• In order for Milton Ochieng’ to go to the United States to attend college, he needed money. He got it: His neighbors in the Kenyan village (with a population of about 1,100 people in 2008) known as Lwala sold chickens and cattle to raise $900 for his plane ticket to the United States, where Mr. Ochieng’ attended and graduated from Dartmouth College and then attended and graduated from Vanderbilt University Medical School. His brother, Fred, followed him to the United States. Together, they raised $150,000 to build a health clinic in Lwala. The Blood:Water Mission, a Nashville, Tennessee-based nonprofit that was founded by Christian rockers Jars of Clay, contributed money to help build the clinic. Its program director, Barak Bruerd, says, “It’s not common to have a couple of village boys come to the U.S. and advocate for a clinic to be built in their country. The fact that they were able to bring so much support to their community is amazing.” Dr. Milton Ochieng’ remembers that when he was young he saw ill people being pushed in wheelbarrows to reach a paved road they could travel on to get medical treatment. In Africa, the American dollar goes far. In its first year of existence, the clinic treated 20,000 patients. Cost: just under $100,000. Dr. Milton Ochieng’ says, “There’s such a sense of love and people feeling they’ve gained so much from the health center. It keeps me going. … It makes you realize how great it is to be a doctor, how great it is to be serving humanity.” The clinic is named the Erastus Ochieng’ Lwala Community Memorial Health Centerin honor of the brothers’ father.
• Sometimes it takes an older relative to teach a kid morality. When Ed Burke was a kid growing up in Chicago, he got a job mopping a small grocery store owned by an elderly black couple at the end of each workday. They kept their money in the bottom of a flour barrel in the back, and they were forgetful and did not keep good records, and so Ed figured that he could take a little money each night and they would not miss it. Therefore, he would reach down into the barrel each night and take some change or a bill or two, never looking to see what he had pulled out because he was so afraid of being caught. He then would put the money in the trashcan, take the trash out, and then take out the money from the trash can. One night, he pulled out two bills, and when he looked at them after taking out the trash, he was shocked to see that they were $20 bills — $40 was a lot of money in the 1920s. He was scared to have that much money on him because if people saw it, they would figure out that he must have gotten it illegally, but he was greedy enough that he did not want to return the money. Therefore, he rented a safe deposit box and put the money in it. A year later, the bill for the safe deposit box rental came to his house, and his aunt got it. Curious, she found out why Ed had a safe deposit box. She did a lot of yelling, she walked her nephew to the bank to take out all the money, and she walked him to the elderly black couple whose money it was and made him return it.
• Syndicated columnist Marc Dion (the Mike Royko of today, aka the best columnist today) is good with money, normally saving almost 30 percent of his salary. He does the very good thing of saving right away, instead of waiting until the end of the month to save, because at the end of the month no money is left over to save. Basically, he gets his paycheck, then he pays his bills, puts money into savings, and sticks the rest of his money in his pocket. As long as he has money in his pocket, he spends. When the money in his pocket runs out, he stops spending until his next paycheck. I get the feeling that he eats roast beef just after he gets paid and sometimes he eats bologna just before he gets paid. He says, “I can read my bankbook like some people read a novel. In fact, when one of my banks stopped using bankbooks, I moved my account. I like to see myself saving money.” He also remembers the example of his father, and emulates him. When Marc had knee surgery and had to live for a while on disability pay (60 percent of his normal salary), he stopped drinking. He remembers the uncertain economic times his family went through for a while when he was a small child. He says, “My dad bounced from job to job for a while. When he lost a job, he would take his last drink on the day he got laid off and his next drink when he got a new job. ‘I’m not buying a drink with my unemployment check,’ he used to say. ‘What do I look like, a bum?’”
• Tenor Enrico Caruso made thousands of dollars each time he sang in an opera, and he was a talented caricaturist. One day, he and his wife, Dorothy, were walking along a street when he saw one of his caricatures — it depicted President Woodrow Wilson — in a store window. The price was not listed, so she asked his wife to go inside and inquire how much it cost. She did and found out that the price was $75, a good amount of money at the time. The price pleased Mr. Caruso, who joked, “Ah! Better we stop singing and draw!” Each week Mr. Caruso sent one of his caricatures to an illustrated Italian weekly titled La Folliathat was published in New York by Marziale Sisca, one of Mr. Caruso’s close friends. Mr. Sisca offered a lot of money to Mr. Caruso for these caricatures, but Mr. Caruso turned down the money, saying, “You are my friend. From friends I take no money. My work is singing. For that I accept payment. My caricatures are for my own pleasure, to give pleasure to others. Them I draw for nothing.” On a transatlantic liner, he once was busy drawing a caricature of himself when a fellow passenger — a stranger — asked what he was drawing. Mr. Caruso replied, “A caricature of Caruso.” The stranger exclaimed, “But that’s yourself!” Mr. Caruso joked, “No. You see, Caruso and I look almost exactly alike. All I have to do, when I want to draw Caruso, is to do a drawing of myself.”
• What Isaac Asimov most enjoyed in life was writing. Once Barbara Walters interviewed him, and she asked him off-camera what he liked to do other than write. But for Mr. Asimov, what he enjoyed most was writing and he did not greatly enjoy anything else. Finally, Ms. Walters asked him, “What if the doctors told you that you had only six months to live? What would you do then?” Mr. Asimov replied, “Type faster.” Of course, Mr. Asimov made a great deal of money from his writing, although most writers don’t. He was in a taxi once with a driver who asked what he did for a living. Ms. Asimov replied that he was a writer. The taxi driver told him, “I once wanted to be a writer, but I never got around to it.” Mr. Asimov replied, “Just as well. You can’t make a living as a writer.” The taxi driver replied, “Isaac Asimov does.”
• On 1 September 2011 during the San Francisco49er preseason game with the San Diego Chargers in Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, California, Club-level server and mother of four Heather Allison tripped and dropped approximately $1,000 — $170 in tips, and approximately $830 that was supposed to go to the concession. The money went everywhere, including over the railing into the lower Field section. Ms. Allison said, “All my customers began screaming over the railing to the people below, ‘That’s the servers’ money.’” People everywhere began collecting the money for her. In approximately 10 minutes, a security officer brought her a bunch of money. She said, “It was all there. Chargers fans are amazing. We’re like a family.”
• At the sale of the pictures that belonged to Henri Rouart, a journalist asked artist Edgar Degas, “Do you know how much your picture of two dancers at the bar, with a watering can, just sold for?” Mr. Degas replied, “No, I don’t.” The journalist told him the very high figure: 475,000 francs! Mr. Degas admitted, “That isa nice price.” The journalist then asked, “Don’t you think it outrageous that this picture will never bring you more than the five hundred francs you were paid for it?” Mr. Degas replied, “Monsieur, I am like the racehorse that wins the Grand Prize: I am satisfied with my ration of oats.”
• Conductor Karl Böhm noticed that in the foyer of the National Theatre in Munich, Germany, the musicians used to spit whenever they passed the bust of former General Music Director Herman Zumpe. He asked why they did that, and a musician replied, “It’s been passed on from generation to generation, this spitting.” They explained that musicians who had previously served there had petitioned the King for a raise in salary; however, Zumpe had commented, “I am against the raise; it’s better to hunt with hungry hounds!” Thereafter, musicians spat first in his presence and later in the presence of his bust.
• “Honesty is the best policy — when there is money in it.” — Mark Twain.
• During World War II, almost every weekend Walt Disney would take his children to an amusement park or some other entertainment. His younger daughter, Sharon, remembers, “There was a brass ring on the merry-go-round at Griffith Park, and you’d lean out as far as you could. If you got the brass ring, you got a free ride.” On one memorable, magical day, Sharon grabbed the brass ring over and over. She says, “I suspected something was wrong. I found out later that dad had bribed the kid who ran the ride to let me get it.” Walt was a kind man in many ways. An employee — an artist — fell ill and was unable to report to work for almost six months. Walt kept sending his paycheck to the artist’s home. His brother Roy was also generous. In Walt’s early days, before he became a major success and instead was struggling financially, Roy sensed that he needed monetary help. He sent Walt a blank check and a note, “Kid, I haven’t heard from you, but I just have a suspicion that you could use a little money. I am enclosing a check. Fill it in with any amount up to thirty dollars.” Walt filled it out for $30, which was quite a lot of money back in the early 1920s. In his early, struggling days, Walt once was close to closing a deal to do an educational film for a dentist for $500, but he was unable to meet him to close the deal. When the dentist asked Walt why they couldn’t meet right away, Walt replied, “I haven’t any shoes.” He had had them repaired at a shoemaker’s shop, but he couldn’t pick them up until he had the money to pay his bill. The dentist paid for the repair to Walt’s shoes, had the shoes delivered to Walt, and then the two men met and closed the deal.
• Zora Neale Hurston, author of Their Eyes were Watching God, was her own original person. She once took a nickel from the cup of a blind beggar, promising to pay it back but saying that she really needed the fare for the subway. A man once propositioned her on the elevator. She hit him hard, he fell on the floor, and when the elevator door opened, she walked away without looking back. As a creative person, she often lacked money. One day she was thrown out of her one-room house for non-payment of rent. She had a little money, but she decided to use it to buy new shoes because her old shoes resembled scraps. While she was in the shoe store, she received a telegram offering her a $200 advance for a book. She ran out of the shoe store wearing one old shoe and one new shoe in her hurry to get to a Western Union office and send a telegram accepting the offer.
• When Fred Smith was an undergraduate at Yale University, he wrote a paper for an economics class that proposed the overnight delivery service that became FedEx. The overnight delivery service would have its own planes, depots, posting stations, and delivery vans. His professor gave him a C and wrote, “The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a ‘C,’ the idea must be feasible.” Mr. Smith started the company anyway, and like many or most beginning companies, it ran into financial difficulties. At one point, FedEx had only $5,000 in its checking account, and it had to pay a $24,000 jet fuel bill. Mr. Smith took the $5,000, flew to Las Vegas, played blackjack, and won $27,000. In 2012, FedEx was worth approximately $28 billion and Mr. Smith was worth approximately $2 billion.
• Vencenzo Lombardi greatly admired the tenor Enrico Caruso and early in Mr. Caruso’s career told conductor Leopoldo Mugnone that soon the tenor would be making 1,000 lire a night. Mr. Mugnone disagreed: “Nonsense! When Enrico Caruso makes 1,000 lire a night, I’ll be the pope!” Soon afterward, Mr. Caruso was making 1,000 lire a night, and Mr. Lombardi sought Mr. Mugnone. When he found him, Mr. Lombardi pretended to kneel and kiss the conductor’s feet. Mr. Mugnone exclaimed, “What the h*ll!” Mr. Lombardi said to him, “Haven’t you heard? Caruso is making 1,000 lire a night. You’re the pope!”
• An organ grinder once played music from Gioachino Rossini’s Barber of Sevilleunder the window of rival composer Fromental Halévy, who told him, “I will give you a Louis d’or if you go and play music from one of my operas under Rossini’s windows.” The organ grinder replied, “I cannot do that. Rossini has paid me two Louis d’or to play hismusic under yourwindows.” By the way, some of Mr. Rossini’s friends wanted to erect a statue of him. Told that the statue would cost approximately 20,000 liras, Mr. Rossini proposed, “Why don’t you give me 10,000 liras, and I will stand on the pedestal myself?”
• We should pay teachers a low wage. Let’s say $6 an hour. And let’s not pay them for preparation time. We’ll just pay for the hours they spend teaching. That would be perhaps five hours a day. So that will be $30 a day for each child in a teacher’s classroom. (After all, look at how much childcare costs these days!) Let’s say that teachers have 20 children in their classroom. That will be $600 a day. Teachers work only 180 days a year. That means that teachers who teach 20 children should make $108,000 a year. Sounds about right.
• Science fiction writer Ray Bradbury loved theater and produced several of his own plays. He did not make money doing this. When his wife was still alive, every few years he would say to her, “Is this the year we open the window and throw the money out?” She would ask, “You want to do another play?” After he replied, “Yeah,” she would say, “Open the window.” Mr. Bradbury says, “When I do a play, I throw the money out and it never comes back. And I don’t expect it to.”
• “Money, if it does not bring you happiness, will at least help you be miserable in comfort.” – Helen Gurley Brown
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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• Opera singer Nellie Melba once toured the back-blocks — the remotest part of Australia. In one town, her concert was sold out. Some of the leading citizens neglected to buy tickets, thinking that they had discovered a way to hear Ms. Melba’s concert for free. They used a ladder at the back of the hall to climb to the roof of the concert hall, where indeed they heard the concert for free. Unfortunately, the gardener discovered the ladder leading against the wall. Not wanting anyone to steal the ladder, he removed it and locked it up. After the concert, the town’s leading free-loaders waited for everyone to leave, and then they discovered that they were stuck on the roof. Fortunately, about 5 a.m. a police officer happened by and rescued them. Ms. Melba wrote in her autobiography, Melodies and Memories, “I can well believe that that policeman lived comfortably on blackmail for the rest of his life.” Another incident in the back-blocks involved a bill for some furniture. In honor of Ms. Melba, the hotel landlady ordered some fine furniture, which touched Ms. Melba. However, Ms. Melba was surprised to find the cost of the furniture added to her bill. Fortunately, her manager, John Lemmone, handled the situation. He said to the hotel landlady, “We shall be delighted to pay for the furniture, only of course if we do that, we shall take it away with us.” The hotel landlady replied, “But I want it myself.” Eventually, the hotel landlady concluded that if she wanted to keep the furniture she would have to pay for it.
• Like many people (cough, cough), Walt Disney liked a good, funny story, and if it weren’t true, so what? He used to tell a story about asking his young daughter, Diane, what girls her age would like to see at Disneyland, and she replied, “Boys.” She heard about that anecdote and said to him, “I didn’t say that!” He replied, “I know — but it’s cute!” He was a good father, and he was better at business than many people gave him credit for (although his brother, Roy, who was more cautious than Walt, deserves enormous credit for Disney profitability). For example, when Walt was planning to build Disney World in central Florida, the Disney organization had already bought thousands of acres for the theme park. A large parcel of land came on the market, and Walt said, “Buy it!” Roy wondered whether they should do that. Walt asked, “Roy, how would you like to own 12,000 acres around Disneyland right now?” Roy said, “Buy it!” One more thing shows Walt’s business sense. When times were hard, and the Disney organization was having to watch its expenses, Walt said, “I want a raise for certain men, my top animators; I want them to have higher salaries.” When someone objected, Walt said, “I can’t make pictures without those people. I can’t hire bookkeepers to draw pictures for me.”
• Early in his career, Bill Hanna of Hanna-Barbera cartoon fame, worked for Harman-Ising, which — of course — made cartoons. By his third year, he had some responsibility — he was the head of the inking and painting department — and he was making $37.50 per week. But then one of his bosses, Rudy Ising, hired his girlfriend to work for Mr. Hanna in a job with less responsibility — at $60 a week. Mr. Hanna got really angry, and he headed over to the Disney Studio to ask Walk Disney for a job. Mr. Disney listened to Mr. Hanna and said, “I’ll tell you, Bill, we already have a girl in our inking and painting department who’s doing a h*ll of a good job. I suggest that you go back and tell Rudy about your problem and I’ll bet that you get your money.” Mr. Hanna did go back, and he thinks that Mr. Disney telephoned Mr. Ising and talked to him because Mr. Ising immediately walked into his office and said, “Bill, you’re going to get your raise. From now on, you’ll be drawing sixty dollars a week.”
• Joseph Barbera’s wife, Sheila, came up with the idea to have Fred and Wilma Flintstone of the cartoon Flintstoneshave a baby. Mr. Barbera liked the idea and attended two days of meetings in which it was decided that the Flintstones should have a baby boy. Shortly afterward, he received a call from Ed Justin, who handled Hanna-Barbera merchandising in New York. Mr. Justin said, “I hear the Flintstones are having a baby.” Then he asked, “Boy or girl?” Hearing the answer, “It’s a boy! Fred, Jr. — a chip off the old rock,” Mr. Justin said, “That’s too bad. I’ve got the Vice President of Ideal Toy here, and the only dolls they’re doing are girls. We could have had a hell of a deal if it had been a girl.” Mr. Barbera immediately said, “It’s a girl. Her name is … Pebbles. A pebble off the old rock.” Mr. Barbera pointed out, “Some ideas develop after days of meetings. Others are born in the flash of a dollar sign set off by a single phone call.”
• Ed McMahon, Johnny Carson’s sidekick on The Tonight Show, worked for the American Family Publishers national sweepstakes, and pretty much everyone in the United States got a entry form, including Ed’s six-month-old adopted daughter, Katherine Mary. Ed really did give away millions of the company’s dollars. When politician Bob Dole got his entry form, he wrote Mr. McMahon, “As I am seriously considering running for President, I am prohibited by federal law from accepting contributions which exceed $1,000 per person. … However, Ed, I might suggest that you and your wife each contribute $1,000 and to make up the additional $9,998,000, ask 9,998 of your friends ….”
• Two of Carl Sandburg’s most famous poems are “Fog” and “Chicago.” He worked as a reporter, and while he was in Grant Park on his way to interview a judge, he saw fog rolling into the harbor. The judge kept him waiting, and as he waited, he wrote “Fog.” His poem “Chicago” won a $200 prize as the Best American Poem of the Year. Mr. Sandburg said that the cash prize would “just octuple our bank account.”
• Walter Legge, an English classical music producer, was kind to his recording artists. He was also persuasive — perhaps too persuasive. He once persuaded conductor Carlo Maria Giulini to agree to make a recording of Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony, although Mr. Giulini said that he had no sympathy for that piece of music. They started to record the symphony, but after 15 minutes, Mr. Giulini stopped and said, “I can’t go on.” Mr. Legge simply sent the orchestra home and did not try to persuade Mr. Giulini to continue. After Mr. Legge died, Mr. Giulini remembered, “And you know what a [financial] loss that is to a company. Then we took a long walk together in Hyde Park. We talked of other things.” Of course, Mr. Legge could get angry. He had a collection of early recordings of opera singers and orchestras and violinists that his father had given to him when he was only 12 years old. When he was 62 years old, he offered to give his collection to what he called “a venerable Swiss institution,” but the institution declined to accept it unless he also donated money as an endowment for a curator and for the maintenance of the collection. In a short memoir, Mr. Legge wrote, “In one of my better rages, I broke every record into bits and tossed the pieces into Lake Geneva.”
• Comedian Red Skelton was robbed or burgled a few times in his life. Once, in Las Vegas, a man with a gun demanded all his cash. Red handed over the couple of hundred dollars he was carrying, but the man with the gun recognized him and said, “I wouldn’t rob you, Mr. Skelton.” Red told him to keep the money: “You must need it, young man, or you wouldn’t have gone through all this trouble.” Red, who spent the early part of his career impoverished, did spend a lot of money during his life, but he sometimes did not part with money so easily. He once saw a painting he liked and asked the art dealer how much it cost. The art dealer snootily replied, “Five thousand wouldn’t take that.” Red left, saying, “I’m one of the five thousand.”
• Benny Carter had a jazz band at Club Harlem, but the club was about to go out of business due to financial troubles. George Rich, whose last name was appropriate, wanted Mr. Carter’s band to keep playing at Club Harlem. He told Mr. Carter, “They can’t do this to you. You’ve got to have a place for your band. Come over to the house tonight after the gig.” The talked that night, and Mr. Rich said, “I’m going to buy the place.” He started digging up bundles of cash that he had stashed in his home and bought the place. He came into Club Harlem occasionally, and Mr. Carter appreciated the good deed. Mr. Carter said, “His only purpose for buying the club was to keep my band together, and I shall never forget him for it.”
• Walter Damrosch hired Emil Fischer, bass from the Dresden Royal Opera, to sing at the Metropolitan Opera Company. Mr. Fischer made $250 per appearance, but he was not happy in his marriage and requested that his written contract state that he made $200 per appearance and that he receive the other $50 in cash. This was a way for him to hide about $600 per month from his wife so he could have some money of his own. His wife complained to Mr. Damrosch, “I do not know why my Emil is so badly paid while all the others get these enormous salaries. My Emil sings better than any of them, and he has to be content with only two hundred dollars an appearance!” Mr. Damrosch kept Mr. Fischer’s secret.
• Many artists and musicians are concerned about money and about how many people are in the audience. Composer Sergei Rachmaninoff was one of these creative people. Conductor Walter Damrosch once asked Mr. Rachmaninoff what he was doing when he stared at the gallery. Mr. Rachmaninoff replied, “Counting the standees in the balcony. The manager told me they were not allowed, but there were forty-three.” Mr. Damrosch’s daughter Gretchen Finletter wrote that a manager “may grow nostalgic for the dreamy artist who does not understand about money, but he seldom has the pleasure of dealing with one.”
• Rich and famous comedian Danny Thomas, whose birth name was Amos Jacobs and who was raised in Toledo, Ohio, once paid for tickets at a box-office booth, and when he received his change, he dropped a dime. Lots of people saw him drop the dime, and Danny was too embarrassed to pick it up. He thought, I am Danny Thomas. I’m one of the world’s top comedians. I’ve made millions. I’m not bending down to pick up that dime.Then he reconsidered: In reality, I’m Amos Jacobs of Toledo, Ohio, and Amos Jacobs knows how hard it is to make a dime. He picked up the dime.
• Being a drug addict is expensive. Charlie Parker became addicted to heroin at age seventeen. He once showed a friend the veins in one of his arms and said that he had spent enough money on the heroin he had shot into that arm that he could have bought a Cadillac. He showed his friend the veins in his other arm and said that he had spent enough money on the heroin he had shot into that arm that he could have bought a house. He said, holding out one arm, “This is my Cadillac. Then he held out his other arm and said, “And this is my house.”
• People whose job is creating funny cartoons tend to be funny. Tex Avery once lost $10 in a card game to his boss, Leon Schlesinger. He didn’t have the money then, but paid it a little later: He walked into his boss’ office with $10 in pennies, dumped the 1,000 pennies on his boss’ desk, and walked out. Chuck Jones once owed Mr. Schlesinger $5: Mr. Jones paid it back with 500 pennies in a jar of honey. Animator Benny Washam once owed $5 to cartoon screenwriter Tedd Pierce and paid it back with 500 pennies baked inside a homemade loaf of bread.
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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John Ford’s The Broken Heart: A Retelling, by David Bruce
• Welsh singer Tom Jones is known both for his voice and for women throwing their underwear at him. The first time a woman gave him her underwear while he was performing was in 1968 at the Copacabana in New York. He was sweating, and since people had been eating at the supper club, a couple of people gave him their napkins to wipe his brow with. Then, Mr. Jones remembers, “This one woman stood up — up with the dress, down with the drawers. Took ’em off and handed them to me.” He wiped his brow with them and said, “Sweetheart, watch you don’t catch cold.” Mr. Jones married at age 16 and has stayed married. While he went to London to make it as a singer, his wife worked in a battery factory to support their young son. Mr. Jones vowed to make it big so that she didn’t have to work and so that he could support his family. One of the great achievements of his life was making enough money that his father could retire from working in the Welsh coal mines at age 50. Tom Jones himself could have ended up in the coal mines, but he contracted tuberculosis at age 13 and the doctor told Tom’s father, “Whatever you do, you can’t put this boy in a coal mine because he has weak lungs.” Mr. Jones says, “And the weird thing is, with weak lungs I’ve become a f**kin’ singer.”
• Yankee pitcher Spurgeon “Spud” Chandler quickly learned that Yankee manager Ed Barrow was a tough negotiator when it came to player contracts. As a very young pitcher, Spud once received a contract that was for the exact same salary that he had earned the year before, although he had been promoted higher in the Yankee farm system. However, he felt that he was due for a raise, so he mailed the contract back with this letter: “I thought that the Yankees were a fair organization and would increase my pay as I moved up in baseball. But, if this is how baseball is run, maybe I should get out of it. Unless I get a raise, don’t bother to return the contract. Just write me a letter.” Quickly, the contract and a letter arrived. The contract did NOT include a raise, and Mr. Barrow’s letter said, “Unless you affix your signature to this contract, don’t bother to return it. Just keep it as a souvenir of your brief career in organized baseball.”
• John Bogle, the founder of Vanguard, tells a story about authors Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., and Joseph Heller. They attended a party together—a party hosted by a billionaire who could easily appear on one of the television programs dedicated to the lifestyles of the rich and famous. Mr. Vonnegut talked to Mr. Heller about their host, pointing out that their host had made more money that day than Mr. Heller had made from all of the many, many copies of the vastly successful book Catch-22 that had ever been sold. Mr. Heller replied that that was OK with him because he had one thing that their host would never have: “Enough.”
• Many college students end up being broke, including flat broke. Peter Strupp of Boston ran into that situation when he was a senior at the University of Washington. He frequented a campus Christian fellowship house, even sneaking into the kitchen to steal other people’s food. Eventually, he was so broke that he could not afford to pay his rent. He says, “The night before I was going to tell my housemates I was leaving, one of them stopped me in the kitchen. We were alone …. He reached into his pocket and handed me a month’s rent, in cash. Before I could say anything, he said, ‘Don’t pay me back.’”
• Comedians have various reasons for going on tour, including needing the money to buy a house. For example, Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders decided to go on one final tour as French and Saunders because Ms. French had seen a house in Cornwall that she wanted to buy, but she knew that she didn’t have the money to buy it. Sometimes, the house is not for the comedian’s personal use. Peter Kay went on a “Mum Wants a Bungalow” tour to raise money to buy his mother a house.
• Judy Blume’s series of Fudgebooks have been amazingly popular. Elliott, her grandson, inspired one of the Fudge books. They were eating in a restaurant at Key West, and Elliott asked his grandmother to buy him some wearable art from a street vendor. She told him that she didn’t have any money, so he requested that she pay a visit to the nearest ATM machine. This inspired the book Double Fudge, in which Fudge becomes obsessed with money and with what money can buy.
• Frank Cottrell Boyce met the singer Nico at Eric’s, a punk nightclub in 1970s Liverpool, but maybe that wasn’t a good thing. He told her that he loved her, and she replied, “Really? Do you have any money? I seem to be a little short.” He had two 50-pence pieces, and he gave her one of them, but he could tell that she wanted the other one, too, so he gave her that one as well. That night, he walked 11 miles home, due to lack of train fare.
• Frank Frisch, manager of the St. Louis Gas House Gang, frequently was fined by umpires. The fines kept mounting up, as did a stack of umpire reports against Mr. Frisch. As more and more of his money kept pouring into National League President Ford Frick’s office, Mr. Frisch eventually sent Mr. Frick his electric bill and a letter. The letter said, “Dear Mr. Frick: Since you have all my money, suppose you pay my bills.”
• The Raconteurs have a reputation for producing rock ’n’ roll alchemy. Although they were selling records in 2008, they also made money in other ways than playing music. During their tours, they both played live music and sold their own homemade elixirs. What kind of elixirs? One elixir is intended to put hair on your chest; another elixir is intended to remove the hair on your chest.
• In order for Milton Ochieng’ to go to the United States to attend college, he needed money. He got it: His neighbors in the Kenyan village (with a population of about 1,100 people in 2008) known as Lwala sold chickens and cattle to raise $900 for his plane ticket to the United States, where Mr. Ochieng’ attended and graduated from Dartmouth College and then attended and graduated from Vanderbilt University Medical School. His brother, Fred, followed him to the United States. Together, they raised $150,000 to build a health clinic in Lwala. The Blood:Water Mission, a Nashville-based nonprofit that was founded by Christian rockers Jars of Clay, contributed money to help build the clinic. Its program director, Barak Bruerd, says, “It’s not common to have a couple of village boys come to the U.S. and advocate for a clinic to be built in their country. The fact that they were able to bring so much support to their community is amazing.” Dr. Milton Ochieng’ remembers when he was young he saw ill people being pushed in wheelbarrows to reach a paved road they could travel on to get medical treatment. In Africa, the American dollar goes far. In its first year of existence, the clinic treated 20,000 patients. Cost: just under $100,000. Dr. Milton Ochieng’ says, “There’s such a sense of love and people feeling they’ve gained so much from the health center. It keeps me going. … It makes you realize how great it is to be a doctor, how great it is to be serving humanity.” The clinic is named the Erastus Ochieng’ Lwala Community Memorial Health Center in honor of the brothers’ father.
• Opera tenor Enrico Caruso became a coin collector through his old friend Mr. Amedeo Canessa. During a conversation, Mr. Canessa showed Mr. Caruso a gold coin on one side of which the head of Queen Arsinoë was engraved. Mr. Canessa said, “That little thing costs 500 francs.” Mr. Caruso replied, “It’s beautiful. I like it. But what is the use of one? I don’t want one coin.” Mr. Canessa said, “There is only this one. It is a very rare specimen.” Mr. Caruso really liked the coin. He said, “Very well, then. It’s mine.” He then began to collect coins — more than 2,000 of them — as well as antique glass, bronzes, enamel, furniture, pottery, and watches. Mr. Caruso was generous with his wealth. A street cleaner — an elderly Italian — once saw him stopped on a street in a car. The old Italian shouted, “Carus!” Then he jumped on the car’s running board. Enrico engaged in conversation with him in the Neapolitan dialect, and he shook his hand. As the old Italian turned to go, Enrico stuffed some money into one of his pockets.
• People sin, but they can repent. For example, someone stole a hammer decades ago from Central Contractors Supply Co. in western Pennsylvania. Eventually, the thief repented and sent an envelope containing money and a note to the owners —the Gramling family — of the supply store. The note stated that the writer had stolen a hammer from the family-owned supply store 25 or 30 years ago. The note also stated, “I knew it was wrong, but I did it anyway. Enclosed is $45 to cover the hammer plus a little extra for interest. I’m sorry I stole it, but have changed my ways.” Lots of things have been stolen from the store over the decades, said co-owner Lynne Gramling, but this was the first time that a thief paid for what was stolen. She took the money to her father, also a co-owner of the store. He was ringing a bell for the Salvation Army, and she put the money in his kettle. She said that the money was “really a lot more than a hammer would cost. He was very generous.”
• Garry Trudeau became an adult in the 1960s. He says, “It was the cauldron, the late 60s, when I began to think as an adult. All hell was taking place, the Black Panthers were on trial, students were shot in the Kent State protests, war was waging on the other side of the globe, it was very hard not to be swept up in all of that.” He made his comic strip, Doonesbury, topical. In order to write about very current events, he kept pushing his deadlines back, thus making many printers, who were paid overtime for their work on his comic strip, happy. Supposedly, one printer made so much money by working overtime because of Trudeau that he bought a yacht and named it Doonesbury.
• In the minor leagues, fans can sometimes get very close to the players and even give them gifts. Alan Trammell played 20 years with the Detroit Tigers, and he remembers playing a minor-league doubleheader for the Montgomery Rebels in which a fan got to use the loudspeaker. In the first game of the doubleheader, the fan announced over the loudspeaker, “The first Rebel to hit a home run gets fifty bucks.” No one hit a homer in that game, so in the second game of the doubleheader, the fan announced, “The first Rebel to hit a home run gets a hundred bucks.” Mr. Trammell hit a home run, and the fan leaned over the dugout and gave him a $100 bill.
• The operating room is a serious place, but funny things happen even there. One surgeon kept complaining that the air conditioning in the operating room was too strong. When he finished the operation, he turned to walk away, and fell — he had not realized that shortly after he had begun the operation his pants had fallen down. And one patient needed an operation after a bullet had hit some coins in his pocket, embedding pieces of money in his body. The patient looked at the surgeon, who was wearing a surgical mask, and said, “Well, I guess it’s only normal to wear a mask when taking someone’s money.”
• Willie, the son of the great 19th-century actor Joseph Jefferson, once cabled him to send £200 at once. Mr. Jefferson cabled back, “What for?” His son sent back the reply, “For Willie.” Mr. Jefferson sent the money.
• A homeless panhandler named Don (who did not want his last name released) begged for two years in front of the Blue Room Gallery, a non-profit art gallery in San Francisco. When his long-estranged mother died, she left him $187,000. Don quickly wrote a check for $10,000 for the art gallery and gave it to the Blue Room Gallery’s owner, Paul Mahder, to thank him for his kindness. Mr. Mahder started crying when he received the check. He said, “We both stood there crying. Me, because I knew how much this meant to Don. And Don was crying because, I think, he was able to really do something big for something he really cared about.” Don said, “They’ve been good to me for years at this gallery, and I wanted to pay them back. I know I haven’t led much of a life to be proud of, and I can’t even remember half of it. But for once, I wanted to do something right.” Don’s life has not been good. He has abused alcohol and crack, and he has been a criminal who served time. Mr. Mahder has been good to Don, who said, “When I had a heart attack and wound up in the hospital a year ago, who was the only person to visit me? Paul [Mahder]. And when I needed a doorway to sleep in over the past couple years, who let me? Paul. He gave me respect and hope when I needed it the most, and he never judged me. He treated me like a human being. That’s something you don’t forget.” Don spent $35,000 on a trailer so he can have a home, and he had plans to pay five years of rent in advance to a trailer park. He also bought a Rolex watch and gold bracelets and necklaces, and he tipped cab drivers $100. He also started drug and alcohol counseling. Don said, “I never had anything, and now all of a sudden being hit with all this money is a shock. Even little things are strange—like now I can afford to do laundry the right way, you know, washing some things hot, some things cold, watching what bleeds into other clothes. Never thought of these things before.” Social workers at Conard House, which helps people with mental illness, are trying to help Don make the adjustment to not being a homeless beggar. Seth Katzman, a director at Conard House, said about Don, “He’s trying very hard to get his life in order, and we want to make sure he makes the best use of his resources. These windfalls do happen now and then—usually not this big—and the important thing is not to waste it. Once, one guy insisted he get a new car, so he did and promptly wrecked it with minimal insurance. Boom, $25,000 went away just like that.” Mr. Mahder said, “There are certain homeless people you just stay away from, but it was clear from the first moment that Don was different. He was real, didn’t ask for a lot of money, was a nice guy.” Mr. Mahder also said that Don “loved the art so much he became sort of a marketing person for us—he told everyone he met that the gallery was great and that they should come see it.” Don was happy to give Mr. Mahder the check for $10,000. He said, “Ten thousand bucks only begins to say the kind of thanks I need to say to these guys. They saved my life when I was at the absolute bottom.”
• On April 16, 2011, a Middle Eastern businessman left a small fortune in the back of a taxicab that fortunately was driven by an honest man. Nigel Lipscombe, age 54, dropped off the businessman in Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England, and then discovered that the passenger had left something behind. Mr. Lipscombe said, “Another passenger got in and asked if it was my bag on the back seat. I told him it was the last passenger’s and I took it. When I looked in, I could see a laptop and what felt like some documents but I didn’t unzip the compartment to look. I went to the police station and the man was just coming out. [After he saw me, h]e was jumping about with delight.” The rucksack contained £31,000—a year and a half’s wages to Mr. Lipscombe—but he said, “I wouldn’t have kept it. I’ve always been an honest man. I wouldn’t do it if it was a million pounds.” His partner, Doreen Kavanagh, 42, said, “He did the right thing. I could have taken my kids to Disneyland. The girls are 21 and 22 now, but we always dreamed of going. We just never had the money.” The Arab businessman gave Mr. Lipscombe a $200 tip, but added $300 after Mr. Lipscombe joked, “Is that all I get?” A spokesman for Cambridgeshire Constabulary stated, “A man came into Parkside police station at 7.45pm on Saturday, April 16, with three friends and reported he had left a bag with $50,000 in it, €1,000 [Euros], a laptop, and his passport. We took a note and he left the station when the taxi driver pulled up outside with the bag. They all came into the station. We gave the man strong words of advice about carrying such a large amount of cash.”
• United States painter and teacher William M. Chase knew art. A Congressman who did not know art went around telling people about a bad painting that he owned, “Isn’t that grand? A great bargain, too. Got it for four hundred dollars, and William M. Chase says it is worth ten thousand dollars.” A friend of the painter heard what the Congressman had said, and the friend asked Mr. Chase about it. Mr. Chase explained, “He cornered me one day and wanted me to fix a value on it, but I told him I couldn’t do it. He then came at me with a question I couldn’t dodge: ‘Well, Mr. Chase, how much would you charge to paint a picture like that?’ I assured him most honestly that I wouldn’t paint one like it for ten thousand dollars.”
British pop singer Robbie Williams became obsessed with such phenomena as UFOs and alien abductees, and he attended a UFO convention in Laughlin, Nevada, in 2008. At the convention was Dr. Roger Leir, who is supposed to have 15 metallic implants—not of Earthly metal—that he has extracted from patients. Of course, people sometimes give Dr. Leir objects that are claimed to be of weird origins. For example, some people at the convention claimed to have seen two giant reptilian creatures battling in the desert. One person gave Dr. Leir a tissue sample that was supposed to come from one of the creatures. Mr. Williams asked Dr. Leir, “Are you excited about what it may be?” Dr. Leir replied, “In a word, no.” He has good reason not to be excited. Dr. Leir pointed out, “It could be a piece of nothing. I was recently sent an object that was surgically removed from an abductee. I put it under the electron microscope. It looked like an organic compound, so we went to the next level. We did a test that uses infrared spectroscopy. Long story short, it was a piece of wood.” Dr. Leir continued, “So I just spent $25,000 to look at a piece of wood. You ask me if I get excited? No.”
Many people do ultra-cheap Web-based series of ultra-cheap entertainment. For example, Stacie Ponder, a freelance writer for <AfterEllen.com> (under the name Final Girl), created the horror series Ghostella’s Haunted Tomb with a budget of, she estimates, 49 cents. So how do you make a Web-based series for 49 cents? Ms. Ponder says that it helps to have a roommate (Heidi Martinuzzi) who is willing to star in the series. In addition, many people are willing to create their own costumes and volunteer their time so they can appear in the series. And it helps to have a mother who is willing to contribute the 49 cents. Of course, 49 cents does not go very far, and Ms. Ponder found herself eating a lot of mustard sandwiches. Making the Web-based series is both fun and educational, and here are a few things that Ms. Ponder has learned: “People can be extremely cool and helpful if you just ask,” “a great recipe for homemade fake blood,” and “All things considered, mustard sandwiches really aren’t that bad.”
During the writers strike of 2007-2008, Tim Long, writer and executive producer on The Simpsons, became an American citizen. At the citizenship ceremony, he met and introduced himself to an older gentleman from Guatemala who asked him to explain why the writers were striking. Of course, Mr. Long did that, using such terms as “streaming rights” and “residuals” and “downloads,” and he thought that the older gentleman would likely think that he was “a greedy Hollywood jerk, grubbing for yet more dough.” Fortunately, the older gentleman smiled and introduced him to his wife, saying, “This is Bart Simpson! He wants more money from the computer! He’s a good guy!” Mr. Long immediately thought, “God bless America, and God bless the Writers Guild.”
In 1967, Frank Sinatra and his daughter Nancy recorded “Somethin’ Stupid,” which was a monster hit for them, spending a month at No. 1. Nancy remembers, “The whole thing took about 20 minutes. We recorded it in two takes, and the only reason it took two was that Dad kept singing it ‘shumshing shtupid’ to make me laugh on the first one, and we couldn’t finish it.” After recording the song, Frank said, “That’s a No. 1 record.” Mo Austin, a honcho at Reprise Records, disagreed, and said, “No, it’s a bomb.” In Nancy’s office today is a photograph of Frank and herself from that recording session, Nancy describes the photo: “Coming out of a balloon in my dad’s mouth are the words, ‘Silly bastard bet me $2 it would be a bomb.’ And attached [to the photograph] is a $2 bill.”
When he was a young man, Edward Stratemeyer, who later created the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, wanted to be a writer—a career his father advised him not to pursue. Edward worked at his brother’s stationery store while continuing to write in his spare time. He wrote a long story titled “Victor Horton’s Idea,” which he sold for $75, a lot of money in the late 19thcentury. In fact, $75 was six times what he made per week at the stationery store. When he told his father what he had done and how much money he had been paid, his father said, “Paid you that for writing a story? Well, you’d better write a lot more of them!”
Singer Sarah Brightman was happily married for a while to composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, but they divorced, and now they have a good relationship as a divorced couple. In the divorce settlement, Ms. Brightman was awarded £6 million. Of course, Ms. Brightman has done rather well as an actress in Cats and Phantom of the Opera and as a recording artist, so one day she asked her ex-husband, “Look, I’m doing all right. Would you like it back?” He replied, “No, you went through all of that—you keep it.”
When Robert Frost was a young man, his paternal grandfather offered to pay his expenses for a year as he tried to establish himself as a poet—with the understanding that after the year if he had been successful he would undertake a more normal occupation. Robert turned down the offer because he realized that it would take much more than a year to establish himself as a poet. Grandfather Frost did, however, leave Robert money in his will—money that Robert lived on until he became successful.
When Carl Linnaeus, the father of scientific classification and naming, stopped in Hamburg, Germany, while traveling to a university to get a medical degree, he visited the city’s mayor, who showed him a stuffed seven-headed dragon that he was hoping to receive much money for. Mr. Linnaeus, however, pointed out that the seven-headed dragon was a fake because its heads were those of seven weasels and its body was made from snakeskins. The mayor of Hamburg was not pleased, and Mr. Linnaeus quickly left the city.
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
How to Manage Your Money: A Guide for the Non-Rich
Promotional photo of Jackie Gleason and Audrey Meadows from The Jackie Gleason Show.
Comedian Jackie Gleason spent lots of money even when he didn’t have lots of money. He had a tab at the Villa Capri in Hollywood, where he ran up the bill until he owed the Villa Capri owner, Patsy D’Amore, $5,000—a huge amount of money in 1950. He then left Hollywood—and his unpaid bill—for three years. When he returned, he invited some friends at dinner at the Villa Capri, where they ran up a bill of $75. Mr. Gleason then wrote a check for $6,000 and gave it to Mr. D’Amore, saying, “ I’m a big tipper.” In addition, Mr. Gleason once ran up so big a tab at the bar of his friend Toots Shor that he told Toots that he felt like he couldn’t use his signing privilege anymore. Toots, a true friend, told him that if he didn’t want to sign his own name, then he should sign Toots’ name. Mr. Gleason then borrowed $20 from Toots, used it to tip some servers (a big tip), then joked, “Hey, I personally am always good for a C-note, but you guys all know how cheap Toots is.”
Tom Danehy, columnist for the Tucson Weekly, ran a basketball tournament in the summer of 2009. He had hired a young woman who was a player on the Pima Community College team to operate the scoreboard. Tom says, “It’s odd but true that the refs can make one or two (or 50) bad calls, and the players and crowd will do a little low-level grumbling. But if the score is wrong, or the clock isn’t being stopped and/or started at the right times, they go nuts. I pointed this out to the young lady before we got started.” Unfortunately, she kept texting throughout the games, although he kept telling her not to do that. Before the final game of the day, he gave her a choice. She could keep the $8.50 per hour that was her salary, or he could make the salary $15 per hour but subtract $1 for each time he saw her texting. She said that she would keep the $8.50 per hour. Afterward, she asked if she could work as a scorekeeper the following week. Mr. Danehy says, “I asked her if she would have her cell phone with her, and told her that my answer to her question would be the opposite of her answer to my question.”
Comedian Steve Martin is a master of the clawhammer style of playing the banjo. A serious musician, he has played with many bluegrass greats, including Earl Scruggs. Mr. Scruggs’ wife, Louise, once happened to mention that each Gibson banjo that the Scruggs owned was worth $200,000. Mr. Martin, who has a collection of vintage banjos—among them, two Depression-era Gibson Florentines and a Gibson Granada—immediately thought that he perhaps he should get them insured. He called George Gruhn, who is a vintage instrument dealer in Nashville, and said, “George, I hear these Florentines are worth some money.” Indeed, they are; for example, the Florentines owned by Mr. Scruggs are worth the $200,000 Louise mentioned—or more—because they are associated with Mr. Scruggs. Mr. Martin then asked about his own vintage banjos. Mr. Gruhn said, “With your name attached? About $8,000.”
In August 1966, Gabriel García Márquez finished writing One Hundred Years of Solitude. The manuscript consisted of 490 typed pages, and he and his wife went to a post office in Mexico City to mail it to a publisher in Buenos Aires. Unfortunately, mailing the entire manuscript cost 82 pesos, and his wife had only 50 pesos. (The family had little money because while Mr. Márquez was writing the novel, he did not have a paying job.) They mailed half of the manuscript, went home and pawned a few items, including a hairdryer, and then returned to the post office and mailed the other half of the manuscript.One Hundred Years of Solitude made Gabriel García Márquez internationally famous.
Being a beautiful woman has its advantages. A café-bar on Spring and Broadway in New York City gives VIP cards to the models at a particular agency; with the VIP cards, the models get 75 percent off everything. When Sara (no last name given) went to the café-bar to use the card, they told her that to get the discount she had to sit in the window so people could see her. Sara says, “They want to get more people in there who want to be around pretty girls, and they’re not discreet about it at all. You definitely feel used. But, at the same time, if I can get 75 percent off, I’ll go for it, you know.”
Dodger pitcher Preacher Roe claimed that he had extended his career long enough to make another $100,000 by learning how to throw a spitball. However, not even the spitball can get everyone out. Preacher faced Stan Musial, and at a critical point he threw the spitball—which Mr. Musial promptly hit off the wall for a double. Later, Preacher asked Mr. Musial, “How’d you hit my best pitch?” Mr. Musial replied, “I knew I’d get that wet one, and I always hit that kind on the dry side.”
In 1926, Gertrude Ederle became the first woman to swim the English Channel. Earlier, she had failed in an attempt that had cost her father, a butcher, the $5,000 he had bet that she would succeed in her attempt to swim the channel. In her second attempt, she did not fail. In fact, she set a world record, breaking the old record, which had been set by a man, by two hours and two minutes. Good thing. This time, her father had bet $25,000 against Lloyd’s of London that she would succeed.
In 1955, Roberto Clemente was playing, but his team, the Pittsburgh Pirates, were not winning games; therefore, Mr. Clemente took out his frustrations on the team’s plastic batting helmets, smashing 22 of them. Manager Fred Haney threatened to start charging him $10 for each batting helmet he destroyed, and Mr. Clemente, whose first language was Spanish, decided to start controlling his temper, saying, “I do not make so much money. I’ll stop breaking the hats.”