David Bruce: The Coolest People in Art — Children, Christmas, Clothing

Children

• Like father, like son. When comedian Robin Williams was a boy, he had a large collection of various kinds of toy soldiers, and he would engage the soldiers in time-machine battles. For example, he would pit World War II soldiers with machine guns against knights in shining armor. Zach, Robin’s son, is also original. At his first formal-wear event, he didn’t wear a tuxedo — he wore camouflage and Doc Martin boots.

• As a boy, Quaker humorist Tom Mullen attended Boys’ State, where a military officer inspected him and some other lads. Young Tom had some fuzz on his cheeks, so the officer asked, “What’s the matter, son? Don’t you have a razor?” Young Tom replied, “Yes, sir, but I don’t lend it to strangers.” The witticism drew laughs from the other boys — and the largest number of demerits possible from the officer.

• Ron Howard, of course, was only five years old when he started co-starring in The Andy Griffith Show. Later, he became a renowned Hollywood director. Comedian George Lindsey, who played Goober, was once asked what he thought of his little co-star Ronny’s work as a director. He replied, “We call him Mr. Howard now.”

• The early life of comedian Bill Cosby was not one of privilege. One place he lived in as a child lacked a bathtub, so the Cosby children would put a metal tub on the stove to heat the water, then move the tub to the floor and take a bath.

Christmas

• When Fanny Brice’s husband, Nicky Arnstein, went to jail, Fanny kept the truth from their children, telling them that their father was working in Paris. For Christmas, the children wrote their father, telling him that they wanted a pair of rabbits for Christmas. Fanny therefore arranged to have two rabbits shipped from Paris to their home, along with lots of food and water to keep the rabbits healthy. However, when the crate was opened in the United States, many more than two rabbits hopped out — the journey had been long, and the rabbits had been doing what rabbits do. The children thought that their father had been especially generous that Christmas.

• One Christmas, comedian W.C. Fields called a locksmith to come to his house on an emergency. When the locksmith arrived, Mr. Field showed him a door with a lock in which a key had been broken. “My best friend is trapped in there!” Mr. Fields cried. “Do something before he smothers to death!” However, when the locksmith opened the door, nothing was to be found except many, many bottles of liquor.

• Early in his career, stand-up comedian Greg Dean made little money and consequently had no money to buy Christmas presents. Therefore, he developed a comedy routine, then went to the houses of his friends and relatives, where he gave the routine and made that their Christmas present.

Clothing

• Comedian Fannie Brice needed time to develop a sense of fashion. When Ziegfeld Follies impresario Florenz “Flo” Ziegfeld invited her and Lillian Lorraine to dinner, Fannie went all out in acquiring what she thought was an outfit that would impress Mr. Ziegfeld. Among other items, she bought a hat that looked as if it was growing a vegetable garden. Unfortunately, her outfit horrified Mr. Ziegfeld, who was a man of taste. He told Ms. Lorraine, a woman of taste, “Why don’t you take this kid out and teach her how to dress? Here is $250. Get her some clothes.” Ms. Brice did not throw her hat away, but instead she sold it to Ms. Lorraine’s maid. Unfortunately for Mr. Ziegfeld, the maid wore the hat one day while traveling with Ms. Lorraine. Mr. Ziegfeld saw the hat, and he was so upset that he told the maid, “I never want to see that hat again. I’ll give you $25 [a lot of money in the early 20thcentury] to get rid of it.”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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THE COOLEST PEOPLE IN COMEDY

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