David Bruce: The Funniest People in Music — Travel, War


• During the early 20th century, dancer Anna Pavlova toured in Texas. There, her music director, Theodore Stier, found some of the dirtiest theaters it was his misfortune to conduct in. In one Texas dressing room, he discovered an empty ink bottle. One year later, he returned to the same theater and the same dressing room, and he discovered the same empty ink bottle. For the next two years, he returned to the same dressing room — each year, he found the same empty ink bottle.

• Opera singer Leo Slezak did not like to share train compartments with strangers. He carried a sign saying “RESERVIERT” when he traveled by train and displayed it on the door after staking his claim on a compartment. Whenever the train was especially crowded, he used another sign: “HOSPITAL COMPARTMENT.” With the use of the signs (and a few bribes to the train employees), he was able to travel in privacy.

• Las Vegas hasn’t always been famous. Bill Bailey, the brother of Pearl Bailey, once had a job in Las Vegas, but he failed to show up for opening night. While driving there, he had come to two signs in the road. One sign pointed to Las Vegas, Nevada; the other sign pointed to Las Vegas, New Mexico. Unfortunately, Mr. Bailey took the wrong road.

• After a worldwide tour in which she spent 150 days at sea and visited Australia, the United States, and the Orient, Emma Calvé experienced eye trouble and went to see a doctor. He told her, “What do you expect? Of course your eyes are tired! You have seen more in the last few months than I have seen in all my seventy years!”

• While sailing in the ship Parakoola, opera soprano Marjorie Lawrence practiced singing Elektra. Unfortunately, the sailors were not used to hearing opera. When Ms. Lawrence practiced Elektra for the first time, the sailors came running to her cabin to see what was wrong with her.

• Pop singer Jewel — Jewel Kilcher — was raised in Alaska on her family’s 800-acre homestead. Wherever she travels, she carries a container filled with earth from her family’s homestead.


• During World War I, Thomas Beecham wanted to conduct some operas by the German composer Richard Wagner; however, an English patriot who ran a newspaper felt that playing German music when England was at war with Germany was unpatriotic and so he demanded that Mr. Beecham either not conduct Wagnerian opera or face the wrath of the press. Fortunately, Mr. Beecham knew that the patriot had some very fine German paintings, and he offered not to conduct Wagner provided the patriot burn his German paintings in public. When Mr. Beecham made his proposal to the patriot, the patriot was silent for a time, and then smiled and said, “It is rather silly, isn’t it?” Mr. Beecham was thereafter left to conduct Wagner in peace.

• During World War II, while she was still very young, Maria Callas sang in front of an audience that included a German soldier from the army then occupying Greece. The German soldier was entranced by Maria’s singing, and exclaimed to a woman sitting next to him, “What an artist! What a singer! That girl will be famous!” The woman then revealed that she was Evangelia Callas, Maria’s mother, and the German soldier kissed her. She cried out, “Don’t do that! You are the enemy!” The German soldier laughed, and then gave her another kiss, saying, “I can be enemy to no woman with a daughter like yours, Madam. I shall never forget you or her.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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