• In 1926, T.L. Travers, the creator of Mary Poppins, visited one of her writing heroes, the poet William Butler Yeats, in Dublin. But before visiting him, she first visited the lake called Lough Gill, where a boatman took her to what Yeats called in a poem “The Lake Isle of Innisfree.” Unfortunately, the boatman was not a romantic, and he called the isle what other, not-poetic people called it: Rat Island.
• Author Beth Lisick used to write an entertainment column for an alternative newspaper’s website, where she quickly learned not to use a pseudonym. At first, she wanted to use the pseudonym “Mae Hemm,” but when she failed to show ID bearing that name to the guy carrying the list of names of everybody who got a free pass, she ended up paying the cover charge.
• Shortly after becoming an author, Walter Milton Myers changed his name to Walter Dean Myers to honor the family who had adopted him when things got tough for his biological family. His timing was excellent. Florence Dean, his foster mother, died, but not before seeing the name “Walter Dean Myers” listed as author on a book.
New Year’s Eve
• As you would expect, parties at which the staff of MAD magazine was invited were filled with laughter. MADwriter Dick DeBartolo often invited the usual gang of idiots over for a New Year’s Eve Party and asked them to perform. MAD publisher William M. Gaines — a heavy man who enjoyed eating — did magic tricks, and was introduced in this way: “Ladies and gentlemen, one of the most famous names in magic — recently he astounded a crowd at an Italian restaurant, where he made three plates of spaghetti and two pizzas disappear — please welcome William M. Gaines!” In addition, MAD co-editor Nick Meglin performed his version of the song “Try to Remember” — the only thing he could remember (at least in the act) was the title of the song.
People with Handicaps
• Before becoming a renowned author of children’s books, Sid Fleischman traveled with a magic show run by Arthur Bull, who used to make prosthetic legs. Mr. Bull had a friend named Charlie Hastings, who had an artificial leg below a knee. People couldn’t tell that Mr. Hastings had an artificial leg because he hardly limped. One day, Mr. Hastings was short of money, so he went into a bar and told people that he could drive an ice pick through his leg because he was a freak of nature who couldn’t feel pain. Lots of people bet that he couldn’t do that, and Mr. Hastings made quite a lot of money — and made a few men faint — by doing exactly that. Unfortunately, Mr. Hastings tried doing the trick a second time, and this time he split open his very expensive artificial leg and had to buy a new one.
• Jean Little, a young people’s author, learned the power of words early in her life. She had been born with poor vision, and the other schoolchildren teased her by waiting until no teachers were within hearing distance, then shouting at her, “Cross-eyed! Cross-eyed!” One day she asked her mother, a physician, for the medical terms used to describe her eye condition, and the next time a boy started calling her cross-eyed, she turned and told him, loudly and clearly, “I am not cross-eyed. I have corneal opacities and eccentric pupils.” The boy’s mouth dropped open, she turned her back on him, and she walked away.
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
The Funniest People in Books, Volume 2 — Buy