• Long after playing John Steed in The Avengers, actor Patrick Macnee was vacationing in California, where an elderly woman offered him a drive. Upon arrival, the elderly woman ran her fingers through his hair, pushed a button that lowered the backs of their seats, then, as Mr. Macnee writes, “She proceeded to behave with great mischief.” Afterward, Mr. Macnee was relaxing when someone pointed a gun at him through the car window. His naked partner looked up and asked, “Good evening, officer. How can I help you?” The police officer withdrew his gun and then told his partner, “Relax, Al. It’s only a couple of oldies having a final fling.”
• In his old age, dancer Leonide Massine went to San Francisco to recreate his choreography of Le Beau Danube. During his stay at the Valley View Lodge, some videotapes of him giving lessons to several dancers were shown, causing some elderly residents to ask, “Did you ever dance, Mr. Massine?” He smiled at the question, replied, “A little,” and then taught the elderly residents a few exercises to lessen their pain from arthritis. Shortly thereafter, the elderly residents came to Mr. Massine and thanked him for his help, saying, “I can move now. Thank you so much for your help — it is better than medicine.”
• Humorist H. Allen Smith had a grandfather who was a volunteer fireman. One day the fire alarm began ringing, and Grandpa Cad Allen jumped up out of his bed at home and threw on his clothes. He was ready to run out of the house when one of his young daughters asked for a drink of water, so Grandpa Cad got it for her. Again, he was ready to leave when his wife asked him to turn down the lamp for her. Grandpa Cad did that, then at the door he turned around and sarcastically asked, “Now, if they’s anything else anybody wants, just speak up, because I ain’t in no goddam hurry a-tall!”
• As an old man, Sir Thomas Beecham conducted a Sir Robert Mayer Children’s Concert. He slowly walked to the conductor’s chair and then spoke to the audience of children, saying: “Ladies and gentlemen, my slow progress to the conductor’s desk was due not to any reluctance on my part to conduct before so distinguished an audience. My slow progress was due entirely to the infirmity of old age. Our first piece is by Mozart. It was composed when he was at the age of …” — here Sir Thomas pointed to a small boy in the audience — “at your age, sir.”
• Even as an old man, conductor Arturo Toscanini was known for his rages when things did not proceed to his satisfaction at rehearsals. After Toscanini flew into a rage at a rehearsal with his last orchestra, the NBC Symphony, one of the musicians asked first trumpet Harry Glantz, who had played under Toscanini earlier when he was conducting the New York Philharmonic, “Was he any worse in his Philharmonic days?” Mr. Glantz significantly pointed out, “He was 15 years younger.”
• Black choreographer Katherine Dunham retired to Haiti, where she had a beautiful villa, with a swimming pool, large kitchen, many bedrooms, and a sunken Roman bath. Because Ms. Dunham was troubled by arthritis and excess weight in her later years — enough to be forced to use a wheelchair — Agnes de Mille once asked Ms. Dunham’s assistant how the great choreographer was able to use the bath. The assistant replied, “With difficulty.”
• Barbara Klassen’s great-great uncle lived to be 106 years old. During that time, he was healthy and happy and he served as a chauffer to help other old but less-healthy senior citizens get around. On his 100th birthday, his driver’s license needed to be renewed, but a clerk asked him, “You’re 100 years old. What do you need a driver’s license for?” He answered, “Somebody has to drive the old folks around!”
• Natalie Schafer, who played Mrs. Thurston Howell on Gilligan’s Island, always kept her age a secret. Whenever she went to the doctor’s and the doctor asked her for her age, she always told the doctor to look up what age she had said during her last appointment. However, checking on her last appointment never revealed her age, because she been using that trick all her adult life.
• Russell Johnson played the Professor on Gilligan’s Island. Years after the series was over, he went into a Chinese restaurant to pick up some take-out food, and the Chinese proprietor asked, “You the Professor from Gilligan’s Island?” Mr. Johnson replied that yes, he was, and the Chinese gentleman said, “Boy, you old!”
• A young man was determined to tease Dr. Samuel Johnson. First he told Dr. Johnson to stop being glum and instead be gay like other people. Next, he asked, “What would you give, old gentleman, to be as young and sprightly as I am?” Dr. Johnson replied, “I think I would almost be content to be as foolish.”
• Ballerina Madeleine Guimard (1743-1816) was often asked in her old age to dance with her husband for visitors. They would oblige, but being aware of her age, she would have her husband first hang up a curtain that hid all of her and her husband’s bodies but their feet and legs.
• When he was elderly, Church of Christ preacher T.B. Larimore preached the same sermon two nights in a row. When his wife told him, “You preached that sermon last night,” he was unperturbed and replied, “It’s a good one.”
• When Mark Twain was very old, he sometimes would reach for a doorknob but miss it. He then would turn to his secretary and say, “Just practicing.”
• A publicist once wired Cary Grant’s agent, “How old Cary Grant?” However, Mr. Grant saw the message, and he wired the publicist back, “Old Cary Grant fine. How you?”
• “I have grown old without being bored. Existence is still a strange thing to me, and as a stranger I find it welcome.” — G.K. Chesterton.
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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