David Bruce: The Funniest People in Relationships — Mothers, Music, Names

Mothers

• After her first book, The Joy Luck Club, became a runaway success, author Amy Tan was asked what her mother thought of the book. Ms. Tan replied that her mother went into bookstores, looking for her book, and if she didn’t see it, she scolded the bookstore employees.

• When novelist Jackie Collins was raising the two daughters she had with Oscar Lerman, the first word she taught them was not “Mummy” (she was born in London), but “Anything.” Why? She wanted them to learn that they could do anything.

• Paul Gauguin’s mother knew that her son could be abrasive. After she died on July 7, 1867, she advised in her will that he start a career “since he has made himself so disliked by all my friends that he will one day find himself alone.”

• Soprano Rita Hunter’s mother was very proud of her. While Ms. Hunter was singing in Gotterdammerung, her mother turned to a friend and asked, “My God, did I really give birth to that!”

Music

• Sometimes people hear song lyrics incorrectly. For example, singer-songwriter Tom Waits’ wife, Kathleen Brennan, thought that the refrain of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s song “Bad Moon Rising” went, “There’s a bathroom on the right.” (Actually, as you entered many of the clubs that Mr. Waits used to perform in, there was a bathroom on the right.)

• Ritchie Valens became famous as a result of singing such hits as “La Bamba,” but when he was young, his family had a difficult time financially after his father died. In January 1958, his mother was unable to make a $65 house payment, so 17-year-old Ritchie and his band staged a dance. By charging $1.25 per person and $2 per couple, they made $125.

• Soprano Geraldine Farrar started singing in public at a very young age — she performed her first song for a church concert at age three. When she had finished singing, she went to the front of the platform and asked, to the delight of the audience, “Did I do it well, mamma?”

• Aretha Franklin started singing in the church choir when she was eight years old, and she made her professional debut — singing solo at church — when she was twelve years old. For singing, she was paid $15, which she immediately spent on a pair of roller skates.

• Soprano Angelica Catalani was married to M. de Vallebregue, a French captain who lacked knowledge of music. When his wife complained that the piano was too high, he ordered a carpenter to cut six inches off each leg of the piano.

• Sam Cooke started out as a gospel singer, but then he started to record pop songs. He worried about doing this, but his father, a minister, told him, “Sam, the Lord gave you a voice to make people happy. … Go ahead and sing.”

Names

• Mark Twain’s real name was Samuel Langhorne Clemens. When he was a steamboat pilot on the Mississippi River, he liked the words that rivermen called when they measured 12 feet of water. This much water had a depth of two fathoms, so the rivermen called out, “Mark twain.” The phrase meant, “Note (or mark) that there are two (or twain) fathoms of water.” Since two fathoms of water was deep enough to be safe for the steamboat, the pilot could heave a sigh of relief. Mr. Twain once took his family for a trip on a steamboat, and he stood on the deck listening to the cries of “Mark twain” coming from the rivermen. His daughter Clara came up to him and said, “I have hunted all over the boat for you. Don’t you know they are calling for you?”

• As a young girl, ballet dancer Mary Ellen Moylan decided that she needed a new, more romantic name; therefore, she chose “Mimi” and would not answer if she were called by any other name. However, returning to her lessons at the School of American Ballet, she discovered that her new name caused the other students to laugh at her, so she again went by the name of Mary Ellen.

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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David Bruce: The Funniest People in Relationships — Mothers

Mothers

• After Harry Houdini’s mother died in 1913, Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Conan Doyle attempted to allow her spirit to communicate with Houdini through “automatic writing,” in which Mrs. Doyle would allow Houdini’s mother’s spirit to use her hand to write a message to her son. In fact, a message was written — but it was written in English, and Houdini’s mother knew only Yiddish. However, this didn’t bother Mr. Doyle when Houdini pointed it out. Mr. Doyle felt that Houdini’s mother had learned English in Heaven.

• When lesbian humorist Laura Jimenez left home to go to college, her mother went out and bought a number of novelty envelopes. For a while, Laura was receiving personal mail from her mother in envelopes stating that the senders were such entities as “Johnson and Johnson Venereal Disease Research Center, Test Results Enclosed” and “Los Angeles Breast Augmentation Clinic.” One envelope even bore this legend: “New, Color Illustrated Satanic Ritual Guide Enclosed.”

• When James McNeill Whistler wanted to paint his mother, it took him a while to find the right pose for her. For a few days she stood, but when she asked to sit down for a rest, Mr. Whistler realized that his mother, who was in her sixties, was too old to stand and pose for hours. He put her in a chair and gave her a footstool for her feet — this turned out to be the right pose. His Arrangement in Grey and Black: Portrait of the Painter’s Mother became his most famous painting.

• In Jackson, Mississippi, Eudora Welty’s mother got her a public library card when she was nine years old. The librarian — Mrs. Calloway — was strict, sometimes sending girls home to change their clothes if she thought they weren’t dressed properly. Because of the librarian’s strictness, Mrs. Welty let her know specially that 9-year-old Eudora was allowed to check out any book she wanted — whether it came from the children’s section or the adults’ section of the library.

• As a youngster, Buddy Holley (later, he became known as “Holly” because of a typo on a contract he signed) and Bob Montgomery played country music as a duo. Buddy and Bob once played at a seventh-grade dance, where they dedicated a song to the teachers: “Too Old to Cut the Mustard.” Buddy’s mother was present, and she was embarrassed. Later, she said that she wished the duo had picked a different song to dedicate to the teachers.

• Children’s book author Patricia MacLachlan loved to read when she was a little girl. She and her mother would walk to the library, and young Patricia would read the books as they walked home. Because Patricia was busy reading, her mother would put her hand on Patricia’s neck and guide her as they walked home. By the time they reached home, Patricia had read all the books and wanted to go to the library again.

• One of movie critic Roger Ebert’s friends once worked for a pest control company while attending college. One day, he crawled under a house, exterminating pests with a spray gun. When he had finished, he crawled out, dirty and covered with cobwebs. The woman of the house invited him to drink lemonade, and as he drank it, she told her son, “Study your lessons hard, Jimmy, or you’ll end up like him.”

• Lots of mothers watched the children’s show Captain Kangaroo with their children. One day, Bob Keeshan, who played Captain Kangaroo, was having a drink with a friend in Hollywood. No one recognized him because he wasn’t wearing the Captain’s grey wig, but a woman in the bar complained, “My kids are in college, and I still keep hearing Captain Kangaroo’s voice!”

• Joel Perry went through puberty at the same time his mother was going through menopause, which meant that they had some interesting arguments. Once, he got his mother so angry that she shouted at him, “You son of a bitch!” He laughed and pointed at her, then she started laughing, too.

• When Betty Friedan sold her house, her daughter, Emily, took prospective buyers through the house. Arriving at the third floor, where Ms. Friedan did her writing, Emily would proudly tell the prospective buyers, “And this is where my mother wrote The Feminine Mystique.”

***

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David Bruce: The Funniest People in Relationships — Mothers

Mothers

• Although singer Ray Charles became blind when he was a child, his mother was determined that he would be treated like sighted children. One day, young Ray deliberately did a poor job of mopping the floor because he figured that since he couldn’t see, his mother would let him get away with it. She didn’t. Instead, she made him scrub the floor on his hands and knees. Ray didn’t let his blindness interfere with the things he wanted to do. As a teenager, he drove a car with his friends sitting beside him to tell him when he was going too far to the right or to the left; he also drove a motorcycle, riding behind a friend’s motorcycle and following the sound of its exhaust. In addition, he practically invented soul music by combining blues and gospel.

• During the mid-1950s, Mikie, the little son of Metropolitan Opera soprano Regina Resnik, learned to enjoy opera music after a brief time of telling his mother, “No more practicing! I don’t like opera music!” Soon his favorite music included “Three Blind Mice,” “Little Red Monkey,” and the overture from Carmen. Ms. Resnik frequently sang on TV, and her family would gather in the living room to watch her. Mikie would shout, “That’s Mommy! That’s Mommy!” That is, unless she was wearing a black wig over her own blond hair for a role. Then little Mikie would look at her and say sadly, “That’s not Mommy. It’s a different lady.”

• Sir James M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan, helped make Kensington Gardens famous, and as a reward he was given a key so he could roam the gardens in solitude after other people had left. He was quite pleased to be able to do so, for after he had written about Kensington Gardens in his book The Little White Bird, mothers used to lie in wait for him so they could introduce him to their children in hopes that he would use them in a book. (Sir James also used to put his mother, thinly disguised, into every book he wrote. She would read the book, then tell her son, “I’m thinking I am in it again!”)

• At the start of the Depression, comedian Jack Oakie’s mother got worried about her son’s money, which was deposited in the Bank of Hollywood. She insisted that he take all of his money out of the bank. Being a good son, he obeyed. When a bank teller asked his mother why she wanted Mr. Oakie to withdraw his money, she replied, “No particular reason. I just have the feeling that this might be a good day to take all of Jack’s money out of the bank.” It was a good thing she had this feeling — the bank failed to open the very next business day.

• Frequently, when comic writer Robert Benchley wanted a plausible excuse for not completing a piece of writing by his deadline, he asked his mother to send telegrams, supposedly sent by himself, saying that she was ill and he was staying with her. However, sometimes he didn’t care if the excuse was plausible. Once, he asked his mother to send this telegram in his name: “SORRY I CANT ATTEND LUNCHEON TODAY BECAUSE I AM IN BOSTON STOP DONT KNOW WHY I AM IN BOSTON BUT IT MUST BE IMPORTANT BECAUSE HERE I AM.”

• While Tim Conway was appearing on TV in the sitcom McHale’s Navy, his mother called him to say, “You know, one of the Schutt boys is leaving the hardware store. There’s an opening. You know the other boys, so if you could apply for that job, it would probably be to your benefit.” He asked if she wanted him to work in a hardware store instead of on TV. She replied, “Yes — because the hardware store is a much steadier job. At least you know where you’re going to work in the morning and how long you’re going to be there.”

• When ballet dancer George Zoritch’s aged mother was in a nursing home, she called a friend and said, “I need you. Don’t ask questions. Just come here right away.” The friend did come, taking three buses in 98-degree heat. When he arrived, he found her sitting quietly on the side of her bed. He asked, “What is the problem? You sounded distraught on the telephone.” Mr. Zoritch’s mother answered, “I am working on a crossword puzzle, and I didn’t know what this word means, so I can’t fill in the squares.”

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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David Bruce: The Funniest People in Relationships — Illness, Letters, Mothers

Illness

• When he was a child growing up in Harlem, children’s book author Walter Dean Myers used to dance in the streets for money, which he used to buy his favorite red-colored icy pops. One day, after he had danced and eaten, danced and eaten, for hours, he went home with a stomachache. His mother set him on the toilet, then rushed him to the hospital after seeing the red liquid that had come out of his body. At the hospital, they learned that the red liquid was not blood — it was red-colored liquid from the many, many icy pops young Walter had consumed that day.

• When Alicia Alonso could not see out of her right eye, she went to a doctor. He examined her eyes, then told her that she was going to be blind. She would not believe him and had an unsuccessful operation. Shortly afterward, her other eye went blind. Again, she had an operation, and her doctors told her that she had to stay in bed — motionless — for a year. Alicia did not want her young daughter to know that she — Alicia — was blind, and for a year, whenever her daughter was brought into her room, Alicia pretended that she could see her through the bandages.

• Some happily married heterosexual men like to dress like women. One way to get the proper female frontal development is for the man to wear a mastectomy bra. Many wives have ordered a mastectomy bra and been treated so nicely by the sales staff over the telephone that they have been tempted to say, “Don’t worry. I don’t have breast cancer. My husband just likes to wear a bra.”

• When beautiful actress Ann Jillian got breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy, she worried about what her husband, Andy Murcia, would think when he saw the scars where her breasts had been. She needn’t have worried. He looked, then said, “So, you’ve had a mastectomy and I’m still here.” He hugged her, then said, “I’m not only still here. I’m not going anywhere.”

Letters

• When Janet Taylor Lisle was a child, she thought that she detected evidence of fairies. For example, when she found berries dotting the terrace, she thought that fairies had left them. She believed so strongly that she started writing letters to the fairies — and the fairies wrote her back! Of course, a loved one actually wrote the letters, not fairies, but this remains a pleasant memory. This memory served as inspiration for her children’s book The Gold Dust Letters.

• Maurice Sendak’s picture book Where the Wild Things Are has long been a favorite of children, many of whom long to go to this land of fantasy. Mr. Sendak once received a letter from a boy who asked him how much it cost to travel to where the wild things are — if it wasn’t too expensive, he and his sister wanted to spend the summer there. Mr. Sendak says, “I did not answer that question, for I have no doubt that sooner or later they will find their way, free of charge.”

Mothers

• While running his dog sled team one day, using a wheeled cart instead of a sled because it was spring, children’s book author Gary Paulsen came across a dead ruffled grouse and a nest of her eggs. He took the 14 eggs home and put them in the nest of a banty hen named Hawk. This simple action may have been a mistake, as it brought down what his wife called a “summer of terror” on the Paulsen household. The eggs hatched, and Hawk devoted her life to protecting her chicks. However, ruffled grouse can fly much further than banty hens, which meant that Hawk had to patrol a wide area to protect the young grouse. Hawk therefore sat on top of a woodpile and whenever the grouse were threatened — or Hawk thought they were threatened — she charged down the woodpile and attacked whatever she thought needed attacking. A fox once grabbed a chick and Hawk slammed into the fox so hard that spit flew from the fox’s mouth as it let go of the chick. Unfortunately, Hawk attacked some things that didn’t need to be attacked — such as Mr. Paulsen’s wife, son, cat, and dog. On one occasion, his wife went to get some tomatoes from the garden, and when she returned, the tomatoes were smeared on her shirt — this despite the bicycle helmet she had worn for protection from the attack that she knew was coming. Smeared with tomatoes, she announced to her husband, “The Hawk strikes again.” After the ruffled grouse grew up, Hawk calmed down — but the Paulsen pets were still very careful when they were near her.

***

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David Bruce: The Funniest People in Relationships — Husbands and Wives

Husbands and Wives

• Director William Wellman once allowed his wife to play a small role in one of his movies. She had seven words of dialogue to begin with, but in the editing room her part was cut down to only three words. After seeing the movie, his wife told him, “Bill, I’ve been married to you for 13 years, and do you know what I’ve gotten out of it? Five kids and three words of dialogue.”

• Tom Waits often collaborates with his wife, Kathleen Brennan. For example, they co-wrote the stage play and musical titled Frank’s Wild Years. Asked in an interview for Spin whether the two had worked together, or worked separately and sent stuff back and forth, Mr. Waits joked, “We sent stuff back and forth — like dishes, books, frying pans, vases.”

• Babe Didrikson’s husband, George Zaharias, fully supported her athletic endeavors. Whenever she was about to compete in an important tournament, he slept in a separate bedroom so his snoring wouldn’t bother her. Apparently, it helped — Babe won a record 17 golf tournaments in a row. (By the way, her husband’s nickname for her was “Romance.”)

• Tenor Richard Lewis danced in perfect rhythm, of course, but his steps when dancing a fox-trot or a waltz were his own original creation. A friend, Brenda Webb, once danced with him, then complained to his wife, Elizabeth, who laughed, adding that it had taken her years to get used to her husband’s dance steps.

• Eleanor Roosevelt was an extremely active first lady, flying around the country visiting schools, hospitals, government buildings, etc. One day, the first lady’s secretary told President Franklin Roosevelt that the first lady was in a prison. President Roosevelt joked, “I’m not surprised — but what for?”

• When Henry Koster, director of Harvey, married actress Peggy Moran, he asked her to give up acting but promised to include her in every movie he directed. How did he keep his promise yet keep his wife from acting? In each movie he directed, a certain piece of art — a bust of his wife — appears.

• Neither Dr. Seuss nor his wife liked to cook, and so they nearly always ate in restaurants. One day, his mother visited, and she was shocked when she opened the refrigerator door and discovered nothing inside except a cookbook that she had given the happy couple at their wedding.

• Some people look for love in the wrong places. Philosopher Richard Watson once knew a man who was looking for his perfect soulmate: a woman who was willing to sail around the world with him. Mr. Watson asked, “And you’re looking in St. Louis, Missouri?”

• One night, singer Nat King Cole’s wife woke him because he was snoring and joked, “Gosh, honey, we’re going to have to get twin beds.” He said immediately, “There’ll be no twin beds in here!” Mrs. Cole says, “I loved it when he said that.”

• Grant Wood, painter of American Gothic, was married briefly. Following a big quarrel, his wife left him. This didn’t seem to bother Mr. Wood much. After she left their house, he merely mowed the lawn and said, “I’m a free man again.”

• Shimon Apisdorf finds saying “I love you” to his wife is very easy, but he regards that as a problem. Such important words should not be said lightly; instead, they should be said with the deepest emotion.

***

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David Bruce: The Funniest People in Relationships — Husbands and Wives

Husbands and Wives

• Comedian Bob Newhart’s first date with his future wife, Virginia “Ginny” Quinn, was inauspicious. Mr. Newhart wasn’t hungry, so he ordered a drink at the restaurant and watched her as she ate. This made her so nervous that she spilled mayonnaise on her dress. Mr. Newhart then announced that they were going to visit Carl Reiner and his family — people whom Ginny had never met. Once again, Ginny was nervous and during the entire visit she used her purse to cover the mayonnaise stain. About their first date, Ginny says, “I could have killed Bob.”

• Ivan Jadan, the premier lyric tenor of the Bolshoi Opera from 1928-1941, sang at the wedding of Barbara Mitchell, a friend in the Virgin Islands. He sang “The Lord’s Prayer” at the wedding, then he sang Russian and Ukrainian folk songs at the reception. He was quite a good singer. After listening to him for over an hour, Barbara knew that it was time for her and her husband to go on their honeymoon, but she asked her mother, “Do I really have to leave?” (A man who had heard Mr. Jadan sing once remarked, “He doesn’t sing; he prays.”)

• When Mark Twain wanted to marry Olivia Langdon, the daughter of a wealthy family in Connecticut, her father asked him to provide character references. Mr. Twain gave him the names of some prominent men, including ministers, whom he had known in the West. Unfortunately, the men reported that Mr. Twain was “born to be hung” and would end up in a “drunkard’s grave.” Nevertheless, Mr. Langdon allowed Mr. Twain to marry his daughter, saying, “Take the girl. I know you better than they do.”

• The 18th-century eccentric Timothy Dexter, who lived in Newburyport, Massachusetts, wanted a street named after himself in the town. The town officials declined to do so, and even Mr. Dexter’s wife thought that it was a bad idea. However, Mr. Dexter found a novel way to get revenge on his wife. He simply woke up one morning and started referring to her as “the ghost that was my wife.” She continued to live with him from that year, 1795, until he died in 1806, but he denied her living presence for all those years.

• When Albert Schweitzer met and fell in love with Helene Breslau, he had already formed a plan to go to Africa as a physician. He knew that his plan would result in lots of hardship, and he told Helene that he was worried that the hardship would be too much for her. Helene replied, “I will take a training course in nursing, and then you won’t be able to get along without me.” That’s exactly what happened. She did take the training course, and she went to Africa as Dr. Schweitzer’s nurse and wife.

• In his Answer Man column, film critic Roger Ebert answered a question by Matt Sandler about who was the world’s most beautiful woman by saying that she was Indian actress Aishwarya Rai. In a later Answer Man column, a reader stated that Mr. Ebert should have answered the question by saying, “My wife.” However, Mr. Ebert had a good reason for not answering the question that way: “Matt Sandler asked about women, not goddesses.”

• Stephen Wozniak is famous because he and Steven Jobs started Apple, Inc. together. Mr. Wozniak met his wife when she dialed a Dial-a-Polish-Joke phone line he had set up. He talked with her for a few minutes, then said, “I bet I can hang up faster than you.” He won, but a few days later she called him again and they set up a date. To decide whether to marry her, he flipped a coin — and kept on flipping it until it said to marry her.

• Some spouses are very accommodating. While illustrating his Caldecott Medal-winning children’s book, Jumanji, Chris Van Allsburg used photographs and models, as well as drawing from his imagination. He needed to draw pictures of monkeys, but he couldn’t find any photographs of monkeys in the exact poses he needed, so his wife posed for him and he drew the monkeys using her as the model.

***

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David Bruce: The Funniest People in Relationships — Husbands and Wives

Husbands and Wives

• Texas actor Marco Perella has a lot of respect for Drew Barrymore, with whom he worked in a movie titled Home Fries — he played a bad guy to her good girl. After the filming of the movie was completed, a bouquet of flowers arrived at Mr. Perella’s home with a note reading, “Thanks for a wonderful time. Love, Drew.” Underneath the signature was a lipstick kiss. Of course, Mrs. Perella was very interested in this bouquet and note, although nothing unprofessional had ever occurred between her husband and Ms. Barrymore. Mr. Perella finally convinced his wife that Ms. Barrymore had no doubt sent flowers and notes to every actor involved in the movie, but he noticed when the movie came out that his wife watched — very carefully — the scenes between him and Ms. Barrymore.

• Donna Kloker of Great Falls, Montana, had a match-making student in one of the junior high courses she taught. The boy tried to match Donna with a barber in a barbershop where the boy shined shoes, even giving the barber Donna’s telephone number. (Unfortunately, she was busy on the night that the barber wanted to set up a date.) One day, when she took the class on a field trip to the police station, the barber was inside, paying a traffic ticket. The student yelled, “That’s him! That’s him!” Then he pointed to Donna and told the barber, “That’s her!” A few days later, Donna visited the barbershop — with the excuse of wanting to talk to her student — and some time afterward she and the barber were married.

• At a performance of Tannhaeuser at the Metropolitan Opera, the singer playing the part of the Shepherd Boy became ill, so the stage manager, Paul Schumann, asked his wife, Ernestine Schumann-Heink, to take over the part. However, when the Shepherd Boy was supposed to come on stage and sing, Ms. Schumann-Heink simply stuck her head above a stage rock and sang without showing more of herself. Later, when she was asked why she had done that, she explained, “The Shepherd’s Boy costume calls for tights, and that husband of mine — do you think he would let me step out before an audience and show my legs? Not he!”

• Ashe King worked at a dance studio and taught ballet. One day, a woman called to ask about the required clothing for her husband, who was thinking of taking a beginners’ class. Mr. King explained that her husband would need ballet slippers, ballet tights, and a dance belt. When the woman asked what a dance belt was, Mr. King answered that all male dancers wore one, as it served to keep everything from flopping around. The woman then responded, “I can assure you, my husband does not need one of those — he is too small!” (The woman’s husband never showed up for dance class, probably because he was too embarrassed.)

• One day, Jay Leno and his wife, Mavis, decided to get in their car and go out for pizza. On this particular day, a Gay Pride March was being held, and they drove into the midst of a confusing scene. A police officer motioned them forward, and since Jay thought the officer was trying to help him get through the confusion, he followed the officer’s directions. However, the officer put him in the midst of the parade. Jay and his wife drove for five miles as part of the parade, and all along the route he kept hearing people say, “Hey, look! I didn’t know Jay Leno was gay!” Mr. Leno’s wife thought this was hilarious.

• One cold night, children’s book author Joanna Cole and her husband, Phil, put an electric blanket on their bed incorrectly — her controls made his part of the blanket warmer or cooler, while his controls made her part of the blanket warmer or cooler. Joanna was freezing, so she kept turning up the heat. Eventually, she had turned up the heat as high as it would go and her husband jumped out of bed because he was burning up — only then did they figure out what had happened. According to Ms. Cole, she and her husband are not quite as mixed up as her characters Big Goof and Little Goof.

***

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David Bruce: The Funniest People in Relationships — Gifts, Grandparents, Husbands and Wives

Gifts

• In the late 19th century, when the Crown Prince of Germany was engaged to the Princess, they stayed at Balmoral, where they found some white heather while walking. After they were married, the Crown Prince again stayed at Balmoral, where he found some white heather in the same place they had last found it. Knowing how much the Princess liked white heather, the Crown Prince sent it to her.

• Sara, the wife of world-famous tenor Richard Tucker, was proud of her husband. Once, a business associate was trying to come up with a good idea for a gift for Mr. Tucker, so he asked Sara if he should give him calling cards. Sara replied, “What does he need calling cards for? Everybody knows who Richard Tucker is.”

Grandparents

• When comedian Arte Johnson was growing up on a farm in Michigan, everyone canned their own vegetables. One day, his family was boiling the canning jars to sterilize them when someone noticed a mouse in a spill area under the stove. They immediately shouted for Grampa to come and take care of the mouse. Annoyed, he came running from the barn carrying a shotgun, then aimed at the mouse and fired. He missed the mouse, but he did manage to shatter every canning jar on top of the stove. According to Mr. Johnson, “The green beans exploded and were hanging from the ceiling like stalactites for weeks.”

• When Walter Slezak got a job acting in New York, his grandmother sent a note to the captain of the ship that would take him to America. The note said this: “My grandson is sailing on your ship to America. Please keep an eye on him and drive carefully.” The note amused the captain. On one occasion, Mr. Slezak was playing cards at 3:30 a.m., so the captain sent his steward to tell him it was time to go to bed. On another occasion, the seas were rough, so the captain sent Mr. Slezak a note: “I am driving carefully.”

• Ruth Anderson was the council president of the Akron, Ohio, Covenant Community Church. One year, her four-year-old granddaughter visited her all the way from Massachusetts. Ms. Anderson took her granddaughter to church, although her granddaughter’s parents were not regular church-attending people. The granddaughter was impressed by the experience and told her parents, “They have a place they go to here in Ohio. They call it church.”

• Poet Nikki Giovanni, author of “Ego-Tripping,” believes in family, and she also believes in being prepared. She feels that grandmothers ought to know how to bake cookies and other goodies for children, and when she learned that she would soon be a grandmother, she learned how to bake.

Husbands and Wives

• A couple of coincidences saved the lives of married dancers Marian Ladré and Illaria Obidenna Ladré. Because Mrs. Ladré couldn’t get a visa, she stayed behind in Romania while her husband went on tour in South America. Mrs. Ladré couldn’t get a visa because of a mistake made by her mother, who couldn’t speak much Romanian. When the Romanian bureaucrat asked her where her daughter was born, she thought they were asking her where her daughter was staying, and so she answered the question incorrectly. Because of the mistake, the bureaucrat wouldn’t give her daughter a visa. The mistake saved Mrs. Ladré’s life. Later, she started hemorrhaging and needed medical care immediately. If she had been in the jungles of South America, she would not have received the medical care she needed. At the same time Mrs. Ladré fell ill, her husband was on a train in the jungles of Brazil, unable to sleep because of worrying about his wife. The axle under his train car started burning. Because Mr. Ladré was awake, he was able to have the train stopped before an accident occurred.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

***

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David Bruce: The Funniest People in Relationships — Friends, Gays and Lesbians

Friends

• Ernestine Schumann-Heink had a problem when she first met Maurice Grau of the Metropolitan Opera Company — she did not have clothing fine enough for such an important meeting with such an important man. Fortunately, Lillian Nordica came to the rescue and lent her a silk dress — with a train — that made the necessary statement: The person wearing this dress is a prima donna. Later, Ms. Schumann-Heink embarrassed Ms. Nordica by thanking her publicly for the loan.

• Albert Einstein was a friend to the Curie family, including both Marie and her daughter, Irène Joliot-Curie. One day, Mr. Einstein and Ms. Joliot-Curie were talking about particle tracks, as Ms. Joliot-Curie’s daughter, Hélène, drew near them. Soon, young Hélène showed Mr. Einstein the “particle tracks” she had drawn. Mr. Einstein looked at the drawing, then told Ms. Joliot-Curie, “If you don’t watch out, she’ll become a theoretical physicist!” Hélène did.

• Tenors Richard Tucker and Luciano Pavarotti were friends. After a performance by Mr. Tucker, Mr. Pavarotti called to congratulate him, saying, “I just can’t believe it. I had to call you. You’re still the top tenor in the world — a phenomenon.” Whenever Mr. Tucker left a dressing room that would next be occupied by Mr. Pavarotti, he used to write on the mirror this message: “Buona fortuna.”

• Madame Giulietta Grisi once decided to commit suicide, so she ran to a river so she could drown herself. Fortunately, a friend followed her and convinced her not to drown herself — making the argument that she would be disheveled, muddy, and unglamorous when her body was fished out of the river.

• Children’s picture book creator Ezra Jack Keats never had children of his own, but that was OK because his friends had children. Often, he would ask a friend, “Can I come and see how children climb out of a pillowcase?” or “I’m going to the zoo — can I borrow a child?”

• Stan Laurel always had a great respect for his friend Oliver Hardy’s talents as a comedian. Whenever Mr. Laurel watched one of the great comedy team’s movies, he laughed at Mr. Hardy’s antics, not at his own.

Gays and Lesbians

• Some lesbians have unusual coming-out stories. One lesbian told her abusive stepfather that she was a lesbian, and he immediately told her to get out of the house or he would give her a beating worse than the ones he had previously given her. Her straight siblings decided to take advantage of the situation to also get out of an abusive home — her straight brother immediately told their abusive stepfather that he was gay and a month later her straight sister told him that she was a lesbian. The lesbian adds, “My stepdad started to catch on, though, when my mother told him she was a lesbertarian.”

• Lesbian comedian Kate Clinton has a niece named Grace. One day, Grace and a friend were playing together, and Grace’s mother heard Grace say, “Let’s pretend we’re gay!” Her friend asked, “What’s gay?” Grace explained, “It’s when two girls get together, dance, and have fun.” While watching the March on Washington in 1993, Grace asked her mother, “Now tell me again, Mom, why do ungay people not like Aunt Kate?”

Gifts

• Moravian soprano Maria Jeritza believed in causing a commotion and being talked about. When Beverly Sills was a child vocalist, she sang at a party where she met Ms. Jeritza, who presented her with a gold toothpick, saying, “You must become a character. You must make people talk about you. After we have all eaten, you pick your teeth with this gold toothpick, and you’ll see — everybody will be talking about you.”

• Diamond Jim Brady loved to eat. He once ate a box of chocolates that came from the small Boston firm of Page and Shaw. He loved the candy and ordered several hundred boxes for himself and as gifts for his friends. Unfortunately, the business was too small to handle such a large order. Therefore, Diamond Jim gave them an interest-free loan of $150,000 so they could expand their candy-making capacity.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

***

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David Bruce: The Funniest People in Relationships — Fathers, Father’s Day, Food, Friends

Fathers

• When Frank DeCaro, Jr., was born, his father did what he was supposed to and stayed in the hospital waiting room. However, although Frank, Jr., was born at 8 a.m., his father didn’t learn about it until five hours later because the physician forgot to tell him.

• When artist Louise Bourgeois was growing up, her father had a bad temper. At family dinners, her father always had a stack of cheap saucers by his side. That way, if he ever got angry, he could break a saucer instead of yelling at one of his children.

• The English can be reserved. After English contralto Kathleen Ferrier had made a major stir in the world of opera, Bruno Walter congratulated her elderly father on Ms. Ferrier’s success. Old Mr. Ferrier replied, “Yes, Kath’s not doing too badly.”

• When Groucho Marx got married for the third time, he sent his son this telegram: “If you’ve heard about this, please refund the price of this telegram. Love from us both.”

• When Jack Benny was young, his father gave him two gifts: a violin, in case he had any musical talent, and a monkey wrench, in case he didn’t have any musical talent.

• Isaac Newton’s father was illiterate. When he made out a will leaving his property, Woolsthorpe Manor, to his wife, he signed the will with an X.

Father’s Day

• Scaredy Kate is the pet cat of children’s book illustrator Dyanne DiSalvo-Ryan. One Father’s Day, Scaredy Kate gave birth to five kittens by the athletic shoes sitting in a corner of Dyanne’s husband’s closet. They named the five Father’s Day gifts Adidas, Converse, Etonic, Nike, and Reebok.

Food

• When he was a child, the mother of young-adult book author Walter Dean Myers set up a tab for him at the local grocer’s — whenever young Walter was hungry, he could buy food and she would pay for it later. Walter, however, used the tab to buy chocolate, and soon all the neighborhood children knew that he could get “free” chocolate at the grocer’s. As you would expect, Walter ordered lots and lots of chocolate, and after his mother had spoken sharply to him and to the grocer, he didn’t have a tab anymore.

• Marilyn Hall’s mother-in-law once gave a dinner party for which the main course was a whole poached salmon. She instructed her new, foreign maid to bring in the salmon at a certain time “with a little parsley in the mouth.” The maid did as she was told, but the dinner guests were very surprised when she brought in the salmon — the maid had parsley in her mouth.

• Penn Jillette of Penn and Teller is still close to his old high-school teacher, Beverly C. Lucey. She remembers Penn and his friends sitting in the cafeteria eating their lunches — on the floor. This freaked out the vice principal, who wanted the students to sit in regular chairs at regular tables. Therefore, he ordered them to stand up. They did. Then he ordered them, “Sit down!” They did — back on the floor.

• Irwin Shaw’s son was raised in Paris and so was very sophisticated. After his first day in kindergarten, his nurse took him to a restaurant and asked what he wanted to order. He replied, “I’ll have a dozen oysters and a glass of white wine.”

Friends

• When children’s picture book creator Ezra Jack Keats was taking classes at the Art Students League, his best friend, Martin Pope, was taking science classes in college. Often, they would meet and have long discussions. Mr. Keats would walk Mr. Pope home, but since their discussion wasn’t finished, they would turn around and Mr. Pope would walk Mr. Keats home. Because their discussion still wasn’t finished, they would turn around again. Finally, they would say goodbye midway between their homes.

• A group of musical performers partied together, and guitarist Hermann Leeb said to composer Frank Martin, “What a pity that there isn’t any music that we could all play together!” The next morning, Mr. Martin called all the friends and asked them to come to his home. He had stayed up and written a piece for his friends and him to play together. “Berceuse” was written for piano four-hands, played by Madeleine Lipatti and Mr. Martin; guitar, played by Mr. Leeb; and voice, sung by the tenor Hugues Cuenod.

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

***

The Funniest People in Relationships — Buy

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The Funniest People in Relationships — Smashwords: Many formats, Including PDF