David Bruce: Cars Anecdotes

On July 23, 2010, Bill Pace, who is 80 years old, became semi-conscious while driving. Although he did not realize it, he had suffered a mild heart attack a few days earlier, and his circulation was so poor that he nearly passed out. Fortunately, 48-year-old Duane Innes was driving to a Seattle Mariners game. He noticed that Mr. Pace’s truck was drifting on the road and sideswiped a concrete barrier. It also nearly hit the minivan that Mr. Innes was driving. Mr. Innis looked in his rearview mirror and saw that the driver of the truck was slumped over the steering wheel. Realizing that something was wrong with the driver, and knowing that an intersection with heavy traffic was ahead, Mr. Innis positioned his minivan in front of the truck, slowed down slightly, and allowed the truck to hit his minivan so that he could brake and bring the truck to a stop. After learning that Mr. Pace, a retiree, does such good deeds as organize food drives and volunteer for the Special Olympics, Mr. Innis said, “For all the good that he’s done, he’s probably deserving of a few extra lives.” Mr. Pace’s insurance company, State Farm, paid the approximately $3,500 worth of damage to Mr. Innis’ minivan. In addition, State Farm representative Clayton Ande wrote Mr. Innis a letter of appreciation in which he stated, “We wish to thank you for the actions you took to save Bill’s life. State Farm and the Pace family consider you to be a hero. I wish there were more people like you in the world.” Mr. Pace said, “He saved my life, really — and God knows who else.”

On Thursday, Oct. 8, 2009, Paula Antonacci of Springfield, Illinois, went to a drivers’ license facility so she could get her license renewed before work. However, once she was there., she realized that she had not brought enough money with her to pay for the license renewal. She wrote in a letter to the editor of The State Journal Register, “A very kind person named Barbara came up to the counter and asked how much I needed. I had only needed $2, which she generously gave to me without hesitating. I asked for her address to return the money, but she would not give it to me. She said many people had helped her out in such situations and that I could help someone out next time.” Ms. Antonacci promises to pay the good deed forward and writes that she appreciates people such as Barbara.

In 2013, Thane Chiquinho Scarpa, one of the richest men in Brazil, announced that he was planning to bury a million-dollar Bentley. Why? So he could ride around in style in the afterlife. Actually, this was a publicity stunt to draw attention to a worthy cause: organ donation. On the day that he was supposed to bury his Bentley, Mr. Scarpa said, “People condemn me because I wanted to bury a million dollar Bentley; in fact, most people bury something a lot more valuable than my car. They bury hearts, livers, lungs, eyes, kidneys. This is absurd. So many people waiting for a transplant and you will bury your healthy organs that can save so many lives. This is the biggest waste in the world. My Bentley is worthless in comparison to life-giving organs. There is no wealth more valuable than an organ, because there is nothing more valuable than life. I officially announce I am an organ donor this week. I’m an organ donor, are you? Tell your family.”

Basso Ferruccio Furianetto has taken care of his voice over the years, turning down roles that he felt his voice was not ready for. Conductor Herbert von Karajan once asked him to sing the role of Escamillo, which is a role for a baritone. Immediately, Mr. Furianetto changed the subject to something that he knew Mr. Karajan would want to talk about: “Maestro, did you see the new Porsche that just came out?” Today, Mr. Furianetto says, “That Porsche saved me!”

Following the wartime austerity of World War II and the rise of making much money playing rock and roll, some British performers began — of course — spending money on cars. British jazz musician George Melly and early British rocker Tommy Steele met backstage once, and Mr. Steele learned that Mr. Melly did not have a car. Mr. Melly remembers, “He looked at me with the sort of pity usually reserved for the badly deformed.”

In the 1970 World Series, Cincinnati Reds catcher Johnny Bench played very well, but Baltimore Orioles third baseman Brooks Robinson played spectacularly, and the Orioles won the Series. Still, Mr. Bench was funnier than Mr. Robinson. When Mr. Robinson won a new car by being named the Series MVP, Mr. Bench said, “If we’d have known he wanted a new car that badly, we’d have chipped in and bought him one.”

Edsel Ford had the ability to recognize good advertising, and he had the ability to make up his mind quickly. He once read five full-page ads for the Ford Motor Company, then said, “I think they will do all right. I have one change I’d like to suggest. In one of the advertisements, I see you use the word ‘perfect.’ I think it would be better to say ‘correct.’ Nothing is perfect.”

Wynonie Harris was a rhythm and blues star of the 1940s and 1950s who made a lot of money and spent a lot of money. He bought two Cadillacs and hired two chauffeurs, and people used to go out on the sidewalk at 4 a.m. when he left the Baby Grand in Harlem after a performance just to see which Cadillac he would choose to ride home in.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved



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David Bruce: Cars Anecdotes


Jay Leno and Barack Obama (Public Domain, via Wiki Commons)

Comedian Jay Leno really, really likes cars and motorcycles. In fact, his garage looks more like a warehouse because it is so filled with his vehicular possessions. Still, whenever his mother visited him and wanted to borrow a car, he would tell her, “Mother, I’ll rent you a car.”

Nancy Cartwright, the voice of TV’s Bart Simpson, once owned a pink Miata automobile that she donated to a charity auction to raise money for the drug-rehab program known as Narconon. The man who bought the car was George Foreman, who told her, “Miss Cartwright, I am going to donate this money to the Narconon because I believe in this program, but I am going to give you back your car because I ain’t gonna be drivin’ no pink Miata around Los Angeles.” Ms. Cartwright donated her car once again to Narconon, and it was auctioned off a second time. The two auctions raised $15,000—twice the car’s blue book value.

Auburn University football player Bo Jackson once rear-ended a car, an accident that made the driver of the other car very irate. She told Mr. Jackson that the accident was his fault and that he was a terrible driver, but as soon as she heard his name, she asked, “Are you the Bo Jackson who plays for Auburn?” He admitted that he was, and she immediately asked, “Are you all right?” As an Auburn football fan, she wanted to make sure that Mr. Jackson could play against the University of Texas. In fact, before the game, she sent Mr. Jackson a note: “Smash Texas like you smashed my car.”

Michael Moore, author of Stupid White Men and a native of Flint, Michigan, drove Toyotas and Volkswagons. Occasionally, a friend would ask him why he didn’t buy a car that was built in the USA. When that happened, Mr. Moore would have his friend open the hood of his “American” car, and then he’d show his friend that the engine had a sticker saying “MADE IN BRAZIL” and the fan belt bore the lettering “MADE IN MEXICO.” In addition, the radio had a label saying, “MADE IN SINGAPORE.”

When San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge was completed in 1937, it put out of business the ferries that had been carrying people and vehicles across the Golden Gate—which is the name given to the body of water between San Francisco and the land to the north. However, traffic across the bridge grew so heavy that ferries started running again in the mid-1980s. Many drivers use the ferries to avoid rush hour traffic across the Golden Gate Bridge.

When a Navajo girl has her first menstrual cycle, she goes through the Kinaaldá ceremony to mark her coming of age. In part of the ceremony, she runs toward the east while dressed in traditional Navajo clothing. When Celinda McKelvey went through the Kinaaldá ceremony, she ran almost to a highway. Later, she said about the people driving by, “They probably thought it was some kind of Indian track meet.”

Four soloists—Rudolph Nureyev, Rosella Hightower, Erik Bruhn, and Sonia Arova—formed their own dance company and went on tour. Along the coast from Marseilles to Cannes, the car the company was traveling in broke down, leaving them stuck along the roadside until 4 a.m. Fortunately, the only member of the company with any mechanical ability was able to fix the car—Rosella Hightower.

Soon after automobiles were invented, there were few laws regulating such things as speed limits or the age of drivers. In an early Nancy Drew novel, The Mystery at Lilac Inn, published in 1930, the 16-year-old heroine drives around—safely and sensibly—in a bright blue roadster. (In 1930, South Carolina let 12-year-olds drive, and driver’s licenses weren’t required in 28 states.)

In 1990, when Jennifer Capriati was 14 years old, she played against Martina Navratilova in the finals of the Family Circle Magazine Cup in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. Ms. Navratilova won both the tournament and the Mazda Miata sports car that went to the champion, then said, “It’s just as well I won it—since Jennifer can’t drive.”

Children’s book author/illustrator David McPhail sometimes writes as he drives. Actually, that’s not quite true. He will think of a couple of sentences while driving, then stop the car and write the sentences down. While he was writing The Cereal Box, a trip that usually took 90 minutes turned into a three-and-a-half-hour trip.

In England in 1899, the speed limit was four miles per hour, and each automobile driver was required to have a man with a red flag walk in front of the automobile to warn pedestrians. In 1900, however, the speed limit was raised to 12 miles per hour, and no longer was the man carrying the red flag required by law.

Performing artists often travel by car, even though many performing artists are not good drivers. Members of Twyla Tharp’s dance troupe once stayed stationary in a line of cars as a traffic light kept changing colors until Theresa Dickinson pointed out to driver Sara Rudner that the car was in a parking lane.

Because of the Jim Crow laws that prevented gospel singer Mahalia Jackson from eating in white-only restaurants or sleeping in white-only hotels, she bought a Cadillac for when she toured in the South. Her car had to be large enough for her to carry food in it—and to sleep in it.

Performing artists often travel by car. During his career, Merce Cunningham choreographed many dances for quartets and quintets. Asked why, Mr. Cunningham replied that only four or five people can fit in a station wagon that is already loaded with sets and costumes.

Dizzy Dean was a poor driver. Once he was travelling the wrong way on a one-way street, so a policeman stopped him and asked if he knew he was on a one-way street. Dizzy replied, “Sure. How many ways you think I’m a-goin’?”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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