David Bruce: Games Anecdotes

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Young people’s novelist William Sleator grew up in a family of oddballs. When William was a young boy (10 and under), his father, his younger sister Vicky, and he used to play a game. His father would blindfold them, drive them to a part of the city that William and Vicky had never been before, then drop them off and let them find their way back home. Of course, William and Vicky did have enough money to call home in case they ran into trouble finding their way back. The only time they used the telephone money was when two of their friends came along to play the game and panicked. Then William and Vicky let their friends use the money to call home. Unfortunately, since the two friends didn’t know where they were in the city, they also panicked their parents, who called Mr. Sleator. Mr. Sleator calmly finished his lunch, which he had just started eating, then drove off and found the children within 10 minutes. Meanwhile, the friends’ parents called the police, and both parents left the house to look for the children. Mr. Sleator did not know the police had been called, and he could not contact the friends’ parents, since they had both left home. Perhaps understandably, the friends thereafter did not visit the Sleator home.

In the old days, many people regarded playing cards as irreligious. Susan B. Anthony, a Quaker, once gave a speech in which she introduced a Methodist friend of hers, the Reverend Anna Howard Shaw, as her “right bower,” thinking that a right bower was a right-hand man and not knowing that a right bower is a leading card in the game of euchre. The audience laughed, mystifying Ms. Anthony, until the meaning of right bower was explained to her later. The next day Ms. Anthony again addressed the audience, and she said, “When I came to your town, I had been warned that you were a very religious lot of people. I wanted to impress upon you that Miss Shaw and I are religious, too. But I admit that when I told you she was my right bower I did not know what a right bower was. I have learned that since last night.” The audience laughed, then Ms. Anthony continued, “It interests me very much, however, to realize that every one of you seemed to know all about a right bower, and that I had to come to your good orthodox town to get that information.”

Long ago, Rube Goldberg used to have a TV show in which he would make drawings that illustrated such things as book titles, common sayings and phrases, etc., which his guests were supposed to guess. On one show was then-celebrity Tony Canzoneri, a boxer. Mr. Canzoneri was given one answer in advance, to ensure that he would get at least one right and so not be embarrassed. Unfortunately, Mr. Canzoneri answered “poison ivy” to the first drawing, which was the wrong answer, and he kept on answering “poison ivy” to the next seven drawings, which was still the wrong answer. Finally, Mr. Goldberg drew a bottle of poison and some ivy growing up the side of a building. By this time, Mr. Canzoneri had been wrong so often that he kept his mouth shut.

In the game “Adverbs,” the person who is It leaves the room and the other players choose an adverb. The person who is It returns to the room, then asks the other players one by one to do something in the manner of the adverb until the correct adverb is guessed. In one game, the adverb was “vulgarly.” When Zero Mostel’s wife was asked to do something in the manner of the adverb, she did a bump-and-grind dance. When Ms. Parker was asked to do something in the manner of the adverb, she began to talk about money, because when she was growing up, she was taught that it was vulgar to talk about money.

In 1954, oceanographer Jacques Cousteau and the members of his ship, the Calypso, spent time in the Indian Ocean, collecting underwater rock samples for the British Petroleum Company. This was very difficult work, and when they were finished, all the crew members were exhausted. To relax while heading back home, the crew members started a card game in the Gulf of Suez — it didn’t end until they were back home in the port of Toulon, France.

On the old Let’s Make a Deal TV show, emcee Monty Hall was accustomed to ask members of the studio audience, “And what happens every Saturday night at 7:30?” The expected answer was, “Let’s Make a Deal,” because that is when the show aired, but one audience member made everyone laugh when she answered, “I take a bath.”

When Tiger Woods began to play as a freshman on the Stanford University golf team, his teammates treated him like any other freshman, although he had already won several important amateur golf tournaments. They teased him, they made him carry the extra luggage, and they made him sit in the front of the bus — next to the coach.

Charades used to be a popular parlor game. Marc Connelly, a writer who loved to act, once made several extravagant gestures to illustrate a title, which Russel Crouse guessed as Mr. Connelly described the second syllable. Mr. Connelly was disappointed and told Mr. Crouse, “You spoiled it.”

Lesbian cartoonist Kathleen Debold was a crossword freak, but she noticed that crossword puzzles seldom had gay themes. For example, the answer “stein” was never “Stein,” as in “lover of Toklas,” but instead its clue was “beer mug.” To correct this deficiency, she wrote the book Word Gaymes: 101 Puzzles with Lesbian and Gay Themes.

The first lesbian game show host was probably Hella von Sinnen, who co-hosted Alles, Nichts, Oder!? (All, Nothing, Or!?) in Germany. While accepting a Bambi award (the equivalent of America’s Emmy award) in 1990, she astonished the audience when she said, “I would like to thank my wife for her support.”

While visiting Disneyland, Harry S Truman declined to get on the Dumbo the Flying Elephant ride because an elephant is the symbol of the Republican party.

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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