedian Flip Wilson a few times after Flip had retired with a big pile of money. The last time that Franklin saw him, Flip had driven his motorcycle to a Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles. Flip bought breakfast for everybody. Another black comedian who did good deeds was Redd Foxx, star of TV’s Sanford and Son. White comedian Tom Dreesen remembers, “Redd would look all over. If he saw anybody that didn’t have any money and they couldn’t pay their SAG or their AFTRA insurance, he would take them to the show and tell the writers, ‘Write ’em in, put them on the show. Let ’em get one line.’ He’d make sure it was a speaking line. That way, he had to pay different [more] money. Redd did that time and time and time again.” By the way, in the early days of sampling, samples were not paid for — it took a while for people to realize that samples need to be legally cleared. Reynaldo Rey once heard a sample from one of his albums on one of Ice Cube’s albums, so he went to Ice Cube’s trailer — Ice Cube was filming the movie Friday— and said, “Hey, man, you owe me some money. I’m on one of your albums.” Reynaldo said that Ice Cube “laughed and invited me in, paid for it, and put me in the movie. Good dude.” Also by the way, in a conversation about Dave Chappelle, fellow comedian Bob Sumner said that Dave is a hero. In his book Black Comedians on Black Comedy, Darryl Littleton quoted him, “Great guy. I know stories about Dave that’s a lot deeper than just being a comedian. He’s a Good Samaritan. Him and David Edwards saved a little girl from being apprehended on a Washington subway one time. They were hanging out late after a gig one night and they noticed this guy had this girl on the subway and this girl was giving them like, y’know, little things that something wasn’t right. They come to find out she was being kidnapped and Dave [Chappelle] and Dave [Edwards] actually got the girl to break loose, y’know, and then they got the guy.”

Comedian Jack Benny was noted for his professional generosity to other entertainers. Singer Abbe Lane worked with Mr. Benny in a theater-in-the-round, and before the opening they looked at letters on the marquee. Ms. Lane’s contract stated that her name would appear at “100 percent billing” — this refers to the size of the letters on the marquee. However, “The Jack Benny Show” appeared in 100 percent, while “and starring Abbe Lane” appeared in 75 percent. Mr. Benny looked at the marquee and said, “No, no, no, that will never do.” Immediately, Ms. Lane thought that Mr. Benny, who was a huge star (and obviously his name should appear first), was going to insist that her name appear in smaller letters, but he said, “I want this changed. I want it to read ‘The Jack Benny and Abbe Lane Show.’” She did the first half of the show, and Mr. Benny did the second half of the show. In addition to singing, Ms. Lane spoke about shopping at Neiman-Marcus. Mr. Benny also had jokes about Neiman-Marcus, and Ms. Lane told him, “Jack, I just feel awful, because if I make any references to Neiman-Marcus, it’s going to take the edge off what you do.” Mr. Benny replied, “Don’t be silly. I have lots of other things that I could say, so you do it.” Ms. Lane remembered later, “And then he improved on what I had to say. I can’t think of another performer in the world who would do that. It was the most wonderful engagement. I felt that I had finally arrived and was working with the best of the best.”

When Joan Oliver Goldsmith decided to earn an MBA degree at the University of Minnesota, she ran into some major problems trying to understand statistics, and so she went to Professor Norm Chervany and said, “I’m going to need some help.” Then she started crying. She went to the ladies’ restroom and washed her face, and then she came back to Professor Chervany, who, she says, looked more embarrassed than she felt. He told her, “Don’t worry. I’ll work with you ’til you get it. And you will get it.” He tutored her twice, and the night before their third scheduled tutoring session, intellectual lightning hit her, and she suddenly understood the statistical curve. She telephoned him to cancel the tutoring session, and he said, “That’s a bit sooner than I expected, but I knew you’d get it.” By the way, one of Ms. Goldsmith’s friends is named Vern, who used to live upstairs from her. One day, she fell and she could not lift up her head without vomiting. She called Vern for help, and he insisted that she see a doctor, so he called an ambulance to take her to the emergency room. Later, he called her in the emergency room. He told her that he had cleaned up the blood and the vomit, and he offered to take care of her cat if she needed to stay in the hospital.

• Lee Castelani, a Senshido instructor in Montreal, Canada, has a brother who was in a taxi that broke down at a red light. When the light turned green, the driver in the car behind the taxi honked his horn—not aggressively, but as a way to alert the taxi driver that the light had turned green. The taxi driver got out of the taxi and apologized to the driver, who offered to take the taxi driver’s passenger to wherever he was going. (People in Canada are often very, very nice.) He drove the passenger to the passenger’s parents’ house, and he asked, “Hey, do you know Lee?” The driver turned out to be a friend whom Lee had not seen for a while. Lee wrote, “My brother is a pessimist and doesn’t have a very good view of the world. But he was blown away by the generosity of a complete stranger.”

“A part of kindness consists in loving people more than they deserve.” — Joseph Joubert

“My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.” — Dalai Lama.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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