David Bruce: The Funniest People in Music — Friends, Gay Men, Gifts

Friends

• Who drummer Keith Moon and Monty Python member Graham Chapman were great friends and great drinkers. Mr. Chapman visited Mr. Moon one day when Mr. Moon was out of gin, Mr. Chapman’s preferred alcoholic beverage. Mr. Moon ordered gin from room service, but room service was slow — so he stepped out a window, onto a 4- or 5-inch ledge, on which he made his way into a neighboring apartment, from which he burgled a bottle of gin to offer to his friend.

• Opera singers hate to catch colds and the flu. While in New York, Luciano Pavarotti came down with the flu. Fellow opera singer and friend Mirella Freni felt sympathy for him, but she didn’t want to catch his flu. Therefore, she made hot soup and left it outside his dressing room door. Then she ran away from the door, muttering, “Povero amico mio, povero ragazzo” (“My poor friend, poor boy”).

• Rudolf Nureyev and Leonard Bernstein lived very close to each other in the Dakota on Central Part West in New York City. In fact, their apartments were separated by a party wall, and they used to tap on the wall occasionally to say hi to each other.

Gay Men

• Bette Midler began her career at a gay bathhouse, which meant that she performed in front of a lot of gay men wearing nothing but towels. This was a big opportunity for her, as the gay men treated her act with respect, although it only hinted at the superstar act Ms. Midler later created. In addition, the gay men gave Ms. Midler the freedom to experiment and be outrageous on stage. She says, “Ironically, I was freed from fear by people who, at the time, were ruled by fear.” (She also says she never saw a penis in the Baths, although she admits she looked real hard.)

• Popular culture has many gay icons, including Stevie Nicks of the pop group Fleetwood Mac. In New York, the Jackie 60 club holds an annual Night of a Thousand Stevies in which gay men dress as their idol. (Being a gay icon is a major compliment. It means that you live your life with flair and elegance — and you look fabulous.)

Gifts

• The Beach Boys and Jan and Dean played similar kinds of surfing music. In fact, when Brian Wilson was unable to come up with a good ending for “Surf City,” he gave the song to Jan Berry. Mr. Berry came up with a good ending, and then recorded it with his singing partner, Dean Torrence, and it became a No. 1 hit. Later, when the Beach Boys were recording “Barbara Ann,” Mr. Torrence happened to be in the studio, and he recorded the lead vocals. However, he didn’t get any credit on the album notes because according to his contract, the only group he could record for was Jan and Dean.

• While performing in Paris, soprano Emma Albani received a notable gift from some young American art students. They had taken a box near the stage so that they could give her their gift: a large basket of flowers, under which they had placed an album of sketches they had created especially for her. This was quite a gift, since the young American art students — Bridgeman, Lowe, Sargent — later became famous.

• In 1964, the New York Yankees, who were managed by Yogi Berra, suffered a losing season. After yet another loss, infielder Phil Linz started to play happy tunes on his harmonica on the team bus. This annoyed Yogi, so he fined Mr. Linz $200. However, when Mr. Linz signed his next Yankee contract, Yogi gave him a $200 bonus — so he could get music lessons.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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