David Bruce: Mishaps Anecdotes

• Mishaps occur on stages, including opera stages. At the opening-night performance of Julius Caesarat the Metropolitan Opera, Spiro Malas, who played the role of Ptolemeo, forgot the first two words of his next aria. He went offstage to look up the words, and his small band of soldiers also went offstage. These “soldiers’ were extras whose orders were to simply follow Mr. Malas wherever he went. Beverly Sills and the singers in the opera were amused because these are the two words that Mr. Malas had forgotten: “Julius Caesar.” Of course, on-stage mishaps also occurred to Ms. Sills. While playing Queen Elizabeth in Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux, Ms. Sills at first wore a putty nose to make her nose bigger, but she sweated so much during each performance that the putty nose fell off by the end of Act II, so eventually she performed the role with her own nose. Due to an automobile accident when she was a teenager, Ms. Sills had two capped teeth. During a performance of Anna Bolena, the caps fell out. She recovered them and continued to sing, and during a break her makeup artist, Gigi Capobianco, used Duco cement to make sure that the caps stayed in place. Ms. Sills said, “The only problem was that the next day the dentist had to use a hammer and chisel to remove them so that he could replace them properly.”

• Ana Samways writes a column titled “Sideswipe” in the New Zealand Herald; her column is a collection of funny photographs and anecdotes that her readers send her. For example, a parent wrote about her daughter the Good Samaritan, “One morning in Bondi [New South Wales, Australia], she spotted from behind what appeared to be a toddler about to cross a busy road and no sign of mum! Quick as a flash, with her long legs and high heels flying, she darted through the traffic and whisked the unattended toddler off his feet … But the ‘toddler’ was a very disgruntled dwarf who swore at her.” In the same column, Ms. Samways put an anecdote sent in by Erik Wetting, who has a female friend who works as a Quarantine Officer at Auckland International Airport in New Zealand. A young female passenger who was returning to New Zealand had been hiking while abroad, and hiking boots need to be inspected for such things as soil and seeds because the seeds of a plant non-native to New Zealand could disrupt the ecology. Mr. Wetting’s friend told the young female passenger, “Show me your boots.” He writes that the passenger “stared blankly at my friend for a moment and then with a shrug started to remove her T-shirt and bra.” The Quarantine Officer quickly let the passenger know, “I said, ‘BOOTS.’”

• Rich people have problems, too. Lee Radziwell, sister of Jackie Kennedy Onassis, and Truman Capote were friends. Once, after her husband, Stas, gave her a new sable coat, Lee visited Truman, and they went to the movies, with Lee leaving her new fur coat behind. When they returned from the movies, they saw Charlie, Truman’s pet bulldog, lying on part of the coat. Around him were the shreds of the rest of the coat. Truman thought it was funny and laughed. Lee says, “For him, everything provided a pretext to laugh.” When Jackie was still married to John F. Kennedy, she and Caroline, her four-year-old daughter (and Secret Service agents), visited the Radziwells in Italy. They and other people visited a house near Naples. Lots of people in Italy kept a shotgun on a table in the living room. Such was the case here. A guest picked up the shotgun and fired it, not realizing that it was loaded. Of course, the Secret Service came running. And when Lee was a very young lady, she felt her underwear fall around her ankles at a fancy event. Fortunately, she was wearing a very long skirt. 

• Al Capp, creator of the comic strip Li’l Abner, once had the chance to participate in a morning conference with President Dwight David Eisenhower. He wanted to make sure that he woke up early, so he left orders for the hotel to make three wake-up calls to his suite and then to deliver breakfast there. Unfortunately, he woke up too late to attend the conference. He was plenty angry and was going to bawl out the hotel employees, but he met another angry man who had been woken up three times by wake-up calls he hadn’t requested and then was woken up a fourth time by the delivery of a breakfast he hadn’t ordered. Mr. Capp then discovered that he had given the hotel employees the wrong suite number.

• Whenever the Damrosch Opera Company performed in Boston, any extras it needed were played by students from Harvard University. The doorkeeper at the stage entrance got twenty-five cents for providing each extra, but he made much more money than that because he charged the extras fifty or more cents each for hearing the opera from on stage. This usually worked out well for everyone, but during a performance of Lohengrin, a Harvard student dressed in armor stood on stage and read the libretto of the opera — to help him see, he wore eyeglasses.

• Courtland Byrd once made a mistake. A barber, he cut the hair of a longtime customer named Murphy, and then he held up a hand mirror for Murphy to take to look at his haircut. But Murphy did not take the hand mirror, and suddenly Courtland remembered that Murphy was blind. Of course, the other barbers and the customers laughed. Courtland says, “If you make a donkey of yourself in the barber shop, they’ll ride you.”

• A woman who was trying to get a driver license ended up in the sea. In November 2011, in the historic port of Antofagasta in Chile, the woman accelerated when she should have braked. She ended up in the port, and a bystander — a saleswoman at the nearby Terminal Pesquero — swam to the vehicle and rescued her. Her driving examiner swam to shore and — apparently disgusted — walked away.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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