• Being famous under a pseudonym can lead to problems. Eric Blair, aka George Orwell, once learned that Ernest Hemingway was staying in a room at the same hotel he was staying at. He knocked on Mr. Hemingway’s door and introduced himself as Eric Blair, and Mr. Hemingway asked what he wanted. Mr. Blair then reintroduced himself as George Orwell, and Mr. Hemingway said, “Why didn’t you say so?” Then he invited him in for a drink. Mr. Blair could have told Mr. Hemingway about some odd experiences. For example, Mr. Orwell once rented a room from a landlady who was proud because she had worked for a nobleman. She was so proud that when she locked herself out of her house, she would not let her husband and Mr. Blair go next door to borrow a ladder to get to a high window and enter the house because she was too proud to associate with the neighbors. Instead, her husband and Mr. Blair walked a mile and borrowed a ladder from one of her relatives. And while working as a dishwasher and a porter in a Paris hotel, he was once ordered to get a single peach because a rich customer had ordered one. Since the hotel did not have a peach on the premises, Mr. Blair was ordered to find one or be fired. The shops were closed, but he found a basket of peaches hanging in a window. Rather than lose his job, he broke the window and stole one peach.
• For a performance by ballerina Maria Tallchief and the New York City Ballet, Japanese stagehands waxed the stage floor. Of course, this resulted in dancers slipping, sliding, and falling. After that one ruinous performance, the stage floor was restored to its usual scuffed lack of splendor. By the way, at birth, Maria Tallchief’s name was Elizabeth Marie Tall Chief. She changed “Tall Chief” to “Tallchief” because she wanted to avoid problems in alphabetization at school — other students wondered whether her last name was “Chief” or “Tall Chief.” Her parents called her “Betty Marie,” but when famed choreographer Agnes de Mille suggested that the world of ballet already had lots of Bettys and Elizabeths, Ms. Tallchief began to use the name “Maria” instead.
• The first performance of George Frideric Handel’s Messiahtook place 23 April 1742, at Neal’s Music Hall, located on Fishamble Street in Dublin. For this performance 700 people crowded into a space that was designed to hold only 600. The organizers of the concert realized that it would be crowded, so they bought newspaper advertisements asking gentlemen to leave their swords at home and asking women not to wear hoop skirts. By the way, the name “Fishamble” is interesting. A market used to be called a “shamble,” and Neal’s Music Hall used to be a fish market.
• Agnes de Mille was determined to succeed as a dancer. Once, another dancer accidentally kicked her and broke her nose during a performance. Ms. de Mille continued dancing. By the way, while rehearsing her ballet Rodeo, choreographer and dancer Agnes de Mille worried about details. Eventually, the dancers working with her changed her name from “Agnes” to “Agonize.” On 16 October 1942, Rodeopremiered with Ms. De Mille dancing the lead role of the Cowgirl. She was sure that the ballet had been a failure, but after taking 22 curtain calls, she finally believed that the premiere had been a success.
• When the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright was born in 1867, he was named Frank Lincoln Wright in honor of the recently assassinated President Abraham Lincoln. He changed his name after his parents divorced, and he took his new middle name from his mother, Anna Lloyd Jones.
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