David Bruce: Hair Anecdotes

• In 1968, Ivan Nagy joined the American Ballet Theatre for a three-week tour in Japan. Unfortunately, Mr. Nagy did not adjust well to the raw seafood that was served there, and he grew weak because he was vomiting between performances. One day, while performing in Etudehe made a jump, fell off balance, and almost landed in the orchestra pit. Afterward, American Ballet Theatre VIP Lucia Chase came backstage to see him. He told her, “I am terribly sorry, Madame Chase. I have to admit I almost fell into the orchestra pit. I am ill. I can’t eat. I have no energy, and I am dancing everyday.” Mr. Nagy was surprised when Ms. Chase replied, “Ivan, your hair is much too long. You’ve got to get a shag.” All Ms. Chase was concerned about was his long hair. This story does have a happy ending. Mr. Nagy learned to eat raw fish, to live with a new hairstyle, and to call Madame Chase “Lucia.”

• Dr. Thomas R.P. Dawson survived the Japanese occupation of Malaysia during World War II. Just before the takeover, he decided to visit his barber. The air raid siren blew during his haircut, and he and his barber went to an air raid shelter. Later, they returned to the barbershop, when once again the siren blew. Again, they went to an air raid shelter, and again, they returned to the barbershop, and again, the siren blew. Before Dr. Dawson received a complete hair cut, he and his barber had visited the air raid shelter together four times.

• After dancing the first act of Gisellein Mexico, Alicia Markova was surrounded by eager souvenir-seekers who had danced the roles of the peasants in Act 1 and who began to snip off locks of her hair. Her sister, Doris, pleaded with them to leave some hair for the second act, but Ms. Markova was able to stop them only by promising them souvenirs from her dressing room. After the ballet, the souvenir-seekers descended on her dressing room and carried away hairnets and powder puffs and other small items.

• Entertainer Phil Baker was bald and wore a hairpiece. Once, while they were working together on the movie Goldwyn Follies, the very distinguished Adolphe Menjou saw Mr. Baker and told him, “My God, where did you get that piece? Wardrobe will take advantage of a newcomer every time. You go right back there and tell them to give you a decent hairpiece.” Unfortunately, Mr. Baker’s hairpiece did not come from wardrobe — it was his own personal property.

• Gioacchino Rossini (1792-1868) was a prolific composer on nearly any topic. He once said, “Give me a laundry list, and I will set it to music.” He also was able to work under pressure. According to Rossini, “Nothing primes inspiration more than necessity, whether it be a copyist waiting for your work, or the prodding of an impresario tearing his hair. In my time, all the impresarios of Italy were bald at thirty.”

• Pianist Ignacy Paderewski once gave a performance in which everything had gone wrong. Rushing to leave the theater afterward, he hopped into a cab. The cab driver asked, “Where to?” In a hurry to be away from the theater, Paderewski replied, “Anywhere.” The cab driver looked at Paderewski’s bushy red hair, and then decided, “I’ll take you to a barber.”

• Early in her career, actress Leslie Caron studied ballet with the Conservatoire National in Paris, but Ms. Caron decided to move on to the Roland Petit Company for an unusual reason — all the students in the Conservatoire National had to wear their hair in the same style. She disliked the regimentation, so she left.

• Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and his wife once dined with Fred Astaire, who kept his head bent over his bowl of soup. They asked if something was wrong, and Mr. Astaire replied, “Can’t you notice anything?” They said that they could not, and he said, “I’m disappointed. I’ve got a new toupee and I wondered if it showed.”

• Ballet dancers frequently find it difficult to keep their hair in order while performing. Robert Joffrey of Joffrey Ballet used to run around backstage with a can of hair spray, spraying any stray wisps of hair he saw. Some dancers have even been known to use dabs of Elmer’s Glue-All to keep their hair in place.

• Gay men are interested in many body types. For example, some gay men are turned on by “bears” — men with lots of body hair. One gay man entered and won a bear contest, and displayed the trophy at home. His mother visited one day and asked about the trophy. After hearing his explanation, she asked only, “So how much money did you win?”

• The ancient rabbis were against polygamy. They told a story of a man with two wives: one old and one young. While he was asleep, his young wife plunked out his grey hairs so that he would appear to be young. However, his old wife plunked out his black hairs so that he would appear to be old. Very quickly, the man became bald.

• Ed Sullivan, who was a columnist before becoming a TV personality, once wrote an item about comedian George Burns’ use of a toupee. Mr. Burns was annoyed and told Mr. Sullivan off. Mr. Sullivan protested, “I didn’t think you would mind.” Mr. Burns replied, “If I didn’t mind, why would I be wearing a toupee?”

• Oscar Wilde once said that he had two secretaries to handle his fan mail. One secretary signed Mr. Wilde’s autograph and answered letters from fans requesting an autograph, while the other secretary sent locks of his own hair to fans requesting locks of Mr. Wilde’s hair — the second secretary soon was in danger of going bald.

• On one occasion, Alicia Markova fractured her foot during the first act of Giselle, forcing by her replacement in the second act by Mia Slavenska. The audience must have been startled by the substitution and by the dramatic change in Giselle’s hair color, as Ms. Markova is a dark brunette and Ms. Slavenska is red-headed.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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FUNNIEST PEOPLE IN DANCE (PAPERBACK)

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