David Bruce: Boredom is Anti-Life — Advertisements, Bloopers, Books, Bridges


• A United Kingdom ad for the Yellow Pages shows an old man going to a used bookstore, looking for a copy of Fly Fishing by J.R. Hartley. He is unsuccessful, so he goes home and tries the Yellow Pages. Using it, he quickly locates a copy of the book, then while still on the telephone, says, “My name? Oh yes, it’s J.R. Hartley.” This TV commercial was so successful that a book was created because of it — the book was Fly Fishing by — of course — J.R. Hartley.

• Diarmuid Russell and Henry Volkening ran Russell and Volkening Literary Representatives. One of Mr. Volkening’s clients advised Bernard Malamud to call up Mr. Volkening and let him be his literary agent, but Mr. Russell became Mr. Malamud’s literary agent instead. How did this happen? According to Mr. Russell, “When Bernard called, I answered the phone.”

• Comedian Steve Allen — as you would expect — had a sense of humor. The front cover of my copy of his book More Funny People shows a photograph of a cleanly shaven Steve Allen. But on the back cover appears a photograph of Mr. Allen’s “ghost writer” — the photograph shows a bearded Steve Allen.

• F. Scott Fitzgerald could be disconcerting to talk to. Sometimes during a conversation, he would reach into a pocket, take out a pad of paper, write on it, return it to his pocket, then say, “I just thought of a phrase I didn’t want to forget. Now then, what were you saying?”


• Here are a few bloopers: 1) Ed Sullivan once did a quick public service message on his TV program: “And now a word about tuberculosis. Help stamp out TV.” 2) On 7 May 1964, President Lyndon Johnson and Ohio Governor James Rhodes came to Athens to help Ohio University celebrate its 160th anniversary. Governor Rhodes got a little mixed up in his choice of words and referred to OU as “this venereal institution.” 3) A man whose wife had just had a baby requested a disk jockey to play this song: “I Didn’t Know the Gun was Loaded.”

• On Marcus Welby, the good doctor talked with his son-in-law about his daughter’s pregnancy and told him, “Well, at least you’re over the hump.”


• King Ptolemy III wanted the library at Alexandria to have a copy of every book in the world, even if he had to be unjust to do it. Whenever travelers arrived at Alexandria, their books were confiscated, and if the king wanted to keep a particular book for the library, the traveler was given a poorly and quickly made copy of the book. In addition, he borrowed comedies from the library at Athens and then refused to return them.

• Mark Twain once showed a visitor his library. The visitor commented on the large numbers of books piled everywhere — on the floor, in chairs, everywhere handy. Mr. Twain explained, “It’s next to impossible to borrow shelves.”


• San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge was completed on May 26, 1937, and the following day was Pedestrian Day — pedestrians were allowed on the bridge. Hundreds of thousands of people showed up, many of whom did silly things. Officials at first thought that one woman was ill, but it turned out that she was trying to be the first person to walk across the bridge with her tongue sticking out. Other firsts on Pedestrian Day were the first person to walk across the bridge on stilts, the first dog to cross the bridge, the first sisters to cross the bridge on roller skates, the first twins to cross the bridge, and the first baby to cross the bridge in a baby carriage. The day after Pedestrian Day was the first day vehicles were allowed to cross the bridge.

• In 1958, MIT students decided to measure the length of the Harvard Bridge using a new kind of measurement: Smoots. A Smoot was the length of first-year student Oliver Smoot, who was a pledge of Lambda Chi fraternity. The fraternity used swimming pool paint to mark each Smoot on the bridge and to write out in full the measurement for every 10 Smoots. The length of the bridge is 364.4 Smoots, plus one ear. Lambda Chi pledges repaint the Smoot markings every two years, and Cambridge, Massachusetts, police use the Smoot markings to indicate exactly where on the bridge an accident took place.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


Boredom is Anti-Life — Buy

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