David Bruce: The Coolest People in Books — Media, Mishaps

Media

• Early in the 20th century, the New York Evening Graphic was competing with the New York Daily News. Bernarr McFadden was desperately trying to increase the circulation of the Evening Graphic, but his newspaper’s circulation lagged that of the News by a half million copies. Desperate, Mr. McFadden summoned his staff to a meeting, where they brainstormed ways to increase the circulation of the Evening Graphic. Mr. McFadden asked, “How is the Evening Graphic going to get more circulation?” An underling answered, “Publish it daily in the News as an advertisement.”

• Lots of people like to see their words in print. For example, in Liverpool, England, at one time was a paper called Mersey Beat. People were allowed to put personal ads in the paper, and so some members of the Beatles — Paul McCartney, John Lennon, and George Harrison — used to write little ads such as “Barry! Meet me behind the station” just in hopes to see them in print. Mr. McCartney remembers, “And then it would come out and we’d be like, ‘Yeah! It got in!’ Just seeing it there was a little kick.”

• Richard Foster, a popular Quaker author, was asked several times to appear on the PTL Club TV show, and in 1987 he did appear. However, instead of discussing his latest book, Money, Sex, and Power, he was asked instead to discuss an earlier book he had written that had the noncontroversial title A Celebration of Discipline.

Mishaps

• Maya Angelou once visited Senegal, where a friend named Samia invited her to supper. While she was there, she noticed that none of the guests was walking on the carpet. This made her angry because, she says, “I had known a woman in Egypt who would not allow her servants to walk on her rugs, saying that only she, her family and friends were going to wear out her expensive carpets. Samia plummeted in my estimation.” Therefore, to make a point, she walked back and forth a few times on the carpet as “[t]he guests who were bunched up on the sidelines smiled at me weakly.” Later, she regretted her action. Servants rolled up the carpet she had walked on, put down a fresh carpet, and then put food and plates and eating utensils on it. Samia then said to her guests that in honor of Maya Angelou, she was serving a very popular dish from Senegal. The guests then sat on the carpet. Ms. Angelou realized that in her ignorance, she had been walking on her host’s tablecloth, and she says that she was “on fire with shame.”

• R.L. Stine has written many, many scary books for kids in his Goosebumps and Fear Street series of horror novels. So what scares him? Actually, jumping into a swimming pool scares him. When he was a kid attending summer camp, he was placed in the beginners’ swimming group, which was called the Tadpoles. To move up into the next higher group, the Turtles, a Tadpole had to jump into the swimming pool, then swim the length of the pool and back. When it was his turn to jump into the pool, he couldn’t do it. Swimming back and forth in the pool was no problem, but jumping into the pool horrified him. He walked away as the other Tadpoles laughed at him. Today he says, “My […] nephews think it’s very funny. They’re always teasing me and trying to get me to jump. They think it’s funny that a horror writer is afraid to jump into a swimming pool.”

• Monty Python Terry Jones was friends with Douglas Adams, author of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universebooks. One story that Mr. Adams used to tell was of being at a train station with a Guardian newspaper and a package of biscuits (British for cookies). He sat down with a cup of coffee and put down the newspaper. In the middle of the table was a packet of biscuits. Another man was already at the table, and he very calmly opened the packet of biscuits and ate one. Mr. Adams was annoyed but remained silent, and he ate a biscuit. The other man then ate a biscuit, followed by Mr. Adams eating another biscuit. Mr. Adams was still annoyed, but he made an effort not to glare at the other man. When it was time to leave, Mr. Adams stood up, picked up his newspaper — and discovered his packet of biscuits underneath the newspaper.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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