• Golfer Ky Laffoon had tremendous pride. At a tournament, Mr. Laffoon was leading with three rounds of 67, 69, and 65. On the last hole of the last round of the tournament, he missed a putt, then picked up his ball and quit the tournament, giving up his share of the prize money. Paul Runyan asked why he was doing this, and Mr. Laffoon explained that if he had made the last putt instead of missing it, he would have had a 72, which would have been OK, but that he had previously promised himself that he would never again shoot more than 72 in a tournament.
• In the past, golf professionals were not treated as well as they are today. In 1923, The British Open took place at Troon, and the golf professionals were not allowed to dine in — or even enter — the clubhouse. That didn’t faze Walter Hagen, who horrified the snobs by being driven to the clubhouse in a chauffeured limousine. He then sat at an outdoor table, and ordered a gourmet meal to be served to him.
• Bob Denver says that he had an ego problem while he was starring as Maynard G. Krebs in the TV series The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. He liked to sign pictures at the gate where people began their tour of Universal. He signed hundreds of pictures, but discovered that one of the drivers of the tour hated him. Mr. Denver inquired why, then learned that the bus driver had to work late each night cleaning up the pictures that Mr. Denver had autographed during the day — each night, the bus driver found dozens of autographed pictures that “fans” had left behind. Whenever Mr. Denver thinks he is getting a swelled head, he remembers this experience.
• During a matinee performance of Macbethat which few people were in the audience, Laurence Olivier noticed a boy sitting in the balcony and decided to give a special performance just for him. Sir Laurence gave a wonderful performance and the entire company followed suit, so that during intermission Sir Laurence said, “That boy will never see anything like this as long as he lives; it’s an experience he’ll never forget.” Unfortunately, when Sir Laurence and the company went back on stage following the intermission, they discovered that the boy had left the theater and gone home.
• James McNeill Whistler, the famous painter, attended West Point, where he performed very badly. He once outraged an examiner who was shocked that Mr. Whistler did not know the date of the Battle of Buena Vista. The examiner asked, “Suppose you were to go out to dinner, and the company began to talk of the Mexican war, and you, a West Point man, were asked the date of the battle, what would you do?” Mr. Whistler replied, “Do? Why, I should refuse to associate with people who could talk of such things at dinner.”
• A spiritual pretender stayed the night at the house of Mulla Nasrudin, then tried to impress him by saying: “Last night I left my earthly body and journeyed throughout the cosmos.” Nasrudin asked, “When you journeyed throughout the cosmos, did you feel a slight breeze?” “Yes, I did,” the pretender said. “Ah,” Nasrudin said, “I have bad news for you. Last night, my donkey stuck his tail in your bedroom window, and the breeze you felt was made by the swishing of his tail.”
• In 1931, Robert Benchley, Lewis Milestone, and Douglas Fairbanks were in Italy, when they decided to pay a visit on Benito Mussolini. Because Mr. Fairbanks was a huge movie star, a visit was arranged, but when they arrived at the appointed time, they were told that Mussolini could not see them for a half-hour. They replied that they were too busy to wait, and departed, leaving behind a startled bureaucrat.
• King Louis XI condemned to death the champion archer of France, John de Roche, but he gave him a chance to win his freedom by making a difficult shot. Mr. de Roche thought about the offer for a moment, and then said, “Sire, under these conditions I am liable to miss and ruin my reputation.” He preferred definitely losing his head to the guillotine to possibly losing his reputation.
• Three of the best violinists of all time were Jascha Heifetz, Mischa Elman, and Fritz Kreisler. Once, Jascha and Mischa were dining together when a waiter brought them a letter addressed to “The Greatest Violinist in the World.” Both men were modest, but they wondered which violinist the letter was addressed to, so they opened the letter together and read, “Dear Mr. Kreisler ….”
• Violinist Fritz Kreisler was once asked by a snooty society lady to play at one of her affairs. Mr. Kreisler replied that his fee would be $3,000. The society lady agreed to the price, but told him that he must not mingle with the guests. “In that case,” Mr. Kreisler said, “my fee will be $2,000.”
• Max Beerbohm was the younger brother of the famous actor Herbert Beerbohm Tree. Max once announced that he was going to write a series of articles about the brothers of famous men. When someone asked whether Max was brother to Mr. Tree, Max acknowledged the relationship, and then added, “He is coming into the series.”
• When they were teenagers, Noël Coward and Collie Knox attended at a party at which a playwright walked around with his nose stuck up in the air. Mr. Coward said, “One day I shall write a play. It will be a success, but I shall try not to look like that. Come, let’s have an ice cream.”
• Beatrice Lillie despised pretension. Often, she would go to a fancy restaurant filled with haughty headwaiters, then order, “Rice Krispies.”
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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