• Betty White, star of The Golden Girls, and Carol Channing, star of Hello, Dolly, were friends. Once, Ms. White played the lead in Hello, Dolly in several Ohio cities, then she teased her friend by saying that everyone felt the production was much better than the original starring Ms. Channing. However, Ms. Channing simply replied, “Your mother said what?”
• Alexander Woollcott belonged to the Young Men’s Upper West Side Thanatopsis and Inside Straight Club, whose members met regularly to play poker. One day, a member of the club brought a rich man to play poker at the club, announcing that the rich man would be easy to pluck. The next morning, Mr. Woollcott and his friends looked up the rich man in Dun and Bradstreet, found that he was worth $60,000,000, then sent that publication this note: “Dear Sirs: He now has $60,000,210.”
• The cast and crew of Peter Pan were on tour in New England at a time when many people thought that actors and actresses were scandalous. On the train, the actors playing pirates noticed that some scandalized Puritans were staring at them as they played poker (also a no-no), so they seated the child playing Liza at the poker table, gave her some cards, and set some poker chips in front of her. The child gazed intently at the cards.
Gays and Lesbians
• Early in her career, Lillian Hellman read and evaluated plays for theatrical producer Herman Shumlin. After she had written her first play, The Children’s Hour, she left it on his desk with a note saying that this was the best play she had seen while working for him. Mr. Shumlin read her play, agreed with her assessment of it, and produced it on Broadway, where it immediately became a hit after opening on November 20, 1934. Unfortunately, because of the shocking subject matter of the play — a child unjustly accuses two teachers of being lesbians — the Pulitzer Prize Committee did not give it a prize and refused to even consider it for a prize. This infuriated so many New York critics who felt that it was the best play of the season that they formed the Drama Critics Circle and began to present their own awards.
• Charles Nelson Reilly was once invited along with some other actors to ride a float in a Gay Pride parade. All the actors were told that the float would bear a banner saying “Actors for Gay Rights,” but when they arrived at the parade, they discovered that the banner actually said “Gay Actors for Human Rights.” None of the other actors would get on the float, but Mr. Reilly figured that he looked good in his tuxedo and his toupee, so he rode on the float alone. Eventually, Mr. Reilly announced that he was gay.
• Actress Hermione Gingold once saw a production of Peter Pan, starring Joan Greenwood. In the scene in which Peter Pan saves Tinkerbelle’s life by asking the audience if they believe in fairies, Ms. Gingold’s voice rang out: “Believe in them, darling? I know hundreds of them!”
• Conductor André Previn has in his office a jack-in-the-box; the puppet that comes out of the box is a conductor. This was a gift to him from British playwright Tom Stoppard. One day, Mr. Previn had told him that he had to fire someone and didn’t know how to do it. Later, Mr. Stoppard gave him the jack-in-the-box and said about the puppet conductor, “Just put a note in his little hand, reading, ‘You’re fired.’ Then have the fellow come in and hand it to him.”
• Toilet paper can be a much-appreciated gift. At the beginning of World War II, many British people realized that certain products would become rare. English entertainer Joyce Grenfell knew a foresighted woman who ordered a couple of grosses of toilet paper (an enormous order). During the war, she gave it away as presents at Christmas and birthdays to friends who were very pleased to receive the rare product.
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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