David Bruce: Boredom is Anti-Life — Money, Mothers, Music

Money

• British ballerina Violette Verdy was happy when impresario Paul Szilard managed her financial contracts when she worked as director of the Paris Opera Ballet and then as director of the Boston Ballet. She told him, “I am so happy that you are looking after me, because finally I can fly business class, rather than economy.”

• Being a stand-up comedian isn’t always fun. Once, Carrie Snow was performing at a benefit for charity in a hotel when someone offered to donate $5,000 if she would stop performing. She stopped performing, left the room, and then started crying.

• Jack Benny’s comic persona was that of a tightwad. Whenever Rochester, the actor playing his valet, was asked whether Mr. Benny collected anything, he always replied that Mr. Benny had a hobby that kept him very happy — he collected money.

• Comedian Red Skelton was very poor as a child, but very rich as an adult. Frequently, this combination leads to recklessness in personal finance. For example, at one time Mr. Skelton had 200 ties — all the same color (maroon).

Mothers

• Amy Tan, the author of The Joy Luck Club, also has a Chinese name, An-mei, which means “blessing from America.” Her parents had emigrated from China and had been in the United States for only a short time before having her. Amy’s mother, who grew up in China, once told her that she was not affected by World War II, but a few days later, she spoke of running away to get cover from the bombs being dropped from airplanes, adding, “We were always scared that the bombs would fall on top of our heads.” When Ms. Tan reminded her mother that she had said that she wasn’t affected by the war, she replied, “I wasn’t — I wasn’t killed.”

• Kris Ashman Cypress is very tall, as was her mother. When Kris was a teenager and self-conscious about her height, she asked her mother if she could have an operation to shorten the bones in her arms and legs. Her mother replied, “Yes, but we can only afford to do your legs. So I guess your arms will drag beside you when you walk.” Kris writes, “When I finally got the joke, she grabbed me and told me how beautiful I was and how much she loved me. It was her humor and way of looking at life that shocked me out of my teenage bubble of insecurity.”

• Alan Bloom scored a major literary success with The Closing of the American Mind. Suddenly he had money, and suddenly he began appearing on all the major television shows, including the one hosted by his favorite, Oprah Winfrey. From being a professor, he became a celebrity. When his 90-year-old mother had a stroke, doctors weren’t sure about her mental abilities and even whether she would recognize her son. When Mr. Bloom walked into her hospital room, she said, “I know who you are. You wrote The Closing of the American Mind.”

• “Zora” is the name of a character and a comic strip by lesbian cartoonists Kirsten Zecher and Lori Priestley. In one series of cartoons, Zora’s mother, based on the real-life mother of Ms. Zecher, comes out for a visit with her lesbian daughter. Ms. Zecher’s mother loved the character based on her, and when the character disappeared in the fourth cartoon of the series, she demanded that they tell her what had happened to the character.

• Ballet mothers help their ballerina daughters in many ways. For example, Eugenia Toumanova, the mother of baby ballerina Tamara Toumanova, used to wear Tamara’s new ballet shoes to break them in for her.

Music

• Rhythm and blues superstar Aretha Franklin wears what she likes. Sometimes, she goes to work in a limousine, wearing a mink coat — over top of her T-shirt and jeans. By the way, Aretha often sang one of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s favorite songs, “Precious Lord,” for him. The last time Ms. Franklin sang it especially for him was in April of 1968 — at his funeral. Also by the way, Aretha wanted to make sure that blacks heard her music in segregated areas. Therefore, her contract stated that her audiences would always be either integrated or all-black — she declined to perform in front of an all-white audience.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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