David Bruce: CREATE, THEN TAKE A BREAK — Art and Artists, Audiences, Authors

Art and Artists

• Peter Bruegel had two sons who also painted, and who acquired the nicknames Hell and Velvet. Peter the Younger painted a lot of devils, so he became known as Hell Bruegel, while Jan painted a lot of rich fabrics, so he became known as Velvet Bruegel.


• Choreographer Merce Cunningham wanted people to care about what they were seeing when they watched a dance performance. Frequently, audiences did care when they watched a Merce Cunningham dance performance. In 1964, a Paris audience threw vegetables at the Merce Cunningham dancers. One month later, in Cologne, the audience roared its approval at the dancers. By the way, set designer Robert Rauschenberg was very creative for Mr. Cunningham and his dancers. Once, Mr. Rauschenberg and an assistant ironed their shirts upstage. For another performance, he dyed clothing many colors, and then hung them on the stage to dry, where they dripped into buckets. Also by the way, sometimes servers get in a hurry and speak in shorthand. One harried waitress served food to Cunningham dancers Carolyn Brown and Viola Farber. The waiter said to Ms. Brown, “You’re the fried chicken,” and to Ms. Farber, “You’re the stuffed shrimp.”

• A 1991 TV commercial shows a thirsty woman climbing up a mountain to get a bottle of Perrier. When she arrives at the top of the mountain, she comes face to face with a thirsty lion that has climbed up the other side of the mountain. The lion roars at the woman, the woman roars at the lion, and vanquished, the lion slinks off, leaving the woman to enjoy the Perrier. Not everyone liked this commercial. It won the Grand Prize at the Cannes Advertising Festival, but the audience booed as the commercial’s director, Jean-Paul Goude, picked up the award. Mr. Goude booed the audience back.


• Before he became famous, James M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan, made the rounds of theatrical producers, asking them to read his plays. By means of a letter of introduction, he persuaded John Hare to read a play, and then he waited outside Mr. Hare’s office as he read it. Soon, roars of indignation came from the office, and Mr. Barrie returned to find Mr. Hare jumping up and down on the play—Mr. Barrie’s handwriting was so bad that Mr. Hare was unable to read it. Afterward, Mr. Barrie paid other people to make transcripts of his plays.

• Every Christmas Eve, humorist Robert Benchley and his wife read A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. The parts that made him cry were not the sad parts—but “the parts that are so glad that they shut off your wind.” By the way, Mr. Benchley was a great reader, but he did not want to seem pretentious. While in Hollywood, he would sometimes read a volume by Marcel Proust—after first covering it up with a murder mystery dust jacket.

• Antoinette Sibley and Anthony Dowell were ballet partners who thought alike. Shortly after their book, Sibley and Dowell, was published, they met in a restaurant. Both were carrying white bags, both were carrying copies of their book, both had thought about not bringing copies of their book, and both made the same apology for bringing copies of their book.

• Anthony Trollope used to get up at 5:30 each morning so that he could write before getting dressed for breakfast. To ensure that he arose at such an early hour, he gave an elderly groom an extra £5 per year to bring him coffee and awaken him. By the way, author J.P. Muller was once asked what advice he would give to would-be writers. He replied, “Don’t.”

• Professor Charles Townsend Copeland once promised Maxwell Perkins to write his memoirs, but when Mr. Perkins telegraphed him that he would come to Boston to pick up the first few chapters, Professor Copeland telegraphed back that they weren’t started yet, so “Come up eight years from now.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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