David Bruce: Boredom is Anti-Life — War, Wit

War

• After unsuccessfully trying to capture Pancho Villa in Mexico, Charles MacArthur and his military outfit returned to America, where they were given a parade in which a drunken Mr. MacArthur steered a car down the street with one hand while he waved an American flag with the other. As he drove, he shouted anti-military slogans such as “Down with Colonel Foreman” — Colonel Milton Foreman was his commanding officer. Mr. MacArthur was punished by being forced to pick up litter at the military base. Because he found that boring, he made some alterations to his blue prisoner suit. He used gold radiator paint for stripes, added epaulets and other decorations, and succeeded so well that visitors to the base thought he was a general — but an oddly acting general, since he saluted each piece of litter before picking it up. Colonel Foreman saw him and gave him his discharge papers that same day. Years later, Mr. MacArthur, then a famous playwright, and his wife, the famous actress Helen Hayes, saw Colonel Foreman and introduced themselves to him. According to Ms. Hayes, as soon as the colonel heard Mr. MacArthur’s name and remembered who he was, “The colonel’s face turned slowly purple, and his eyes seemed to go out of focus. Then, without saying a word, he stood up and stalked away.”

• John Glenn was one of the first seven astronauts chosen to participate in the United States’ space program. At a news conference, a reporter asked the seven Mercury astronauts to raise their hands if they felt that they could go into space then return to Earth safely. All of the astronauts raised a hand in the air except for Mr. Glenn — who raised both of his hands in the air. By the way, during the Korean War, Mr. Glenn, a pilot, was anxious to fight some Russian-made MiGs. Because of Mr. Glenn’s eagerness, the squadron artist painted on the side of Mr. Glenn’s plane the legend “MIG MAD MARINE.” Eventually, Mr. Glenn got his wish — in nine days, he shot down three MiGs. Also by the way, after Mr. Glenn had become the first American to orbit the earth, he went back to his hometown of New Concord, Ohio, to star in a parade. Although New Concord had a population of only 2,100, more than 40,000 people lined its streets to watch the parade.

• Harold Ross believed in separating the editorial staff and the advertising staff of The New Yorker — he put the departments in two separate buildings two blocks apart. By the way, during World War II, when England was constantly being bombed by the Germans, New Yorker writer James Thurber underwent a series of eye operations. Mr. Ross visited him at the hospital and told him, “Damn it, Thurber, I worry about you and England.”

Wit

• Hollywood is filled with witty people: 1) A publicist once wired Cary Grant’s agent, “How old Cary Grant?” However, Mr. Grant saw the message, and he wired the publicist back, “Old Cary Grant fine. How you?” 2) Woody Allen says he decided to name a movie of his Bananas “because there are no bananas in it.” 3) When Cinemascope — which widened the movie screen in an attempt to compete with television — first appeared, some Hollywood talents opposed it. According to George Stevens (director of Shane and I Remember Mama), “It’s fine if you want a system that shows a boa constrictor to better advantage than a man.” 4) 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.” 5) Julie Andrews’ first movie was Disney’s Mary Poppins, for which she won an Oscar. Some people believed that she won because the voters felt sympathy for her because Warner Brothers had not let her star in the movie version of My Fair Lady, in which she had starred on stage. When Ms. Andrews received the Oscar, she said in her acceptance speech, “I’d like to thank all those who made this possible — especially Jack Warner.”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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