• Edward Jenner wanted to find a vaccine to prevent smallpox. He had learned that people who had contracted cowpox or swinepox were immune to the disease, so he decided to experiment to see if deliberately giving people the mild diseases of cowpox or swinepox would keep them from contracting the deadly disease of smallpox. He would have used himself as a guinea pig, but he had previously recovered from smallpox and so had acquired immunity. Therefore, he gave his own son swinepox, then later injected him with smallpox. The smallpox had no effect on his son. This experiment led to the adoption of vaccines to fight smallpox and saved an enormous number of lives.
• When children’s book author Lois Lowry was nine years old, she wanted a man’s woolen hunting shirt she frequently looked at in a shop window. Her father noticed that she wanted the shirt, and so he took her into the store to try it on. Of course, even the smallest size was much too large for her, but her father bought it for her anyway. In her autobiography, Looking Back: A Book of Memories, Ms. Lowry writes, “I wore it for years. I loved that shirt. I loved my father for buying it for me. I loved the entire world for being the kind of world where such a shirt, and such a father, existed.” She also recognizes that buying the shirt was practical — she never outgrew it.
• Emilio Diaz, the father of actress Cameron Diaz, was a true sports nut, and he taught his two daughters, Chimene and Cameron, to love sports, too. When he woke up on Sunday mornings when his daughters were young, even before he raised his head from his pillow, he would shout, “FOOTBAAALLLL.” He also teased his two daughters by telling them occasionally to go and play on the freeway. Of course, they understood that he was joking. Cameron and her parents have a good relationship, and she even decided to quit smoking to set a better example after her parents pointed out that they had seen her smoking in seven of her movies.
• Comic singer Anna Russell once did some nude modeling — artistic, not pornographic. (The photographer’s wife and female assistant were always present during the photo sessions.) Ms. Russell had a nice figure, although she did not care for her face so much — but then, the photographer did not take photographs of her face. One of the photographs appeared in a London newspaper, where her father saw it, but fortunately he did not recognize her. After looking at the photograph, her father remarked, “It’s amazing what people will stoop to for money.”
• Comedian Robert Klein’s father never ate vegetables because he thought salad was a dish fit only for cows. As a result, his bowel movements were infrequent. Once, when Robert was young, the urge suddenly came on his father, who dashed for the bathroom. Immediately, he yelled for Robert to bring him an umbrella. Robert did as he was told, and when he opened the door to the bathroom, he saw his father sitting on the throne, and above his father, hanging on a clothesline, were his mother’s dripping undergarments.
• One way for a man to become a feminist is to have a daughter who is a feminist. In 1854, Elizabeth Cady Stanton spoke to the legislature of New York about women’s rights, saying, “We ask no better laws than those you have made for yourselves … simply on the ground that the rights of every human being are the same and identical.” Before she gave her speech, she read it to her father, who was a respected jurist. At first, her father threatened to disinherit her, but eventually he helped her with the speech’s legal analysis.
• Once, when her father was visiting her, lesbian comedian Kate Clinton invited some of her friends over for dinner. She did establish one conversational rule ahead of time (for her own comfort) — no talk about gay sex. As the dinner progressed, she and her friends discussed such topics as gay politics and gay theory, and at the end of the dinner, she turned toward her father and asked, “What do you think we as gay people can do to make more bridges to straight people?” Her father paused, then answered, “Keep talking.”
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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