David Bruce: Money Anecdotes

• Walter Legge, an English classical music producer, was kind to his recording artists. He was also persuasive — perhaps too persuasive. He once persuaded conductor Carlo Maria Giulini to agree to make a recording of Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony, although Mr. Giulini said that he had no sympathy for that piece of music. They started to record the symphony, but after 15 minutes, Mr. Giulini stopped and said, “I can’t go on.” Mr. Legge simply sent the orchestra home and did not try to persuade Mr. Giulini to continue. After Mr. Legge died, Mr. Giulini remembered, “And you know what a [financial] loss that is to a company. Then we took a long walk together in Hyde Park. We talked of other things.” Of course, Mr. Legge could get angry. He had a collection of early recordings of opera singers and orchestras and violinists that his father had given to him when he was only 12 years old. When he was 62 years old, he offered to give his collection to what he called “a venerable Swiss institution,” but the institution declined to accept it unless he also donated money as an endowment for a curator and for the maintenance of the collection. In a short memoir, Mr. Legge wrote, “In one of my better rages, I broke every record into bits and tossed the pieces into Lake Geneva.”

• Comedian Red Skelton was robbed or burgled a few times in his life. Once, in Las Vegas, a man with a gun demanded all his cash. Red handed over the couple of hundred dollars he was carrying, but the man with the gun recognized him and said, “I wouldn’t rob you, Mr. Skelton.” Red told him to keep the money: “You must need it, young man, or you wouldn’t have gone through all this trouble.” Red, who spent the early part of his career impoverished, did spend a lot of money during his life, but he sometimes did not part with money so easily. He once saw a painting he liked and asked the art dealer how much it cost. The art dealer snootily replied, “Five thousand wouldn’t take that.” Red left, saying, “I’m one of the five thousand.”

• Benny Carter had a jazz band at Club Harlem, but the club was about to go out of business due to financial troubles. George Rich, whose last name was appropriate, wanted Mr. Carter’s band to keep playing at Club Harlem. He told Mr. Carter, “They can’t do this to you. You’ve got to have a place for your band. Come over to the house tonight after the gig.” The talked that night, and Mr. Rich said, “I’m going to buy the place.” He started digging up bundles of cash that he had stashed in his home and bought the place. He came into Club Harlem occasionally, and Mr. Carter appreciated the good deed. Mr. Carter said, “His only purpose for buying the club was to keep my band together, and I shall never forget him for it.”

• Walter Damrosch hired Emil Fischer, bass from the Dresden Royal Opera, to sing at the Metropolitan Opera Company. Mr. Fischer made $250 per appearance, but he was not happy in his marriage and requested that his written contract state that he made $200 per appearance and that he receive the other $50 in cash. This was a way for him to hide about $600 per month from his wife so he could have some money of his own. His wife complained to Mr. Damrosch, “I do not know why my Emil is so badly paid while all the others get these enormous salaries. My Emil sings better than any of them, and he has to be content with only two hundred dollars an appearance!” Mr. Damrosch kept Mr. Fischer’s secret.

• Many artists and musicians are concerned about money and about how many people are in the audience. Composer Sergei Rachmaninoff was one of these creative people. Conductor Walter Damrosch once asked Mr. Rachmaninoff what he was doing when he stared at the gallery. Mr. Rachmaninoff replied, “Counting the standees in the balcony. The manager told me they were not allowed, but there were forty-three.” Mr. Damrosch’s daughter Gretchen Finletter wrote that a manager “may grow nostalgic for the dreamy artist who does not understand about money, but he seldom has the pleasure of dealing with one.”

• Rich and famous comedian Danny Thomas, whose birth name was Amos Jacobs and who was raised in Toledo, Ohio, once paid for tickets at a box-office booth, and when he received his change, he dropped a dime. Lots of people saw him drop the dime, and Danny was too embarrassed to pick it up. He thought, I am Danny Thomas. I’m one of the world’s top comedians. I’ve made millions. I’m not bending down to pick up that dime.Then he reconsidered: In reality, I’m Amos Jacobs of Toledo, Ohio, and Amos Jacobs knows how hard it is to make a dime. He picked up the dime.

• Being a drug addict is expensive. Charlie Parker became addicted to heroin at age seventeen. He once showed a friend the veins in one of his arms and said that he had spent enough money on the heroin he had shot into that arm that he could have bought a Cadillac. He showed his friend the veins in his other arm and said that he had spent enough money on the heroin he had shot into that arm that he could have bought a house. He said, holding out one arm, “This is my Cadillac. Then he held out his other arm and said, “And this is my house.”

• People whose job is creating funny cartoons tend to be funny. Tex Avery once lost $10 in a card game to his boss, Leon Schlesinger. He didn’t have the money then, but paid it a little later: He walked into his boss’ office with $10 in pennies, dumped the 1,000 pennies on his boss’ desk, and walked out. Chuck Jones once owed Mr. Schlesinger $5: Mr. Jones paid it back with 500 pennies in a jar of honey. Animator Benny Washam once owed $5 to cartoon screenwriter Tedd Pierce and paid it back with 500 pennies baked inside a homemade loaf of bread.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved



John Ford’s The Broken Heart: A Retelling, by David Bruce





William Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure:A Retelling in Prose, by David Bruce




Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist:A Retelling in Prose


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: