David Bruce: The Funniest People in Theater: 250 Anecdotes — Christmas, Costumes


• When playwright Lorraine Hansberry was in kindergarten, she received a very nice Christmas present: a white fur coat with matching fur muff. However, she was not pleased by the gift. She knew that although her family was financially well off, other children in their neighborhood were not. In fact, some of the children in the neighborhood were forced to put cardboard in their shoes to keep the snow and ice from coming through the holes in the soles of their shoes. Just as young Lorraine suspected, the other children were jealous of her coat, and they chased her home the first day she wore it and threw mud balls at her.


• In 1982, Sinead Cusack appeared as Katherine in Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. For her costume, an exquisite pink silk dress had been designed; however, she felt that the character would not wear anything exquisite. Therefore, she wore boots with the dress, and she suggested to the designer, Bob Crowley, “Let’s desecrate it.” He agreed, and he said, “Shall I make the first cut?” With a pair of scissors, he cut a slash in the skirt, then she did the same thing. After the desecration, the dress suited the character.

• Born Sarah Francis Frost, Julia Marlowe invented her stage name by taking the last name of Christopher Marlowe and the name of the heroine from a favorite play, The Hunchback. Late in the 19th century, she was asked why she didn’t act in more modern plays — after all, her finances were being hurt because she preferred to act only in the plays of Shakespeare and other classic dramatists. Ms. Marlowe replied, “Well, I don’t fancy myself in modern drama. I never look well in modern clothes.” End of discussion.

• One of Bette Midler’s more unusual grand entrances was in a hot dog costume, complete with condiments and bun. At an early fitting of the costume, Ms. Midler ran into trouble. The costumers had used Krazy-Glu in its construction, and because of a lack of air circulation in the costume, the glue had not dried. When Ms. Midler tried to get out of the costume, she couldn’t — her hair was glued to the giant hot dog. She was forced to stay inside the giant hot dog until her hairdresser came and cut her out.

• Florenz “Flo” Ziegfeld was a master at making the beautiful women who appeared in his Follies even more beautiful. Whenever he inspected a costume, he would turn it inside out to look at its lining. He believed that when the inside of the costume was as beautiful as the outside, the women in his Follies felt more beautiful and thus appeared more beautiful.


• Robert Benchley was the drama critic for Life for several years. He detested Abie’s Irish Rose, which set a record with 2,327 performances over several years. Unfortunately for Mr. Benchley, Life ran capsule reviews of plays previously reviewed, so each week he had to find a new way to write “awful” in his capsule review of the play. After running out of ideas, he began to fill the space with such “reviews” as “There is no letter ‘w’ in the French alphabet” and “Flying fish are sometimes seen at as great a height as 15 feet” and “In another two or three years, we’ll have this play driven out of town” and “Closing soon. (Only fooling.)” Eventually, he held a contest for suggestions to fill the space. Harpo Marx’s suggestion was “No worse than a bad cold.”

• Billy Rose produced The Great Magoo, written by Gene Fowler and Ben Hecht. Unfortunately, the New York critics disliked the play and it soon closed. Mr. Rose, Mr. Fowler, and Mr. Hecht were approached by a few financial backers of the play — financial backers who also happened to be members of organized crime. The financial backers invited the three men to pick any three New York critics they would like to see dead, and the financial backers would see to it their wish turned into reality. Mr. Rose was against bloodshed, Mr. Fowler wanted a few critics to die, and Mr. Hecht wasn’t sure one way or the other. Eventually, they decided to let the critics live — a decision that Mr. Hecht later said he sometimes regretted.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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Music Recommendation: Megan Bee — “Middle of the Morning”


Music: “Middle of the Morning”


Artist: Megan Bee

Artist Location: Athens, Ohio


“Singer-songwriter Megan Bee writes with an unquenchable wanderlust and a raw love for the land.  In the summer of 2020 she released her third studio album, WAITING, which was named album of the year by THE ARK OF MUSIC.  The album follows her 2017 release LIKE A CANYON, which won The Ohio Music Awards Best Americana and Best Singer-Songwriter Album along with a finalist spot in the 2018 USA Songwriting Competition. 

“Her music is a blend of distinctly homespun vocals, acoustic simplicity, yearning soulfulness, and winsome storytelling. Megan’s background as an environmental educator, traveling farmhand, and vagabond once took her into a desert wilderness where she found her voice around a campfire.  She bases out of the rolling hills of Athens, Ohio and frequently roams the country playing festivals, coffeehouses, brewpubs, house concerts, and around campfires.   

“She seems to have nothing to prove and no agenda, just to write her heart and then sing it. […] The album is beautifully produced, and Megan’s voice cuts like a warbling bird through the music, like a line on a map.”  Hold the Note Magazine

“WAITING is wonderfully uncomplicated, genuinely soulful, and as storied as its creator — a true masterpiece that showcases stellar Bee’s songwriting skills phenomenally.” The Ark of Music 

“… warm and inviting … incredibly organic sounding. It sounds pure and human throughout.” Divide and Conquer

“In the summer of 2020 she released her third studio album, WAITING. Recorded on the brink of a global pandemic in a humble basement studio, intimate vocals and soulful lyrics are supported by a simple production that pulls you in to the closeness and warmth of these songs. “

Price: $1 (USD) for track; $10 (USD) for nine-track album

Genre: Americana.  Singer-Songwriter.


Megan Bee on Bandcamp


Megan Official Website


Megan Bee on YouTube


Megan Bee on Facebook


Megan Bee: Live From Home


Megan Bee at Ohio University’s Scripps Amphitheater: 16 September 2021


Open Mic Night at Ohio University’s Baker Center: 17 September 2021

Riley James
Bernhard Debatin
Bruce Dalzell
David Bruce

David Bruce’s Stories (More or Less)

One of the goals I had for each of the students in each of my classes was for them to lead lives of wit and intelligence. Many of my students achieved that goal. Of course, Ohio University professors and staff are also witty and intelligent, as seen by the following stories. 

When Baz Luhrmann’s William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet first came out, Shakespeare scholar Samuel Crowl saw it at his local cineplex, where the number of teenyboppers who had come to see Leonardo DiCaprio play Romeo surprised him. When Mr. DiCaprio’s Romeo and Claire Danes’ Juliet first met, a young DiCaprio fan sitting behind Professor Crowl whispered, “Don’t touch him, you bitch.” 

When English professor Calvin Thayer talked about Falstaff, the fat rogue living on his wits in Shakespeare’s Henry IV plays, he would recite a long list of Falstaff’s traits: Falstaff is an alcoholic, very fat, a spendthrift, white-bearded, etc. From when I attended Ohio University graduate school, I remember that when Dr. Thayer, who had a white beard, mentioned Falstaff’s white beard, he looked shocked, glanced up at his students, and protested, “There’s nothing wrong with that, of course.” 

English professor Frank Fieler knew and loved books. Frequently he would make wise acquisitions for OU’s Alden Library. Once, in England, he had almost succeeded in acquiring some important first editions at an auction when a bidder for another university — that was rich because of Texas oil money — spoke up and gave a bid that was twice as large as Dr. Fieler’s. The bidder was showing off his university’s wealth by waiting until the bidding was almost over, then jumping in with a big bid. Dr. Fieler was so angry that he bid the first editions up until the other fellow’s bid was way over the books’ true value, then Dr. Fieler stalked out — to the applause of the other people in the auction house. 

In the free-wheeling days of the 1960s, Edgar Whan and other English professors used to throw Frisbees in Ellis Hall. 

Some students and professors show the haters that they are wrong. Robert DeMott and Dave Smith became friends in the early 1970s. They had a number of things in common that facilitated their friendship: They were or would become editors, scholars, teachers, and writers, plus both had been told as undergraduates by professors that they were “not smart enough or able enough to amount to much in the ‘real’ world” — predictions that they ignored. Mr. DeMott (actually, Dr. DeMott) became a noted John Steinbeck scholar at Ohio University, and Mr. Smith became a noted poet. By the way, at times, learning excites students. During Spring Quarter of 1970, Dr. DeMott offered a course titled “Writers of the Beat Movement.” The course drew so many students that there was standing room only, with many students spilling out of the classroom and into the hallway. Later in 1970, he taught an Honors course on beat poet Gary Snyder — the class met in a teepee on property owned by an OU art professor. 

Robert Roe served in the tank corps in Africa during World War II. One day, while driving a tank he ran out of gas in the desert; an Arab saw him and tried to speak to him, but neither spoke the other’s language. The Arab shrugged, went to a nearby clump of trees where he had a cache of gasoline, then filled Mr. Roe’s tank with gas. Mr. Roe not only reads Old English, but he also reads Marcel Proust in French. As an undergraduate at a time when professors were more autocratic than they are today, he took a French class but had a hard time in it. He needed the professor’s permission to drop the class, but when he asked the professor for permission, the professor glowered at him. This so unnerved Mr. Roe that he left the professor’s office and learned French.

John Jones specialized in Milton and Swift as an English professor. One day, a freshman student came to Professor Jones’ office and asked him why he should take his course. Professor Jones pointed to one bookshelf, then another. “Milton! Swift! What more do you want?” 

When English professor Barry Roth first came to OU, he was asked to teach a course on mysteries. But instead of teaching mysteries by such people as Agatha Christie and Rex Stout, he taught such “mysteries” as William Shakespeare’s Hamlet and William Faulkner’s Sanctuary

Classics professor Steve Hays says that he doesn’t want his students to graduate only to write poetry to themselves in coffeehouses; humanity can be well served by engineers, journalists, nurses, physicians, dentists, and lawyers. Dr. Hays points out that building a better fuel injector is a wonderful way to serve humanity. When he was taking university classes, he would go through the Student Catalogue and circle the names of professors who had graduated from such schools as Harvard, Yale, and Princeton and then try to take classes from those professors. 

OU physiologist Fredrick Hagerman, who worked at NASA, vouches for the authenticity of this anecdote about the first man to walk on the moon: Ohio-born astronaut Neil Armstrong. The first words he spoke on the moon are famous — “One small step for man; one giant leap for mankind” — but he said other things on the moon, including, “Good luck, Mr. Gorsky.” At first, people assumed that Mr. Gorsky must be a Russian cosmonaut, but no Russian cosmonaut had that name. For a long time, Mr. Armstrong declined to reveal who Mr. Gorsky was, but after years had passed, he said that the Gorskys had died and so it was OK to reveal the story. It turned out that the Gorskys were next-door neighbors to the Armstrongs when Neil was growing up. One day, during a game, a ball was hit into the Gorskys’ yard, and young Neil went to get it. The ball had landed near an open window, and Neil heard the Gorskys arguing. In particular, he heard Mrs. Gorsky yelling, “Sex? You want sex? I’ll tell you when you’ll get sex! You’ll get sex when the kid next door walks on the moon!”

Bernhard Debatin’s son is in Velvet Green (and in a group called Sun Boats).

Formed in 2018, Velvet Green is a native Athens band made up of drummer Shea Benezra, bassist Mitch Spring, keyboardist Liam McSteen, guitarist duo Harper Reese and Sam Debatin [tall, light-colored hair], and vocalist Cora Fitch. Their musical style is an eclectic blend drawing from the funk and jazz of Steely Dan and Joni Mitchell, while remaining influenced by more current groups like Radiohead, Crumb, and Boy Jorts.

Sam Debatin