David Bruce: Anecdotes About Friends

Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert became famous after they started to review movies on television (which is also when they became friends), and people started to recognize them even when they were not in Chicago, causing Mr. Siskel to remark to Mr. Ebert, “Life is going to change.” When they attended the National Association of Television Program Executives (NAPTE), the convention of syndicated TV shows, they walked around together because their producer, Joe Antelo, told them, “Together, you’re an advertisement. Apart, you’re tourists.” People started to ask them, “Aren’t you those two guys?” One day, when they were on an elevator with some ladies they didn’t know, the ladies started whispering. When Mr. Siskel and Mr. Ebert got off the elevator, Mr. Siskel told the ladies, “We’re those two guys.” Of course, Mr. Ebert has many good stories about Mr. Siskel, who was a very good poker player and was a big winner at his own bachelor party. Unfortunately, at Mr. Ebert’s bachelor party he was a big loser. When Mr. Ebert asked why he had lost, Mr. Siskel explained, “What went wrong is that your friends don’t know how to play poker. A good player can never win against someone who makes a bet just for fun .” When Mr. Ebert and his wife, Chaz, were looking for a house to buy, they asked Mr. Siskel’s advice. He walked through the house and then quickly said, “Don’t buy it.” He then explained, “I don’t like the skylight. From their windows, your neighbors can see you walking to the bathroom.” For a long time, Mr. Siskel was a bachelor, and his apartment, which was crammed with everything he had ever owned, still placed wherever he had set it down, showed that. For example, Mr. Siskel had once won a TV in a bet. The delivery people put the TV down just inside the door. And there the TV stayed, although Mr. Siskel was unable to fully open the door because of the TV set. When Mr. Siskel became serious about a woman, he asked his sister for a favor: to clean his apartment “just enough so I can have a cleaning person come in .” By the way, he proposed to the woman in front of a Pizza-Fotomat. She accepted.

Punk rocker Patti Smith was always ambitious. Before becoming famous with her first album, “Horses,” Ms. Smith was starting to make a name for herself in New York City as a poet and a rocker. After one of her performances, Bob Dylan visited her backstage. A photographer took a few photographs, and then Ms. Smith pushed Mr. Dylan aside and jokingly told the photographer, “Take my picture.” Mr. Dylan made a praying motion to Ms. Smith, and then he left. Of course, later Ms. Smith thought that she had acted like a jerk to Mr. Dylan and “that guy will never talk to me again.” However, a photograph of Mr. Dylan with his arms around Ms. Smith appeared on the cover of the “Village Voice,” and soon afterward Ms. Smith saw Mr. Dylan on the street. He had a copy of the “Village Voice” cover, and he joked to Ms. Smith, “Who are these two people? You know who these people are?” Then he smiled at Ms. Smith, and she knew he wasn’t mad at her.

Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho makes a lot of money, and early in his life he made a lot of money through writing songs. The first time he made a lot of money, he made it in a hurry. He didn’t have money to eat out or to go to a movie, and when he went to check his bank account, he found that $40,000 had been deposited in it because of his songwriting royalties. One of the first things he did when he started to become famous was to get rid of his old hippie friends and acquire new, exciting friends. This turned out to be a mistake. When he stopped making a lot of money after losing his job at an international record company, his new friends didn’t call him and of course the old friends he had jettisoned didn’t call him, either. Mr. Coelho went on to make new piles of money, but he remembered to make a major effort to keep his old friends.

Steven Spielberg and George Lucas worked together to create “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Mr. Spielberg did the directing, and Mr. Lucas, the producer, occasionally visited on location. Sometimes they would have minor disagreements. Mr. Lucas would give in and say, “Well, it’s your movie. If the audience doesn’t like it, they’re going to blame you.” And Mr. Spielberg would joke, “OK, but I’m going to tell them that you made me do it.”

Composer Johannes Brahms had a big ego. While walking with his friend George Henschel, he saw a building bearing a commemorative plaque. Mr. Brahms said to Mr. Henschel, “The day after I die they’ll put up a sign on my house, too.” Mr. Henschel joked, “Of course they will. It’ll say, ‘House to Rent.’”

Shandy Lim Diew Noi of Singapore has a kind neighbor. Shandy hangs her laundry to dry on a line outside her window. Whenever it starts to rain, her neighbor uses a bamboo pole to tap on Shady’s windowsill to let her know that she should bring in her laundry before it gets wet.

Madeleine L’Engle likes to tell this story about St. Theresa of Avila, who got stuck in the mud while riding in a carriage. God told her, “This is how I treat my friends, Theresa,” and she replied, “No wonder you have so few.”

Stan Laurel always had a great respect for his friend Oliver Hardy’s talents as a comedian. Whenever Mr. Laurel watched one of the great comedy team’s movies, he laughed at Mr. Hardy’s antics, not at his own.

Singer-songwriter Tom Waits and his friend film director Jim Jarmusch once formed a club called The Sons of Lee Marvin — the one purpose of the club was to watch movies starring Lee Marvin.

 © 2015, David Bruce, All Rights Reserved

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Free PDF book: William Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure: A Retelling in Prose by David Bruce

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Free PDF book: Honey Badger Goes to Hell — and Heaven by David Bruce

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“The better part of one’s life consists of his friendships.” — Abraham Lincoln.

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