David Bruce: Mishaps Anecdotes

• Alice Cooper frequently gets “killed” by zombies as part of his act. He also uses a lot of stage props—something that sometimes results in accidents. For example, he used to “hang” himself on stage—a wire kept him from actually breaking his neck in the noose. Alice remembers, “We’d made the thing ourselves, and used piano wire as the support cable. But what we didn’t figure is that if we used it 300 times, the wire would eventually lose its strength. Then one night in London it snapped. Fortunately, I instinctively put my neck up and slipped right through the noose. I fell six feet, hit my jaw. Man, was I lucky!” A live prop was a boa constrictor that once suffered from onstage diarrhea—something that made his stage crew, who were onstage dressed as clowns, vomit. (After the concert, Johnny Rotten said, “Alice, that was the most magnificent thing I’ve ever seen in my entire life.”) Alice also stabbed himself in the leg with a sword—accidentally. He remembers, “I looked down and thought, ‘Well, it’s already in there, so I might as well carry on.’” Alice realized the importance of stage props from his days as a high-school student: “One of my teachers had a guillotine, and if you were late, he’d put your head in it. I was late all the time.”

• Being one of the Three Stooges—Moe, Larry, and Curly—sometimes involved sacrifice. In 1936, the Stooge made the comedy short Ants in the Pantry. In it, the boys are pest exterminators, but business is slow, so their boss finds a way to get more customers, “If they don’t have any bugs, give them some!” Therefore, the Three Stooges start putting mice, ants, and moths in future customers’ houses. During filming, a container of red ants broke in Moe’s pocket, and they started swarming inside his clothing, leading to a lot of squirming by Moe. The director, Preston Black, loved it, saying, “Great, Moe! Keep up that squirming!” Moe remembers, “It was very funny—to everyone but me.” Also in 1936, the Stooges made Slippery Silks. In this short, over 150 pies were thrown, and Moe ended up with a sore arm and a sore face because the pies that he did not throw were thrown at him. The other Stooges also suffered injuries: Larry lost a tooth in one short, and Curly once got hit in the head and had to be attended to by a doctor. The doctor cut away some of Curly’s hair so he could attend to his wound, and then he glued back the hair so Curly could resume shooting the short.

• Maya Angelou once visited Senegal, where a friend named Samia invited her to supper. While she was there, she noticed that none of the guests was walking on the carpet. This made her angry because, she says, “I had known a woman in Egypt who would not allow her servants to walk on her rugs, saying that only she, her family and friends were going to wear out her expensive carpets. Samia plummeted in my estimation.” Therefore, to make a point, she walked back and forth a few times on the carpet as “[t]he guests who were bunched up on the sidelines smiled at me weakly.” Later, she regretted her action. Servants rolled up the carpet she had walked on, put down a fresh carpet, and then put food and plates and eating utensils on it. Samia then said to her guests that in honor of Maya Angelou, she was serving a very popular dish from Senegal. The guests then sat on the carpet. Ms. Angelou realized that in her ignorance, she had been walking on her host’s tablecloth, and she says that she was “on fire with shame.”

• Monty Python Terry Jones was friends with Douglas Adams, author of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe books. One story that Mr. Adams used to tell was of being at a train station with a Guardian newspaper and a package of biscuits (British for cookies). He sat down with a cup of coffee and put down the newspaper. In the middle of the table was a packet of biscuits. Another man was already at the table, and he very calmly opened the packet of biscuits and ate one. Mr. Adams was annoyed but remained silent, and he ate a biscuit. The other man then ate a biscuit, followed by Mr. Adams eating another biscuit. Mr. Adams was still annoyed, but he made an effort not to glare at the other man. When it was time to leave, Mr. Adams stood up, picked up his newspaper—and discovered his packet of biscuits underneath the newspaper.

• Claudiann Hart of Virden, Illinois, once donated a purse to Goodwill, but neglected to take her calling card, money and some important papers out of a zipped-up compartment in the purse first. She immediately called Goodwill, and Ann Clemmons, an employee there, was able to find and return Ms. Hart’s important possessions to her. In a letter to The State Journal Register of Springfield, Illinois, Ms. Hart writes, “Thank you to all the good and honest people working at Goodwill.”

• Christa Miller co-starred as the character Kate in The Drew Carey Show. One day, she complained about an odor in her trailer. She had checked the refrigerator, but the odor was not coming from there. Another co-star of the show, Ryan Stiles, asked whether she had checked the microwave. She had not, and when she did check the microwave, she found roast beef that had been sitting there—and rotting—for over a week.

• Terri Elders once enjoyed a delicious blue raspberry treat before teaching, and she was happy that her students were paying very close attention to her as she spoke. Unfortunately, after the class was over, one of her female students handed her a compact and said, “You might want to have a look.” She looked, and she saw that her raspberry treat had turned her lips, tongue, and teeth blue.

• Dancing in an open-air theater has its challenges—bats, for example. Another danger is picnickers. Tanaquil Le Clercq once danced an adagio in an open-air theater in Colorado with a hot-dog wrapper made sticky with mustard clinging to her tights.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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