David Bruce: Celebrities Anecdotes

In 1971, Twiggy went to Los Angeles to promote her first movie, The Boy Friend. While there, the publicity department asked if she wanted to meet any stars. As it happened, she did want to meet a particular star—she would love to meet Fred Astaire. Unfortunately, the publicity department pointed out that he was a very private man. Twiggy replied that she respected Mr. Astaire’s privacy, then gave up hope of meeting him. The very next day, she received a phone call inviting her to have tea with him. Here’s why: An MGM secretary who was a friend of Mr. Astaire’s had overheard her conversation with the publicity department and had told Mr. Astaire about it.

After a theatrical performance by Vivien Leigh, writer Lynn Reid Banks had the task of driving Ms. Leigh to a live, on-air interview. However, Ms. Leigh refused to be hurried as she dressed, and afterward she insisted on signing a few autographs, so they did not arrive at the studio until just before the interview was scheduled, considerably rattling Ms. Banks’ nerves. After the interview, Ms. Banks began venting her nerves by complaining to a friend about what a rough time she had had with Ms. Leigh—and turning around she saw Ms. Leigh’s husband, Sir Laurence Olivier, who had stopped by to watch the interview.

The great can be mistaken for the ordinary. Charles Hanson Towne, a poet and the editor of McClure’s Magazine, had long wanted to meet an actress, Mrs. Minnie Fiske, who was famous in the early 20th century. One day, he had his chance. She was playing at a benefit, and as she stepped off the stage into the wings, he was waiting for her. Mr. Towne poured out his admiration for her, and when he had finished, Mrs. Fiske tapped him on the arm with her lorgnette and smiled at him, then said, “Thank you, Mr. Electrician,” and left.

Lou Costello enjoyed the “perks” he was given—or took—from Universal Pictures. Once, he wanted some furniture for his backyard, so he took some cast iron furniture from the Universal Pictures studio. The furniture was needed for a motion picture, so a Universal executive persuaded Mr. Costello to lend the studio its own furniture, promising to return it to Mr. Costello as soon as the movie was filmed.

John Garfield was born Jules Garfinkle but changed his name when he started in the movie business. He became a big star, and he enjoyed being recognized by his fans. In a restaurant, he noticed a woman staring at him. He enjoyed the attention—but he was surprised when she said, “I know you! You’re Jules Garfinkle from P.S. 38.” She had gone to school with him.

George Lindsey played Goober for a few years on The Andy Griffith Show—a role that has stayed with him. Once, he was walking in the Knoxville airport while wearing sunglasses, a trench coat, and a mustache—but a boy still spotted him and yelled, “Mama, there’s Goober with a mustache!”

Ballet stars are celebrities. Peter Martins of the New York City Ballet was constantly bothered by a woman who wrote him marriage proposals and sent him photographs of herself. After about two years, fortunately, she sent him a photograph of himself—torn up—then left him alone.

Being a ballerina is thought to be a glamorous profession, but Alicia Markova writes that whenever she danced the role of Giselle and had to throw herself to the floor, very often she had spend time in between the acts scrubbing away grime from her arms and shoulders— even in the best opera houses—so that she could put on her makeup for the second act.

“Television is so immediate. Within a week of my appearing in my first Avengers story, I was recognized by 90 percent of the viewing public. A week after I left, I was unrecognized by 90 percent of the public.”—Diana Rigg, who played Mrs. Emma Peel on The Avengers.

Bob Denver played Gilligan on Gilligan’s Island, a role that has followed him ever since. While he was vacationing on Hawaii, a Hawaiian family found out where he was staying and sang the Gilligan’s Island theme song outside his window at 6 a.m. until he woke up and said hi.

Whenever ballerina Margot Fonteyn danced in Kenneth MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet, many of her fans used to skip Act II because “Margot only gets married in it.” Instead, they watched Acts I and III because she had much more of a chance to dance and act.

Some ballet dancers are celebrities. In 1978, Natalia Makarova gave birth to her son, Andrew. The guests at his christening included Rudolph Nureyev, Jacqueline Onassis, Anne Getty, and former King Constantine of Greece.

Sir Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington, disliked fans and sycophants. One man, who had just been introduced to him, said, “This is the proudest moment of my life, my lord.” Sir Arthur replied, “Don’t be a fool, sir.”

Suzanne Farrell was an important ballerina with the New York City Ballet for many years, but the thing that really impressed her young nephews and nieces was her guest appearances on Sesame Street.

Samuel Johnson once found himself surrounded by a group of admiring women. After enduring their staring at him as if he were an animal in a zoo, he told them, “Ladies, I am tame. You may stroke me.”

Marlon Brando once observed something strange about being a movie star: “Once you are a star actor, people start asking you questions about politics, astronomy, archaeology, and birth control.”

Oscar Wilde soon became famous in London—in large part due to his witty conversation. Even the Prince of Wales wanted to meet Mr. Wilde, saying, “Not to know Mr. Wilde is not to be known.”

A woman once walked up to Groucho Marx and asked, “Aren’t you Groucho Marx?” “No,” Groucho answered. “Are you?”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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