David Bruce: Mishaps Anecdotes

• If famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright had a weakness, it was his designs for furniture. When he designed the Johnson Wax Administrative Building in Racine, Wisconsin, he also designed three-legged chairs that unfortunately tipped over frequently, spilling the occupant onto the floor. The company president asked him why he had not put four legs on the chairs, and Mr. Wright replied, “You won’t tip if you sit back and put your two feet on the ground because then you have five legs holding you up. If five legs won’t hold you, then I don’t know what will!” Earlier in his career, Mr. Wright designed chairs for another building he had designed: the Larkin Company Administration Building in Buffalo, New York. His chairs were called “suicide chairs” because they tipped over so frequently. Although Mr. Wright thought — correctly — of himself as a genius, even he admitted that his chairs were far from comfortable. He once said, “I have been black and blue in some spot, somewhere, almost all my life from too much intimate contact with my own early furniture.”

• Franco Corelli used to carry around hidden sponges on stage while singing so he could occasionally wet his lips. Birgit Nilsson remembers that during the 1961 revival of Turandotat the Metropolitan Opera, Mr. Corelli suddenly turned his back on the audience, reached into the front of his pants, and, in Ms. Nilsson’s words, “began fooling around.” Of course, she was understandably worried about what he was going to do, and she was understandably relieved when he finally pulled out the sponge he had been searching for and wet his lips.

• During Tosca, a fire started on stage while Geraldine Farrar was performing. The prompter started to throw a fire extinguisher to Ms. Farrar, but she motioned to him not to do it. Instead, she acted shocked, then beat out the fire with her hands. Later, she explained that a modern fire extinguisher did not belong in Toscaand she preferred to injure her hands rather than to do violence to the opera.

• WNBA star Rebecca Lobo’s most embarrassing moment on the basketball court came when she was a first-year player for the University of Connecticut. She had forgotten to tie the drawstring of her uniform shorts, and when she jumped to block a shot, she became entangled with the other player, and her shorts ended up around her ankles. After that experience, she remembered to tie the drawstring.

• As a youth, Marvel Comics maven Stan Lee worked in a movie house on Broadway. Once, first lady Eleanor Roosevelt visited the theater, and Mr. Lee had the privilege of showing her to her seat. He walked down the aisle with his head held high, and he tripped over the leg of a patron and fell. Mrs. Roosevelt put her hands on his shoulders and asked if he was all right. (He was fine — except for his pride.)

• Language can be ambiguous. While a priest was giving a homily in a Catholic school, a little boy started talking. Not wanting the homily to be interrupted, a Sister asked one of her young pupils, “Go up there and tell him to stop talking.” The young pupil walked past the talking boy, went up to the priest who was giving the homily, and said, “Sister said you should stop talking.”

• Chubby Wise played fiddle for country singer Hank Snow. During a concert, Mr. Wise’s bow caught Mr. Snow’s toupee and flung it out into the audience. Someone in the audience went home with a very unusual celebrity memento. (Once, Mr. Snow got too close to the edge of the stage and fell off. He said, “Goddamn it, Chubby. Why don’t you watch where I’m going?”)

• The funniest typo that ever occurred in a work by children’s book writer Phyllis Reynolds Naylor appeared in a short story titled “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” Instead of reading, “Marvin Migglesby sat by the fire roasting chestnuts and feeding them to the dog,” the last line read, “Marvin Migglesby sat by the fire roasting the dog.”

• In 1952, the Oklahoma Sooners had a wonderful football team, but way too many fumbles, especially in the first half, led to a loss against Notre Dame, although the Sooners were favored to win. At halftime, an Oklahoma drum major threw a baton high in the air, but missed catching it when it came down, and it tumbled crazily on the ground. A fan told Oklahoma coach Bud Wilkinson, “I see you coach the band, too.”

• Hugh Laing once was in the middle of a dance with Alicia Markova in Alekowhen she fainted — she was so graceful that the faint seemed part of the dance. Mr. Laing did not stop dancing, but he gathered Ms. Markova in his arms, danced offstage and gave her to some people who could help her, then danced onstage again.

• Early in her career, when she was still a student, artist Edna Hibel was enthusiastically working on a fresco, standing on a big block to reach high up on a wall. Unfortunately, she stepped too far back to view her work with the result that she fell to the floor. Ms. Hibel says, “That’s one time my enthusiasm hit bottom!”

• Early in her career, choreographer Agnes de Mille danced in the play The Black Crook. One night, her partner accidentally kicked her and broke her nose. Ms. de Mille reported, “The sound, a kind of wet scrunch, carried to the back of the theater, but, I am proud to say, neither of us missed a step.”

• Mishaps occur even in the lives of famous authors. Poet Arnold Adoff, author of Eats and Chocolate Dreams, was once eating peanut butter while writing at a typewriter. He was careless, he got peanut butter in the typewriter, and he was forced to hire a repairman to fix the problem.

• Around 1914, while performing in New Orleans, Ma Rainey sang, “If you don’t believe I’m sinkin’, look what a hole I’m in.” At that moment, the stage she was standing on collapsed. (Fortunately, no one was hurt.)

• A Washington newspaper printed a headline with a typo: “CHURCHILL IN BED WITH SLIGHT COED.” President Franklin D. Franklin sent Prime Minister Winston Churchill several copies of the newspaper.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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