• Lots of people asked President Abraham Lincoln for favors such as being appointed to political offices. One day, he found a way to quickly get rid of such people. He was ill when a favor-seeker came in to see him. President Lincoln explained that he was ill with what might be smallpox, “but you needn’t be scared. I’m only in the first stages now.” The favor-seeker couldn’t get out of Lincoln’s office fast enough. President Lincoln later joked, “That’s the way with people. When I can’t give them what they want, they’re dissatisfied, and say harsh things about me; but when I’ve something to give to everybody, they scamper off.”
• Actor Sheldon Leonard once had a mother’s helper who acquired a severe case of head lice. She was too embarrassed to get her prescription filled at a pharmacy, so Mr. Leonard did it for her. He had just handed the prescription to the pharmacist when his co-star, the beautiful actress Hedy Lamarr, walked up behind him. At just that moment, the pharmacist said, “Somebody’s got a bad case of lice.” Mr. Leonard writes in his autobiography, And the Show Goes On, that Ms. Lamarr avoided him for the rest of the filming of the movie they made together.
• Humor writer Robert Benchley once became ill and summoned a physician, who prescribed a new medication for him, although Mr. Benchley was worried about possible side effects. The next day the physician made a house call (this was a long time ago) and asked Mr. Benchley, who was lying in bed, how he was doing. “Fine,” said Mr. Benchley, “but I don’t quite know what to make of this — is this all right?” Then Mr. Benchley pulled down his blanket, revealing his thighs, to which he had glued the feathers from one of his pillows.
• While in New York, Russian ballerina Illaria Obidenna Ladré hurt her knee. Unfortunately, neither she nor the other Russians she was traveling with knew much English. They asked around for a doctor who would help Ms. Ladré, but when she went to the doctor’s office, he asked her, “Do you have syphilis?” When she replied that she had injured her knee, he told her, “You are in the wrong place.” Fortunately, the next doctor Ms. Ladré saw was able to help her.
• W.W. Jacobs, the author of Many Cargoes, met G.K. Chesterton at a dinner where Mr. Chesterton confessed to him that he had rheumatism and did not know how he was going to be able to give his speech. Mr. Chesterton solved his problem by leaning heavily on Mr. Jacobs’ shoulder while giving the speech. Later, Mr. Jacobs said that the speech was good, but it seemed to him to be the longest speech he had ever sat through.
• A group of beggars afflicted with leprosy once asked Zen master Bankei to teach them. He accepted them as students, initiated them, and even washed and shaved their heads with his own hands. A baron saw Bankei doing this and was disgusted, so he brought water for Bankei to wash his hands. However, Bankei refused to accept the basin of water, saying, “Your disgust is filthier than their sores.”
• Touring with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in the 1930s and 1940s was difficult. Often, getting meals was a worry. While touring through the wintery Dakotas, ballerina Alicia Markova caught cold. She was unable to stay behind in a hotel to recuperate, so she traveled by train with the troupe and felt like she was ready to die. Fortunately, Adolf Bolm, a dancer, bought her some baby food at a train station. Heated up, the baby food proved to be a nourishing food she could keep down.
• Actress Madge Titheradge had a reputation for fainting. In Theater Royal, she fainted at the end of the second act. Actress Dame Marie Tempest saw her fall; not being in a mood to tolerate such foolishness, she raised the stick which was part of her costume and was about to hit her — but Ms. Titheradge made a sudden recovery and picked herself off the floor.
• English wit Sydney Smith liked historian Thomas Macaulay, but he thought that his friend talked too much. Once Macaulay was ill, but Mr. Smith thought that the illness had improved his friend’s conversation by making him “more agreeable than I have ever seen him — there were some gorgeous flashes of silence.”
• Comedy writers Goodman Ace and Al Boasberg once went to the movies together. In the middle of the movie, Mr. Boasberg stood up and asked loudly, “Is there a Christian Scientist in the house?” A woman replied that she was, and she asked what he wanted. Mr. Boasberg replied, “Would you mind changing seats with me? I’m sitting in a draft.”
• Ed Penisten died in his hometown of Chillicothe, Ohio, in 1965. For many years, he was a sportswriter, and he had been a sports editor for the Columbus Dispatch. After an illness, he asked his physician if he could engage in a “mild” form of sexual intercourse. His physician replied, “There ain’t no such thing.”
• Dwight D. Eisenhower and the great Native American football player Jim Thorpe once met. They played each other in a game at West Point in 1912. Mr. Eisenhower tackled Mr. Thorpe, but the tackle injured Mr. Eisenhower’s knee and he had to quit playing football.
• A big man was sleeping on the deck of a cruise ship when a small man suddenly felt ill and vomited all over the big man. The big man woke up and discovered that he was covered with vomit. Thinking quickly, the small man asked, “Do you feel better now?”
• While in a hospital, Dorothy Parker wished to be left alone so she could dictate letters to her secretary, so she pressed the button that called the nurses’ station, saying, “This should assure us of at least an hour of undisturbed privacy.”
• As a youth, actor Robert Morley once visited a madman in a mental hospital who urged him, “Bring me detective stories, and get me out.”
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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