David Bruce: Mishaps Anecdotes

• At the Chicago Herald-Examiner, John J. “Jack” McPhaul once worked with a female reporter who was dedicated to meeting deadlines. Once, they were working together on a murder case. They waited for a coroner to finish his work on the murder victim so they could report on the findings. Their deadline for the first edition was fast approaching, and growing impatient she walked into the coroner’s office. A moment later, the coroner appeared and beckoned to Mr. McPhaul. Two bodies were lying down. One was the murder victim; the other was the female reporter. Mr. McPhaul asked what had happened, and the coroner replied, “She tapped me on the shoulder, and when I turned it was just in time to catch her. Out like a light. Guess the job was a little messier than she had expected.” The female reporter regained consciousness, looked at Mr. McPhaul, and said, “Jack McPhaul, if you ever tell a soul, I’ll kill you.”

• Cerys Matthewswas the lead singer ofCatatonia and now records solo albums. One of her best friends is fellow Welsh singer Tom Jones, who gave her the best advice she has ever received—and followed: “Tom Jones told me not to drink before going on stage. You grow up with all these myths about rock ’n’ roll behavior, even if the stars are on a rollercoaster to hell. His advice was so simple, but it really does work.” She had her most embarrassing moment on stage in the days before Mr. Jones gave her this advice, when she fell over a monitor during a concert in Germany. She remembers, “I might have got away with it if I hadn’t been mid-note.” Ms. Matthews has thought about death, as all of us have, and she would like to be remembered “with a good sentence on a gravestone. I’m still working out what it would say. Gravestones are like Twitter—you need something short that will amuse people.”

• Linda Ronstadt has sung some operetta and opera. For example, she has sung the role of Mabel in Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance. Doing this was hard work because she wasn’t used to acting while singing. For example, during rehearsals she sometimes did not understand where to walk. A few times, at the end of a song in rehearsal she found herself standing in the place marked off for the orchestra pit. Co-star Kevin Kline also once pointed out to her during a rehearsal, “This is Gilbert and Sullivan, Linda—you can’t say, ‘Git!’” She also worked in La Bohemewith some other people who were new to opera. One musician even was heard asking during an early rehearsal, “Isn’t there any dialogue in this show?”

• Actor Michael Landon seldom ate breakfast or lunch; instead, he would eat supper and often add a late-night snack. One night, at around 1 p.m. he made himself a plate of spaghetti and took it to his and his wife’s bedroom, but discovered that he had forgotten the grated cheese. He put the plate of spaghetti, which was covered with tomato sauce, on the bed and left to get the grated cheese. His wife turned over in bed and woke up when her hand hit the plate of spaghetti. She turned on the light, looked at her hand, saw what she thought was blood, and started screaming. Michael ran to the bedroom and calmed her down.

• In 1958, when Larry King first left Brooklyn and went to South Florida, he hit John F. Kennedy’s car. Senator Kennedy was pretty steamed about it, saying, “How could you? Early Sunday morning, no traffic, not a cloud in the sky, I’m parked—how could you run into me?” Unfortunately, Mr. King did not have a good excuse—he had simply been gawking at the fancy Palm Beach boutiques. Mr. Kennedy did offer to forget about the accident—if Mr. King promised to vote for him in the Presidential election. Mr. King did, and Mr. Kennedy drove away—after telling Mr. King, “Stay waaay behind me.”

• During the filming of The Wizard of Oz, a few mishaps occurred. For example, the teacher who taught child actors thought that the adult midgets who performed as the Munchkins were children and tried to round them up and take them to school. And one wardrobe lady asked an adult little person to undress, saying, “I have a little one just like you at home.” When the little person undressed, she realized from the physical evidence that she was in the presence of an adult male.

• In 2006, six weeks after Melissa Rivers, the daughter of Joan Rivers, had given birth, she attended a televised event (with a celebrity red carpet) at which someone looked at her and asked her when her baby was due. Fortunately, George Clooney came up to her. Melissa says, “He put his arm around me and said I looked amazing. That made me feel so much better.”

• A career in opera can end quickly. French mezzo Simone Berriaux once choked on a peppercorn while eating a beefsteak. Although she coughed repeatedly, she could not dislodge the peppercorn from beside her vocal cords. The next morning a surgeon removed the peppercorn, but it had damaged her vocal cords so badly that she was forced to retire from opera.

• As a student, Arthur Mitchell once happily danced a Military Tap Salute at his public school; unfortunately, midway through the number, he forgot his routine. He handled it well. He simply told the audience, “You’ll have to excuse me. It could happen to anyone. It’s because I’m not a professional.” (Later, of course, he became a professional.)

• Not all good deeds work out. For a performance by ballerina Maria Tallchief and the New York City Ballet, Japanese stagehands waxed the stage floor. Of course, this resulted in dancers slipping, sliding, and falling. After that one ruinous performance, the stage floor was restored to its usual scuffed lack of splendor.

• DavidByrne, former front man for the Talking Heads, is a cyclist. In 2008, he crashed on West 14thStreet in New York City. Two police officers arrived and asked him two questions: 1) Were you drinking? and 2) Are you David Byrne? Both questions had the same answer: yes.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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