David Bruce: Money Anecdotes

© 2015, David Bruce, All Rights Reserved

Early in his career, George Carlin was funny and made a lot of money from conventional comedy. However, he was unhappy because he wanted to be funny and do comedy that also made a serious point. Finally, he got new management, one member of whom was Jeff Wald. It took a lot of hard word to get Mr. Carlin booked into the hip smaller clubs where he wanted to work because the management and audiences of those hip smaller clubs regarded Mr. Carlin as the kind of comedian who did Las Vegas and “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Eventually, Mr. Wald booked Mr. Carlin into a hip smaller club: It was a one-night stand-up show that got Mr. Carlin $250. Mr. Wald says, “I always say I took George Carlin from two hundred and fifty thousand dollars a year down to about twelve thousand dollars and improved his career.” And Mr. Carlin did improve his career, becoming a comedian whom it is impossible to leave out of histories of comedy in the late twentieth century.

Creative people are often creative in more than one way. For example, Frank Gehry is especially well known for his architecture — he designed the Walt Disney Concert Hall. In addition, he has designed jewelry (for Tiffany’s), a vodka bottle, lamps, and furniture. He has even made furniture out of corrugated cardboard. In fact, when he was invited to dinner, he often gave his host a cardboard chair instead of a bottle of wine. When he first thought of a piece of jewelry he might design, he mentioned it to people he was with — they all were rich people. Two of the women said that they would like to have a piece of jewelry like that, and when he told them that it would cost $1 million, one woman said, “I’d love to have one.” And the other woman said, “I’d like to have one, too. And I know five other people who would also love it.”

Critic Erica Jeal saw the famous Three Tenors in concert at Wembley Stadium on July 6, 1996, but she did run into a problem: “The gentleman in the seat behind me found, to his delight and my despair, that he could sing along to half of the numbers.” This was especially a problem because listening to a concert of the Three Tenors — Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, and Jose Carreras — was very expensive although the Three Tenors concerts had a reputation of bringing opera to a non-elitist and non-exclusive audience. Ms. Jeal says pointedly, “For the price of my press ticket for Wembley I could have seen at least 40 performances at the Coliseum — who’s being exclusive now?”

At a time when it was easy to find a job as a busboy, Taoist teacher Luke Chan got a job as a busboy. He wasn’t making a lot of money, but he was able to afford to buy what he calls “a third-rate automobile.” Often, he would pick up hitchhikers because he felt sorry for them because they could not afford a car. But one day a hitchhiker asked him for a dollar, and he thought a moment and realized that the only difference between him and the hitchhiker was that he was not lazy and that he worked. Thereafter, he picked up no more hitchhikers. According to Mr. Chan, “Laziness is a major cause of poverty in developed countries.”

Boris Karloff’s real name was William Henry Pratt. In 1887, he was born in London, but in the 1910s he went to Canada and became an actor. To get an acting job in repertory theater in British Columbia, he said that he was an experienced British stage actor. He got the job, and he went on stage, but when the curtain went up, his salary was $30 per week, and when the curtain went down, he salary was $15 a week — his performance showed quite clearly that he had never been on the stage before.

Actors have different reasons for agreeing to play a certain role. For example, Amy Sedaris will take a role such as playing Snow White on “Sesame Street” or appearing in “Yo Gabba Gabba” or “Shrek the Third” simply because it will make her the cool aunt. After all, she and David, her brother, are competitive about being the cool aunt or the cool uncle. David is stiff competition for her. He is a writer, and the kids have given him the nickname “Uncle Money.”

Johnny Logan was batting for the Braves when umpire Al Barlick called a strike on him. Mr. Logan disagreed with the call, so he took his bat and used it to draw a line in the dirt a few inches inside, which was where he thought the ball had been. Umpire Barlick did not say a word, but he took the bat from him and used it to write in the dirt, “$50 fine,” then went back to umpiring.

Early in the history of Microsoft, Ross Perot attempted to buy the company. He offered Bill Gates millions — somewhere between $6 million and $60 million. They couldn’t come to an agreement, and Bill Gates kept his company — and became a billionaire. Later, Mr. Perot said, “I should have just said, ‘Now, Bill, you set the price, and I’ll take it.’”

During the Great Depression, the family of future boxer Joe Louis accepted several hundred dollars from relief and welfare agencies. However, his parents regarded the money as a loan. When Joe became a professional, but not yet famous, boxer, he paid back the money with a $1,200 check that he received for fighting — and defeating — Charley Massera.

Comedian Louis Black had a chance to perform at Villanova University, provided that he did not mock the Catholic Church. He replied that if Villanova would pay him $10,000, he would believe that the pope was infallible and anything else that Villanova wanted him to believe. Unfortunately, Villanova turned down his proposal.

One of many, many stories told about Enrico Caruso is that when a hostess asked him to hum something at the dinner table, he obliged — and the next day he sent his hostess a bill for $3,000.

“I am not interested in money. I just want to be wonderful.” — Marilyn Monroe

Copyrighted by Bruce D. Bruce

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