David Bruce: Money Anecdotes

• Welsh singer Tom Jones is known both for his voice and for women throwing their underwear at him. The first time a woman gave him her underwear while he was performing was in 1968 at the Copacabana in New York. He was sweating, and since people had been eating at the supper club, a couple of people gave him their napkins to wipe his brow with. Then, Mr. Jones remembers, “This one woman stood up — up with the dress, down with the drawers. Took ’em off and handed them to me.” He wiped his brow with them and said, “Sweetheart, watch you don’t catch cold.” Mr. Jones married at age 16 and has stayed married. While he went to London to make it as a singer, his wife worked in a battery factory to support their young son. Mr. Jones vowed to make it big so that she didn’t have to work and so that he could support his family. One of the great achievements of his life was making enough money that his father could retire from working in the Welsh coal mines at age 50. Tom Jones himself could have ended up in the coal mines, but he contracted tuberculosis at age 13 and the doctor told Tom’s father, “Whatever you do, you can’t put this boy in a coal mine because he has weak lungs.” Mr. Jones says, “And the weird thing is, with weak lungs I’ve become a f**kin’ singer.”

• Yankee pitcher Spurgeon “Spud” Chandler quickly learned that Yankee manager Ed Barrow was a tough negotiator when it came to player contracts. As a very young pitcher, Spud once received a contract that was for the exact same salary that he had earned the year before, although he had been promoted higher in the Yankee farm system. However, he felt that he was due for a raise, so he mailed the contract back with this letter: “I thought that the Yankees were a fair organization and would increase my pay as I moved up in baseball. But, if this is how baseball is run, maybe I should get out of it. Unless I get a raise, don’t bother to return the contract. Just write me a letter.” Quickly, the contract and a letter arrived. The contract did NOT include a raise, and Mr. Barrow’s letter said, “Unless you affix your signature to this contract, don’t bother to return it. Just keep it as a souvenir of your brief career in organized baseball.”

• John Bogle, the founder of Vanguard, tells a story about authors Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., and Joseph Heller. They attended a party together—a party hosted by a billionaire who could easily appear on one of the television programs dedicated to the lifestyles of the rich and famous. Mr. Vonnegut talked to Mr. Heller about their host, pointing out that their host had made more money that day than Mr. Heller had made from all of the many, many copies of the vastly successful book Catch-22 that had ever been sold. Mr. Heller replied that that was OK with him because he had one thing that their host would never have: “Enough.”

• Many college students end up being broke, including flat broke. Peter Strupp of Boston ran into that situation when he was a senior at the University of Washington. He frequented a campus Christian fellowship house, even sneaking into the kitchen to steal other people’s food. Eventually, he was so broke that he could not afford to pay his rent. He says, “The night before I was going to tell my housemates I was leaving, one of them stopped me in the kitchen. We were alone …. He reached into his pocket and handed me a month’s rent, in cash. Before I could say anything, he said, ‘Don’t pay me back.’”

• Comedians have various reasons for going on tour, including needing the money to buy a house. For example, Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders decided to go on one final tour as French and Saunders because Ms. French had seen a house in Cornwall that she wanted to buy, but she knew that she didn’t have the money to buy it. Sometimes, the house is not for the comedian’s personal use. Peter Kay went on a “Mum Wants a Bungalow” tour to raise money to buy his mother a house.

• Judy Blume’s series of Fudgebooks have been amazingly popular. Elliott, her grandson, inspired one of the Fudge books. They were eating in a restaurant at Key West, and Elliott asked his grandmother to buy him some wearable art from a street vendor. She told him that she didn’t have any money, so he requested that she pay a visit to the nearest ATM machine. This inspired the book Double Fudge, in which Fudge becomes obsessed with money and with what money can buy.

• Frank Cottrell Boyce met the singer Nico at Eric’s, a punk nightclub in 1970s Liverpool, but maybe that wasn’t a good thing. He told her that he loved her, and she replied, “Really? Do you have any money? I seem to be a little short.” He had two 50-pence pieces, and he gave her one of them, but he could tell that she wanted the other one, too, so he gave her that one as well. That night, he walked 11 miles home, due to lack of train fare.

• Frank Frisch, manager of the St. Louis Gas House Gang, frequently was fined by umpires. The fines kept mounting up, as did a stack of umpire reports against Mr. Frisch. As more and more of his money kept pouring into National League President Ford Frick’s office, Mr. Frisch eventually sent Mr. Frick his electric bill and a letter. The letter said, “Dear Mr. Frick: Since you have all my money, suppose you pay my bills.”

• The Raconteurs have a reputation for producing rock ’n’ roll alchemy. Although they were selling records in 2008, they also made money in other ways than playing music. During their tours, they both played live music and sold their own homemade elixirs. What kind of elixirs? One elixir is intended to put hair on your chest; another elixir is intended to remove the hair on your chest.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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