David Bruce: The Funniest People in Theater: 250 Anecdotes — Royalty, Sex,


• James M. Barrie once attended a birthday party for three-year-old Princess Margaret Rose, the daughter of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth of England. About her favorite present, Mr. Barrie asked, “Is that your very own?” Princess Margaret immediately placed it between Mr. Barrie and herself, and said, “It is yours — and mine.” Later, the princess said about Mr. Barrie, “I know that man. He is my greatest friend — and I am his greatest friend.” At the princess’ birthday party, she spoke some words that Mr. Barrie liked so much that he told her that they would appear in his next play. In addition, he told her that he would pay her a royalty of a penny each time the character spoke her words on stage. Later, King George VI wrote Mr. Barrie and joked that unless he paid the princess her royalties, he would have his lawyers contact him. Mr. Barrie immediately set about acquiring a bag of bright new pennies to present to the princess.

• The British have the reputation of NOT being a passionate people, unlike the French and Spanish. Once while Tallulah Bankhead was shown her suite at a hotel, she was told that the Duke and Duchess of Windsor had spent their honeymoon there. Ms. Bankhead felt the bed, then said, “Ah yes, it’s still cold.”


• At the very beginning of her career, opera singer/actress Grace Moore made the rounds of booking offices, hoping for a job on Broadway. One of the men in charge of casting looked her over, then said, “The voice may be okay, but lift your skirt, girlie, so I can see your legs.” She slapped him, then made her exit as she told him, “I don’t sing with my legs.” In her autobiography, You’re Only Human Once, Ms. Moore later wrote, “Managers seemed never to consider the voice as a separate entity from what went on below.”

• In England, a vicar was on a train with a bunch of actresses who were going to perform in the pantomime Dick Whittington. He gave them pieces of the lemon-flavored hard candy known as acid drops, then began to ask them about the parts they would perform. He asked one actress, “Which part do you take?” She answered, “The cat.” Eventually, he asked, “And which of you takes Dick?” One actress, annoyed by the persistent questioning, replied, “We all do, dear, but not for acid drops.”

• Lesbian playwright Holly Hughes had a very good reason for writing plays — to get girls. She would write a play that starred the girl she was pursuing. Of course, Ms. Hughes would play the love interest of the star. In her introduction to Dress Suits for Hire, Ms. Hughes writes about the difficulty of writing a commissioned play for some people she knew she would not sleep with: “It was hard for me to imagine why someone would go to all the work to write a play if there was absolutely no chance she would get laid as a result. What was the point?”

• Edna Ferber and George Kaufman did much of their writing in Ms. Ferber’s room at the Hotel Algonquin while they collaborated on the play Dinner at Eight. The owner and manager of the hotel was Frank Case, who permitted as little hanky-panky as possible at the hotel. Once, very early in the morning, he telephoned Ms. Ferber and asked, “Do you have a gentleman in your room?” She replied, “I don’t know. Wait a minute, and I’ll ask him.”

• When the future Mrs. Zero Mostel was touring as a chorus girl in vaudeville, she noticed that one particular girl in the chorus — seventh girl from the left — dated trombone players. Never any other kind of musician — just trombone players. Eventually, she discovered why. The vaudeville show traveled with its own music, and on the music for the trombone was handwritten this note: “Seventh from the left f**ks.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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