David Bruce: The Funniest People in Neighborhoods — Mothers, Music

Mothers

• Wilma Rudolph suffered from polio when she was a child, paralyzing her left leg. The doctors said that she would never walk again, but her mother told her that she would walk again. Ms. Rudolph says, “I believed my mother.” After finally being able to walk without the aid of a brace, she starred on her high school basketball team. Later, she won gold in track at the 1960 Olympic Games.

• Like her famous son, Mark Twain’s mother was funny. As a boy, he was often ill. When his mother was 88 years old, he asked her about his early years, saying, “I suppose that during all that time you were uneasy about me?” She admitted that was true. Mr. Twain then asked her, “Afraid I wouldn’t live?” His mother paused for a moment, then said, “No — afraid you would.”

• World-famous window dresser (and author) Simon Doonan and his sister loved their mother, Betty. Why? For one thing, upon request, she would take out her false teeth and recite the alphabet. Simon and his sister would be lying on the floor laughing hard even before she reached the unpronounceable (to people without teeth) letter H.

• Once a mother, always a mother. Sculptor Louise Nevelson was justly proud of her son, Myron “Mike” Nevelson, who was also a sculptor. One of Mike’s friends once heard him on the telephone talking to his mother. The middle-aged sculptor said, “Yes, Mother. Yes, I’ve eaten. I’ve had lunch. I have eaten, Mother.”

• Helen White Charles’ mother, a Quaker, was often funny. One day, she was dining in a Germantown restaurant, and a waiter noticed that she hadn’t finished her meal. The waiter asked, “You haven’t eaten your steak. Why do you come in here?” She replied, “Oh, we like the waiters.”

• W.C. Fields, Jr., neither smoked nor drank, unlike his famous father. Why not? His mother had made him promise that he would not smoke or drink until he was 20 years old, and when he reached that age, he discovered that he did not want to smoke or drink.

• The mother of New Yorker cartoonist George Booth gave him good advice: “Always stand upright. Act like you know what you’re doing, even if you don’t. Finally, no matter what you’re getting paid, give it plenty of oomph!”

• When Marc Cherry, the openly gay creator of TV’s Desperate Housewives, came out to his mother, she told him, “Well, I’d love you even if you were a murderer.” This line was so funny that he wrote it into the TV series.

• A boy was showing off his new puppy. Asked whether it was a male or a female, he showed its belly side to his mother, who told him, “It’s a boy.” Her son told his friends, “She can tell just by looking at the bottoms of their feet.”

Music

• As a child, violinist Josef Gingold had a mother who was very supportive of his musical interests and of him. One Friday, a truant officer showed up at her house to tell her that Josef had missed school four Fridays in a row and was probably doing such things as playing pool with bums. Mrs. Gingold told the truant officer, “As a matter of fact, he’s in the other room practicing.” She then picked up a rolling pin and added, “He goes to the New York Philharmonic on Friday afternoons. Do me a favor, and leave this house. Next time I see your face, you’re going to get it over the head.”

• When soprano Joan Hammond was a child, an accident severely scarred her left arm, so she always wore long-sleeved clothing when she grew up. At a concert in Australia, she wore long sleeves, upsetting a woman in the audience who said, “Why does she wear them? So ugly and old-fashioned! It spoils an evening’s entertainment looking at them!” Unfortunately for the overly critical woman, Leo, Joan’s brother, was in the audience, and he told her about Joan’s childhood accident and resulting scars, then asked, “Do you come to a concert to criticize clothes or to listen to the music?”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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