David Bruce: The Funniest People in Relationships — Mothers

Mothers

• Although singer Ray Charles became blind when he was a child, his mother was determined that he would be treated like sighted children. One day, young Ray deliberately did a poor job of mopping the floor because he figured that since he couldn’t see, his mother would let him get away with it. She didn’t. Instead, she made him scrub the floor on his hands and knees. Ray didn’t let his blindness interfere with the things he wanted to do. As a teenager, he drove a car with his friends sitting beside him to tell him when he was going too far to the right or to the left; he also drove a motorcycle, riding behind a friend’s motorcycle and following the sound of its exhaust. In addition, he practically invented soul music by combining blues and gospel.

• During the mid-1950s, Mikie, the little son of Metropolitan Opera soprano Regina Resnik, learned to enjoy opera music after a brief time of telling his mother, “No more practicing! I don’t like opera music!” Soon his favorite music included “Three Blind Mice,” “Little Red Monkey,” and the overture from Carmen. Ms. Resnik frequently sang on TV, and her family would gather in the living room to watch her. Mikie would shout, “That’s Mommy! That’s Mommy!” That is, unless she was wearing a black wig over her own blond hair for a role. Then little Mikie would look at her and say sadly, “That’s not Mommy. It’s a different lady.”

• Sir James M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan, helped make Kensington Gardens famous, and as a reward he was given a key so he could roam the gardens in solitude after other people had left. He was quite pleased to be able to do so, for after he had written about Kensington Gardens in his book The Little White Bird, mothers used to lie in wait for him so they could introduce him to their children in hopes that he would use them in a book. (Sir James also used to put his mother, thinly disguised, into every book he wrote. She would read the book, then tell her son, “I’m thinking I am in it again!”)

• At the start of the Depression, comedian Jack Oakie’s mother got worried about her son’s money, which was deposited in the Bank of Hollywood. She insisted that he take all of his money out of the bank. Being a good son, he obeyed. When a bank teller asked his mother why she wanted Mr. Oakie to withdraw his money, she replied, “No particular reason. I just have the feeling that this might be a good day to take all of Jack’s money out of the bank.” It was a good thing she had this feeling — the bank failed to open the very next business day.

• Frequently, when comic writer Robert Benchley wanted a plausible excuse for not completing a piece of writing by his deadline, he asked his mother to send telegrams, supposedly sent by himself, saying that she was ill and he was staying with her. However, sometimes he didn’t care if the excuse was plausible. Once, he asked his mother to send this telegram in his name: “SORRY I CANT ATTEND LUNCHEON TODAY BECAUSE I AM IN BOSTON STOP DONT KNOW WHY I AM IN BOSTON BUT IT MUST BE IMPORTANT BECAUSE HERE I AM.”

• While Tim Conway was appearing on TV in the sitcom McHale’s Navy, his mother called him to say, “You know, one of the Schutt boys is leaving the hardware store. There’s an opening. You know the other boys, so if you could apply for that job, it would probably be to your benefit.” He asked if she wanted him to work in a hardware store instead of on TV. She replied, “Yes — because the hardware store is a much steadier job. At least you know where you’re going to work in the morning and how long you’re going to be there.”

• When ballet dancer George Zoritch’s aged mother was in a nursing home, she called a friend and said, “I need you. Don’t ask questions. Just come here right away.” The friend did come, taking three buses in 98-degree heat. When he arrived, he found her sitting quietly on the side of her bed. He asked, “What is the problem? You sounded distraught on the telephone.” Mr. Zoritch’s mother answered, “I am working on a crossword puzzle, and I didn’t know what this word means, so I can’t fill in the squares.”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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