David Bruce: Travel Anecdotes

• Anna Pavlova was always interested in stretching her mind, and she wanted members of her dance company — many of them teenaged girls — to also stretch their minds. In Italy, she returned to her hotel after touring the local art and old buildings, and was shocked to see some of her dancers playing cards. She immediately ordered some cars, and took the dancers with her on a sight-seeing tour. At the theater that evening she asked her dancers how they had spent the afternoon — most of the dancers replied that they had slept, again shocking Ms. Pavlova, who wondered why anyone would miss the opportunity to see Italy. After the dancers explained that rehearsals left little time for sight-seeing and that sight-seeing could be expensive, Ms. Pavlova rearranged the time for rehearsals so that her dancers would have the afternoons free. In addition, she offered to pay the expenses for sight-seeing provided the dancers would give her an account of what they had seen and their impressions of it. In Egypt everyone was given a day off from rehearsal to go visit the Sphinx and the Pyramids.

• Currently, many people don’t want to be thought of as tourists, so if they hear that something is just for tourists, they don’t go there. Henry Morgan, however, advises that if you hear that something is just for tourists, then you should definitely go there. Once, Mr. Morgan ran into comedian Eddie Cantor in Paris, and Mr. Cantor asked him what he had done all day. As it turned out, Mr. Morgan had gone to the flea market, taken a trip on the river, lunched in a wine cellar, dined at the Table du Roi, and seen lots of naked chorus girls. This caused Mr. Cantor to sorrowfully admit that he had been to Paris 11 times and all he had seen were “three restaurants and this hotel.”

• Opera singer Leo Slezak frequently crossed borders to sing in other countries. Because of his large size (he was 6-foot-7), Mr. Slezak traveled with his own costumes, many of which were decorated with rhinestones and glass jewels. When he arrived in New York prior to an engagement at the Metropolitan Opera, customs officials suspected that Mr. Slezak was trying to smuggle jewelry into the United States and scrutinized all of the stones on his costumes. Later, Mr. Slezak told this story to Austrian actor Alfred Gerasch. According to legend, Mr. Gerasch, who was loyal to the Austrian monarchy, saved all the crown jewels after the monarchy was overthrown in 1918 by sewing them onto his costumes and smuggling them out of the country.

• Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav wanted to see the Holy Land of Israel. In 1798, at age 26, he decided to make the journey. His middle daughter pleaded with him not to go, asking who would look after his family while he was away. He replied, “Go to your parents-in-law; your elder sister will become a servant. People will have pity on your younger sister. Your mother will become a cook. I will sell the household goods to provide the means for the journey.” He made the journey, stayed in Israel for a while, and always spoke with longing of Israel after he returned home.

• Robert Benchley’s mother once needed a passport. She went to the appropriate office, and the official told her to raise her right hand, then he asked, “Do you swear to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, domestic and foreign?” Mrs. Benchley, whose eldest son had died fighting in the Spanish-American War, was startled. She lowered her hand, then asked, “Do I have to?” The official replied, “If you want a passport, you do.” Mrs. Benchley said, “Well, there are days when I wouldn’t.” Then she took the oath.

• In 1928, Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic as a passenger. Because of this feat, she became famous, although she modestly pointed out that two men had done the work of flying and navigating while her role was that of “baggage.” When asked what it felt like to be the first woman flown across the Atlantic, Ms. Earhart replied, “Like a sack of potatoes.”

• As a young man, Bob Denver, who played Gilligan on Gilligan’s Island, worked at Yellowstone National Park in the grocery near Old Faithful. Every day, several tourists asked Mr. Denver when the geyser was due to go off. He stood it as long as he could, then finally told the tourists, “I’ll go and ask the park ranger when he’s going to turn it on.”

• Dancer Carmelita Maracci knew how to enjoy a city when she had absolutely no money. In Los Angeles, she took her friend Agnes de Mille to such places as Chinatown and Japantown, night court, Spanish services in the Old Mission Church, and African-American Baptist churches — all of them interesting places Ms. de Mille had not known existed.

• “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things can not be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” — Mark Twain.

• G.K. Chesterton used to occasionally disappear on small adventures. For example, he sometimes went to a train station, picked a destination with an intriguing name, and bought a ticket for that location. After visiting for a while, he returned home at his leisure.

• A new museum was being built right on the rim of the Grand Canyon, one of the most majestic sights in the world. A bus dropped off several tourists — who ignored the Grand Canyon and instead watched the cement mixer.

• Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion often urged Jews to settle in Israel. Once an American Jew proudly told him that he had traveled to Israel nine times. Mr. Ben-Gurion exclaimed, “Nine times! Why don’t you go just once?”

• “How much a dunce that has been sent to roam excels a dunce that has been kept at home.” — William Cowper.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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FUNNIEST PEOPLE IN DANCE (PAPERBACK)

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