David Bruce: The Funniest People in Television and Radio: 250 Anecdotes — Animals, Auditions

Animals

• Columbus, Ohio, radio deejay Bob Simpson once asked listeners for silly pet names. One caller had a friend who had named his cat “Stir Fry.” Why? “It’s a threat.” By the way, Channel 4 (Columbus, Ohio) News once gave a quiz to help determine if you are a hypochondriac. After giving the quiz, the news co-anchor, Colleen Marshall, said, “If you think you are a hypochondriac, you should see a doctor.”

• When Patrick Macnee shared an apartment with fellow actor Dennis Price, he ran into a problem. Mr. Price kept a flock of chickens in the bathroom. One advantage was that the roommates always had fresh eggs for breakfast, although there were also some obvious disadvantages. When Mr. Macnee remonstrated with Mr. Price about the chickens, Mr. Price asked, “Can you lay eggs?”

• Comedian Wally Cox (TV’s Mr. Peepers) was a bird expert. At his farm in Connecticut, birds even flew to him and rested on his hands and arms. One of his friends wanted very much to do this. She learned the proper birdcalls, but the birds wouldn’t come to her the way they came to Wally. Finally, the woman put on Wally’s hat and coat — seconds later, she was covered with birds.

• During World War II, Spike Milligan and some fellow soldiers were shipped to Algiers. On the voyage, the soldiers became trigger-happy, frequently firing anti-aircraft guns at seagulls. Eventually, the ship’s Captain told them, “Gentlemen, all seagulls in this area are unarmed. Can we refrain from shooting at them?”

• Ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev once watched a nature show during which a sheep carcass was thrown into the Everglades, where frenzied alligators immediately devoured it. Mr. Nureyev recognized the scene: “Ah, Paris Opéra.”

• Jack Webb, star of Dragnet, took steps not to be overwhelmed by success. To remind himself to be humble, he kept a photograph of his Hollywood Walk of Fame star — on which a dog had left a stinky memento.

Auditions

• In the early days of television, when most shows were live, many local stations featured homegrown talent, which meant that TV directors such as Paul Ritts were “treated” to a variety show weekly as they tried to find a few people with actual talent to put on the air. Of course, actual talent was frequently absent (many of the TV people working during the auditions turned off their earphones until after the auditions were over), although some performers tried to make up for it with deviousness. Often, these performers would find an excuse to speak to the person auditioning talent after the audition was over; that way, they could make a plug for themselves. One day, a pretty dancer who was much more talented at being pretty than she was at dancing stopped by Mr. Ritts’ office to explain that she had “mistakenly” written her old address instead of her new address on a form she had filled out. Mr. Ritts got the form out so he could make the correction, and the pretty dancer sat down and crossed her legs. Since she was still wearing her dance costume — which was both scanty and flimsy and only sort of covered by a scanty and flimsy outer garment, the crossing of her legs was an event of interest to almost any man and more than a few women. One of those women happened to be Mr. Ritts’ wife, who walked into his office, looked at the dancer’s legs, remarked that dresses were definitely getting shorter, and then paid a visit to her husband’s boss. Shortly afterward, Mr. Ritts received a note from his boss informing him that due to his many other duties someone else would henceforward audition talent.

• Pop star and actress Brandy attended the Hollywood High Performing Arts Center, where she studied acting and singing. She thought that her drama teacher would recommend her for auditions, but that didn’t happen. One day, Brandy asked her drama teacher, “Why aren’t you sending me out on calls?” The teacher replied, “Because you’re not drop-dead gorgeous.” The criticism didn’t stop Brandy, who starred as Cinderella on television. By the way, one person who had faith in Brandy’s talents from the beginning was Brandy’s mother, who, after giving birth to Brandy, told her physician, “You just birthed a star.”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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