David Bruce: The Funniest People in Relationships — Mothers, Music, Names


• After her first book, The Joy Luck Club, became a runaway success, author Amy Tan was asked what her mother thought of the book. Ms. Tan replied that her mother went into bookstores, looking for her book, and if she didn’t see it, she scolded the bookstore employees.

• When novelist Jackie Collins was raising the two daughters she had with Oscar Lerman, the first word she taught them was not “Mummy” (she was born in London), but “Anything.” Why? She wanted them to learn that they could do anything.

• Paul Gauguin’s mother knew that her son could be abrasive. After she died on July 7, 1867, she advised in her will that he start a career “since he has made himself so disliked by all my friends that he will one day find himself alone.”

• Soprano Rita Hunter’s mother was very proud of her. While Ms. Hunter was singing in Gotterdammerung, her mother turned to a friend and asked, “My God, did I really give birth to that!”


• Sometimes people hear song lyrics incorrectly. For example, singer-songwriter Tom Waits’ wife, Kathleen Brennan, thought that the refrain of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s song “Bad Moon Rising” went, “There’s a bathroom on the right.” (Actually, as you entered many of the clubs that Mr. Waits used to perform in, there was a bathroom on the right.)

• Ritchie Valens became famous as a result of singing such hits as “La Bamba,” but when he was young, his family had a difficult time financially after his father died. In January 1958, his mother was unable to make a $65 house payment, so 17-year-old Ritchie and his band staged a dance. By charging $1.25 per person and $2 per couple, they made $125.

• Soprano Geraldine Farrar started singing in public at a very young age — she performed her first song for a church concert at age three. When she had finished singing, she went to the front of the platform and asked, to the delight of the audience, “Did I do it well, mamma?”

• Aretha Franklin started singing in the church choir when she was eight years old, and she made her professional debut — singing solo at church — when she was twelve years old. For singing, she was paid $15, which she immediately spent on a pair of roller skates.

• Soprano Angelica Catalani was married to M. de Vallebregue, a French captain who lacked knowledge of music. When his wife complained that the piano was too high, he ordered a carpenter to cut six inches off each leg of the piano.

• Sam Cooke started out as a gospel singer, but then he started to record pop songs. He worried about doing this, but his father, a minister, told him, “Sam, the Lord gave you a voice to make people happy. … Go ahead and sing.”


• Mark Twain’s real name was Samuel Langhorne Clemens. When he was a steamboat pilot on the Mississippi River, he liked the words that rivermen called when they measured 12 feet of water. This much water had a depth of two fathoms, so the rivermen called out, “Mark twain.” The phrase meant, “Note (or mark) that there are two (or twain) fathoms of water.” Since two fathoms of water was deep enough to be safe for the steamboat, the pilot could heave a sigh of relief. Mr. Twain once took his family for a trip on a steamboat, and he stood on the deck listening to the cries of “Mark twain” coming from the rivermen. His daughter Clara came up to him and said, “I have hunted all over the boat for you. Don’t you know they are calling for you?”

• As a young girl, ballet dancer Mary Ellen Moylan decided that she needed a new, more romantic name; therefore, she chose “Mimi” and would not answer if she were called by any other name. However, returning to her lessons at the School of American Ballet, she discovered that her new name caused the other students to laugh at her, so she again went by the name of Mary Ellen.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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