David Bruce: Tobacco Anecdotes

• Walt Disney was a heavy smoker. At work, he needed a light, and artist Ken Anderson had a new cigarette lighter. Unfortunately, he had overfilled it and not tried it out yet, so when he tried to lit Walt’s cigarette, a small bonfire exploded in Walt’s face, burning his mustache and the end of his nose. Walt said, “What the hell are you trying to do?” He left the room. Mr. Anderson said, “Then all these other people filed out of the room, and I was sitting there alone. I could have died. In fact, dying would have been a pleasure compared to the way I felt.” People avoided him the rest of the day. He remembered, “I actually cried that night.” The next day, Walt had a blister on the end of his nose and he had shaved off his mustache. However, he invited Mr. Anderson to eat lunch with him in the studio cafeteria, and he made sure that all the Disney employees saw that he was talking to Mr. Anderson — and not firing him. Mr. Anderson said, “It took a pretty wonderful humanitarian to do what he did.” Walt also did a good deed during World War II for the employees who worked for the Disney London office, although the Disney Studio was losing money. Great Britain suffered food shortages during the war, and each week he sent a care package to these employees. Disney London employee Cyril James told Disney theme park publicist Charlie Ridgway that “many times that was virtually the only food they had each week throughout the war.”

• British couple Kevin Barclay and Sharon Wood used to smoke dozens of cigarettes a day, but they quit smoking after a veterinarian told them that their smoking was bad for the health of their pet parrot. The veterinarian, Glen Cousquer of the South Beech Veterinary Surgery in Essex, southeastern England, said, “One of the key things that we need to get right with parrots generally is air quality. This particular bird presented with very severe respiratory problems. The owners were instructed to do everything they could to improve the bird’s environment. I think I must have shaken the owners up quite badly, because the next time I saw them they actually had booked themselves into one of these anti-smoking clinics and were determined to stop. They’ve gone five weeks.” The couple’s quitting smoking has helped their parrot, whose name is J.J. According to the veterinarian, the parrot “is doing really well. It is certainly going to improve his life expectancy.” (Ditto for the parrot’s owners.)

• Joseph Barbera of Hanna-Barbera fame once walked into a room in which were a friend named Sy Fisher and, unknown to him when he walked in and started talking, a VIP named Duke Ducovny. When he walked in the room, he smelled pipe tobacco and he saw Sy with a pipe. He said to Sy, “This is terrible. What kind of person would smoke a pipe? Pipes are an abomination. I can’t stand pipes. …” Then he saw Duke, who was also holding a lit pipe. He immediately pointed to Duke’s pipe and continued, “…except that one. That, Duke, is one hell of a pipe, a great pipe, and that tobacco is straight from heaven. Sy, what’s the matter with you? If you are going to smoke a pipe, why don’t you take a lesson in class from Duke here? Get yourself a pipe just like his, ask him what kind of tobacco he’s smoking, and buy yourself a load of it.”

• Enrico Caruso smoked, and he insisted on smoking. While at the Imperial Theater of Berlin, he started smoking in his dressing room. The stage director visited him to tell him that no smoking was allowed in the theater. Mr. Caruso replied that he needed to smoke in order to calm his nerves. The stage director left him, but soon the opera superintendent visited him to tell him that no smoking was allowed in the theater. Mr. Caruso replied, “Dear sir, I regret infinitely, but I have already said that I feel very nervous, and if I am not allowed to smoke in peace, to my great regret I will not sing this evening.” The superintendent suggested a compromise: Mr. Caruso could smoke as long as a fireman was in the dressing room with him. Mr. Caruso agreed to the compromise, and as he finished each cigarette the fireman took the butt from him and threw it in a bucket of water.

• Jamie Farr, who played Klinger on M*A*S*H, attended a party at which were many other celebrities. He and strongman actor Arnold Schwarzenegger smoked very good cigars, but Donald Sutherland, who was sitting nearby with Cary Grant, got up and told Mr. Farr, “Jamie, would you mind putting out your cigar. Mr. Cary Grant and I have terrible allergies, and the smoke is really annoying.” Mr. Farr was willing to let his cigar go out, but he asked Mr. Sutherland, “Arnold Schwarzenegger is sitting between you and Cary Grant, and he is smoking the same cigar I have here. He still is. Why didn’t you ask him to put out his cigar?” Mr. Sutherland replied, “Jamie, if I had wanted to do that, I would have done it with a note — and signed it ‘The Phantom.’”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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