David Bruce: The Funniest People in Music — Flowers, Food


• Adelina Patti insisted on being admired. She once sang with the bass singer Luigi Lablache, who scored a huge success and was given much applause and many wreaths. Angry that her own effort was not more admired, Ms. Patti seized one of Mr. Lablache’s wreaths, and then told the astonished audience, “I have well deserved it myself!”

• Before performances, jazz singer Billie Holiday often used a curling iron on her hair. Unfortunately, she made a mistake one day and burned some of it, so she wore a big white gardenia to cover the burned place. She liked the look so much that she continued to wear white gardenias in her hair long after it had grown back.


• Author Peg Bracken knows a woman who prepared a luncheon for the conductor of her city’s symphony orchestra. The luncheon was truly marvelous, and in the middle of the table were two large silver containers: one filled with fruit salad, and the other filled with a curry mayonnaise. The hostess lifted the lid of the container filled with the curry mayonnaise, and a mouse jumped out onto the conductor’s plate. Ms. Bracken says, “My friend is all right. When I saw her last week, she was sitting up, and we think she’ll be taking a little nourishment any day now.”

• During a feud between Maria Callas and Renata Tebaldi, many opera fans took sides, and they became known as Tebaldiani and Callasiani, according to whom they supported. At least one fan took the feud much too seriously. In the summer of 1959, a woman friend of writer Victor Seroff dined at a restaurant near La Scala, and she discovered a nail in her spaghetti. She showed the nail to her waiter, who explained, “They must have taken you for Madame Callas.”

• Things do not always go well at musical performances, even when they are conducted by Arturo Toscanini. After a poor performance at La Scala, he returned home in a foul mood. As usual, a late supper had been prepared for the Toscanini family, but Maestro Toscanini barred the way to the dining room, saying, “What! You can eatafter such a performance! Shame on you! Shame!” That night, everybody in the Toscanini household went to bed hungry.

• Ludwig van Beethoven once walked into the Swan, his favorite restaurant, sat at a table, and began to jot down some musical ideas in a notebook he carried. Because he was so busy writing, the waiters left him in peace, knowing that he wanted it that way. After a long time had passed, Beethoven looked up from his notebook, and then asked a waiter to bring him his bill. The waiter was forced to explain to Beethoven that he hadn’t ordered yet.

• Blues singer Bessie Smith fell in love with police officer Jackie Gee, and after he was shot in the line of duty, she was determined to take care of him. After he was discharged from the hospital, she cooked pork chops, black-eyed peas, cornmeal, collard greens, and everything that goes with them. Mr. Gee ate more than his fill, and the next day he was back in the hospital — he had eaten so much that his stitches had burst.

• Ballet is an enchanting art; however, sometimes the audience is unaware of what occurs on stage. While touring with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, the dancers would occasionally whisper among themselves during the last act of The Nutcrackeror other ballet. While the audience listened to the music and watched the dancing in wonderment, the dancers would be discussing where to eat after the curtain fell.

• Early in his career, Louis Armstrong worked as a jazz musician on a riverboat. He watched as a fellow musician almost starved himself in order to get money to invest in cotton. The man went hungry, saved his money, invested it in a cotton crop — and lost all his money when the crop failed because of boll weevils. Mr. Armstrong decided then and there that he would never be rich — but he would be fat.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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