David Bruce: Mishaps Anecdotes

Because of a mishap, Edward Villella began to take ballet lessons. While growing up in Queens, he was very athletic and played many games. One day, while playing Running Bases, he was hit in the head with a ball and knocked unconscious. The children he was playing with picked him up, carried him to his home, put him down, rang the doorbell, and ran. He woke up healthy, but his mother felt bad because she had not been at home when the children rang her doorbell; instead, she had been with Edward’s sister, who was taking a dance lesson. Therefore, the next time his sister had a dance lesson, his mother took him along, too. The dance teacher felt that Edward’s presence would be distracting to her students unless he was also taking dance lessons, so he began to take lessons. Later, his sister auditioned for and was awarded a partial scholarship with the School of American Ballet. When SAB administrator Natalie Molostwoff found out that the new partial-scholarship dancer had a brother who was taking dance, she was very interested: “He’s a boy? Can he walk? Bring him!” Young Edward auditioned for the SAB and was awarded a full scholarship, and of course he became a star dancer for the New York City Ballet.

Jason Mewes is the comedic genius who plays the uninhibited foul-mouthed Jay to movie writer-director-actor Kevin Smith’s Silent Bob in such movies as Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Jay and Silent Bob made a short but memorable appearance in the excellent film Chasing Amy. Since Mr. Mewes had not been acting for a while, Mr. Smith worried that he would not have his lines memorized, so Mr. Smith told his crew that they might be working for a while, perhaps filming Mr. Mewes performing one line of dialogue, then pausing as he memorized the next line so he could perform it, and so on. However, when it came time to record the scene, Mr. Mewes sailed through his dialogue with no problems whatsoever, and it was Mr. Smith who kept forgetting his lines. Afterwards, the crew teased Mr. Smith, saying, “Oh yeah, Kevin, we better watch out for this Mewes character; we’re gonna be here all night.”

Emily Yoffe, a columnist for the online magazine Slate, had the misfortune, along with her young daughter, to get lice—which is common in elementary school. She vigorously attacked the lice with Nix cream and special combs, but of course it took time to eradicate the lice. After she and her daughter spent two hours treating their scalps with insecticides and thorough combings, they ate dinner. At one point, Ms. Yoffe tossed her hair and a louse fell on the tablecloth. Her husband commented, “You are one classy lady.” Of course, things would have been better if she and her daughter had been males; that way, they could get crew cuts. In fact, Ms. Yoffe had earlier told her daughter that a male classmate of hers had looked cute with a crew cut. Her daughter had replied, “Mom, it’s not a hairdo; it’s because of lice.”

Back in 1967, a TV commercial for Colt 45 Malt Liquor showed an impassive man named Billy Van seated at a table in a bullring as a matador fights a bull. The bull charged Mr. Van and the table, crashing him into a wall. In a close-up, Mr. Van dusts himself off impassively, sits down at the table impassively, and pours himself a glass of Colt 45 Malt Liquor—which makes him smile. The stunt with the bull was unplanned—the bull was supposed to ignore the man at the table and concentrate instead on the matador fighting him. Actually, the man at the table was not Mr. Van; it was another matador dressed as Mr. Van, who appeared only in the close-ups. The owner of the bullring told the TV film crew, “Don’t worry. If de matador dies, I get you another one.” Fortunately, the matador did not die.

When Merrill Ashley was a young student at the School of American Ballet, she had the chance to dance in a workshop before an audience. Alexandra Danilova told all the dance students, “Remember, you have to play to the balcony. Don’t forget.” Young Merrill thought that she knew what the advice meant, so she held her head high and looked at the balcony the entire time she danced. Afterward, Diana Adams told her, “I never noticed it before, but you have this strange habit of holding your head really high when you dance, as though you’re looking up at the ceiling.” Merrill quickly corrected this “habit.”

In the 1946-47 ballet season in Paris, Violette Verdy—then a young teenager—performed as a sylph in La Sylphide along with other young teenagers. Unfortunately, during a scene in which the sylphs flew, her high-wire apparatus malfunctioned, leaving her hanging in the air with only her feet visible to the audience for 15 minutes. However, her ballert teacher, Madame Rousane Sarkissian, complimented her: “You pointed your feet very well, anyway!”

Actress Shelly Winters could be very outspoken. At a Chicago Film Festival, she met Mayor Richard Daley. Amazed at how young he looked, she was positive that he had had plastic surgery done. Therefore, she commented, “You look great. You haven’t aged a day since I met you 20 years ago. Who does your work?” Of course, she was unaware that 20 years ago she had met then-Mayor Richard J.Daley, and she was now talking to his son: Richard M.Daley.

World-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma is a busy man—so busy that in October of 1999 he left his $2.5 million Montagnana cello in the trunk of a New York taxicab. Fortunately, he had a taxicab receipt, so police located the taxicab quickly. The cello was still in the trunk—the taxicab driver had not even realized that it was still there.

Even very good musicians can have an off night. A team of musicians led by jazz saxophonist Branford Marsalis once mightily messed up “April in Paris.” After they had “played” the song, Mr. Marsalis announced to the audience that they had just heard “April Embarrassed.”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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