David Bruce: Boredom is Anti-Life — Dance and Dancers, Death

Dance and Dancers

• American dance pioneer Ted Shawn once choreographed the bawdy ancient Greek comedy Lysistrata, in which the Spartan and Athenian women decide to stop the Peloponnesian War by declining to have sex with their husbands until the war ends. His choreography for the dance was “hot,” and this upset some members of the audience, including one person who said, “A man and woman lying on the floor together have only one thing on their minds!” Mr. Shawn replied, “The man and woman do have just one thing on their minds, and the problem of the ballet was to show it beautifully, which I think I’ve done.” Unfortunately, the threat of being hurt at the box office led Mr. Shawn to tone down the sexuality of the dance, something he neglected to tell dancer Myrna Pace. While dancing the role, Ms. Pace of course noticed the changes in the way Mr. Shawn was dancing and joked, “Don’t you love me anymore?”

• Ballerina Tanaquil Le Clercq paid no attention to the superstition that it is bad luck to whistle in a dressing room, but she once shared a dressing room with a ballerina who did. Because the only way to get rid of the bad luck is to go outside the dressing room and twirl three times, Ms. Le Clercq says that “for one whole season I spent more time twirling off stage than on.”

• Dancer/comedian Norma Miller spent a busy life in show business, and she never married. Late in her life, men would occasionally ask her why she had never married, and she would tell them, “Because none of you bastards ever asked me!”

Death

• In 1728, Benjamin Franklin wrote this epitaph: “The Body of / B. Franklin Printer, / (Like the Cover of an old Book / Its Contents tore out / And stript of its Lettering & Gilding,) / Lies here, Food for Worms. / But the Work shall not be lost; / For it will, (as he believ’d) appear once more, / In a new and more elegant Edition / Revised and corrected, / By the Author.” Actually, this epitaph was created as a writing exercise. Mr. Franklin’s grave in Philadelphia has no epitaph; it bears only his name. By the way, the children of some of Mr. Franklin’s British friends owned a squirrel named Skugg. When Skugg died, Mr. Franklin composed this epitaph for him: “Here lies Skugg, as Snug as a Bug in a Rug.” Also by the way, Mr. Franklin was a master of the put-on. He once wrote this in a letter that was published in the London Public Advertiser: “Whales, when they have a Mind to eat Cod, pursue them wherever they fly; and the grand leap of the Whale in that Chace up the Fall of Niagara is esteemed by all who have seen it, as one of the finest Spectacles in Nature!”

• Even in death, people can be witty. The obituary for Michael ‘Flathead’ Blanchard (1944-2012) in the Denver Post on 12 April 2012 stated, “A Celebration of the life of Michael ‘Flathead’ Blanchard will be held on April 14th, 3 pm 8160 Rosemary St, Commerce City [Colorado]. Weary of reading obituaries noting someone’s courageous battle with death, Mike wanted it known that he died as a result of being stubborn, refusing to follow doctors’ orders and raising hell for more than six decades. He enjoyed booze, guns, cars and younger women until the day he died. […] Baba Yaga can kiss his butt. So many of his childhood friends that weren’t killed in Vietnam went on to become criminals, prostitutes and/or Democrats. He asks that you stop by and re-tell the stories he can no longer tell. As the Celebration will contain Adult material we respectfully ask that no children under 18 attend.”

• The book jacket of Graham Crackers, a compilation of humorous bits written by Monty Python’s Graham Chapman, shows photographs of how Mr. Chapman looked at age 12 and how he looks today. The “today” photograph shows a funerary urn — Mr. Chapman died on 4 October 1989, the day before Monty Python celebrated its 20th anniversary. According to fellow Python member Terry Jones, Mr. Chapman’s death was “the worst case of party-pooping I’ve ever seen.” Even after Mr. Chapman died, the other members of the comedy group did not forget him. At a Python meeting after his death, he was given a vote — his spirit was asked to rap once for yes, twice for no. (Mr. Graham abstained.)

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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