David Bruce: Money Anecdotes

British pop singer Robbie Williams became obsessed with such phenomena as UFOs and alien abductees, and he attended a UFO convention in Laughlin, Nevada, in 2008. At the convention was Dr. Roger Leir, who is supposed to have 15 metallic implants—not of Earthly metal—that he has extracted from patients. Of course, people sometimes give Dr. Leir objects that are claimed to be of weird origins. For example, some people at the convention claimed to have seen two giant reptilian creatures battling in the desert. One person gave Dr. Leir a tissue sample that was supposed to come from one of the creatures. Mr. Williams asked Dr. Leir, “Are you excited about what it may be?” Dr. Leir replied, “In a word, no.” He has good reason not to be excited. Dr. Leir pointed out, “It could be a piece of nothing. I was recently sent an object that was surgically removed from an abductee. I put it under the electron microscope. It looked like an organic compound, so we went to the next level. We did a test that uses infrared spectroscopy. Long story short, it was a piece of wood.” Dr. Leir continued, “So I just spent $25,000 to look at a piece of wood. You ask me if I get excited? No.”

Many people do ultra-cheap Web-based series of ultra-cheap entertainment. For example, Stacie Ponder, a freelance writer for <AfterEllen.com> (under the name Final Girl), created the horror series Ghostella’s Haunted Tomb with a budget of, she estimates, 49 cents. So how do you make a Web-based series for 49 cents? Ms. Ponder says that it helps to have a roommate (Heidi Martinuzzi) who is willing to star in the series. In addition, many people are willing to create their own costumes and volunteer their time so they can appear in the series. And it helps to have a mother who is willing to contribute the 49 cents. Of course, 49 cents does not go very far, and Ms. Ponder found herself eating a lot of mustard sandwiches. Making the Web-based series is both fun and educational, and here are a few things that Ms. Ponder has learned: “People can be extremely cool and helpful if you just ask,” “a great recipe for homemade fake blood,” and “All things considered, mustard sandwiches really aren’t that bad.”

During the writers strike of 2007-2008, Tim Long, writer and executive producer on The Simpsons, became an American citizen. At the citizenship ceremony, he met and introduced himself to an older gentleman from Guatemala who asked him to explain why the writers were striking. Of course, Mr. Long did that, using such terms as “streaming rights” and “residuals” and “downloads,” and he thought that the older gentleman would likely think that he was “a greedy Hollywood jerk, grubbing for yet more dough.” Fortunately, the older gentleman smiled and introduced him to his wife, saying, “This is Bart Simpson! He wants more money from the computer! He’s a good guy!” Mr. Long immediately thought, “God bless America, and God bless the Writers Guild.”

In 1967, Frank Sinatra and his daughter Nancy recorded “Somethin’ Stupid,” which was a monster hit for them, spending a month at No. 1. Nancy remembers, “The whole thing took about 20 minutes. We recorded it in two takes, and the only reason it took two was that Dad kept singing it ‘shumshing shtupid’ to make me laugh on the first one, and we couldn’t finish it.” After recording the song, Frank said, “That’s a No. 1 record.” Mo Austin, a honcho at Reprise Records, disagreed, and said, “No, it’s a bomb.” In Nancy’s office today is a photograph of Frank and herself from that recording session, Nancy describes the photo: “Coming out of a balloon in my dad’s mouth are the words, ‘Silly bastard bet me $2 it would be a bomb.’ And attached [to the photograph] is a $2 bill.”

When he was a young man, Edward Stratemeyer, who later created the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, wanted to be a writer—a career his father advised him not to pursue. Edward worked at his brother’s stationery store while continuing to write in his spare time. He wrote a long story titled “Victor Horton’s Idea,” which he sold for $75, a lot of money in the late 19thcentury. In fact, $75 was six times what he made per week at the stationery store. When he told his father what he had done and how much money he had been paid, his father said, “Paid you that for writing a story? Well, you’d better write a lot more of them!”

Singer Sarah Brightman was happily married for a while to composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, but they divorced, and now they have a good relationship as a divorced couple. In the divorce settlement, Ms. Brightman was awarded £6 million. Of course, Ms. Brightman has done rather well as an actress in Cats and Phantom of the Opera and as a recording artist, so one day she asked her ex-husband, “Look, I’m doing all right. Would you like it back?” He replied, “No, you went through all of that—you keep it.”

When Robert Frost was a young man, his paternal grandfather offered to pay his expenses for a year as he tried to establish himself as a poet—with the understanding that after the year if he had been successful he would undertake a more normal occupation. Robert turned down the offer because he realized that it would take much more than a year to establish himself as a poet. Grandfather Frost did, however, leave Robert money in his will—money that Robert lived on until he became successful.

When Carl Linnaeus, the father of scientific classification and naming, stopped in Hamburg, Germany, while traveling to a university to get a medical degree, he visited the city’s mayor, who showed him a stuffed seven-headed dragon that he was hoping to receive much money for. Mr. Linnaeus, however, pointed out that the seven-headed dragon was a fake because its heads were those of seven weasels and its body was made from snakeskins. The mayor of Hamburg was not pleased, and Mr. Linnaeus quickly left the city.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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