David Bruce: Cars Anecdotes

The 14th Dalai Lama recognized the isolation of Tibet and was determined to learn about modern things. The 13th Dalai Lama had owned all the automobiles that existed in Tibet — four — and so the 14th Dalai Lama was determined to get them running and to learn to drive them. With the help of a car-knowledgeable Tibetan named Tashi Tsering, three of the cars were running, and one day when Mr. Tsering was absent, the 14th Dalai Lama started one of the cars and drove around a garden. Unfortunately, he hit a tree and smashed a headlight. Not wanting Mr. Tsering to know that he had driven one of the cars, the 14th Dalai Lama found replacement glass for the headlight. Since the headlight had been tinted, and the replacement glass was not tinted, he coated it with sugar syrup until the color matched the tint of the original headlight.

In 1990, tennis player Monica Seles defeated Steffi Graf to win the French Open. To motivate herself to win tournaments, the teenaged Monica often promised herself a reward, such as a new stuffed animal or a new piece of clothing. But this time she had promised herself a brand-new, bright yellow, very expensive sports car — a Lamborghini. However, her parents vetoed this idea on the grounds that a 16-year-old was too young to have a $130,000 automobile.

When they were young men, E.B. White and his friend Howard “Cush” Cushman made a cross-country road trip in a Model T they named “Hotspur.” Among other items, they took two typewriters, as they hoped to pay for their trip by writing articles and selling them to newspapers along the way. One day, Hotspur blew out a tire, and Mr. White took one of the typewriters and walked 32 miles into a town, reciting poetry along the way. He sold the typewriter so he could buy a new tire for Hotspur.

In The Avengers, John Steed always drove vintage automobiles, even though off screen they seldom worked correctly. Often, to get the vintage Bentley started, it had to be pushed down a hill. Often, the car couldn’t get out of third gear. Sometimes, the car was even pushed into view by studio technicians, and the film was speeded up later to make it look like the Bentley was going at a decent speed.

Robert Morley needed to back up his brand-new Jaguar, so he asked the daughter of the Italian Prince Tasco to tell him if anything was coming. Immediately, he backed up his Jaguar into a lorry (British for a motor truck). When he reminded the Prince’s daughter, “I asked you to tell me if there was anything coming,” she replied, “But that wasn’t coming. That was there all the time.”

Both Cedric Hardwicke and Ralph Richardson loved automobiles. Mr. Hardwicke once bought a new Bentley just so he could “avoid feeling underprivileged in the presence of Ralph Richardson.” Sometimes Mr. Hardwicke would take Mr. Richardson out driving, and Mr. Richardson would shout, “Go on! Faster! Faster! You’re not frightening me yet!”

Owen Cooper was loyal to his state of Mississippi. Once, he and country comedian Jerry Clower were driving from Tennessee back to Mississippi. Mr. Cooper was almost out of gas, but when Mr. Clower mentioned that fact to him, he replied, “I’m trying to make it back to Mississippi because my state will get several cents a gallon.”

As a young, impoverished actor, Harry H. Corbett traveled with a troupe in a very old truck. Frequently, the police would pull over the truck and order it to be repaired in a shop. The mechanics would do what they could, but on the bill they would write, “We are no longer responsible for the state of this vehicle.”

When teenager Evelyn Cornwall (later, she changed her name to Lyn St. James) tore down and rebuilt her first car, she had a bucket of parts left over. This made her feel bad — until another mechanic told her, “It happens all the time.” Later, she became only the second woman to drive a car in the Indianapolis 500.

Author Joel Perry once parked his car at a place where there were no parking meters. He did notice a number of holes dug in the earth by the curb but thought nothing of them. When he returned to his car, he discovered that the holes had been used to put in parking meters and he had received a parking ticket.

At the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, American gymnast Mary Lou Retton won five medals. Afterwards, the 16-year-old looked forward to getting her driver’s license. However, because Ms. Retton is only 4-feet-9, her father said, “She’ll have to sit on a cushion; she can’t even reach the gas pedal.”

Michael Bennett helped create A Chorus Line and treated himself to a Rolls Royce after it became a success. However, he soon switched to driving a regular car again. He complained, “Every pot hole in the city destroyed my Rolls. It was always in the shop being repaired.”

Early in her gymnastics career, Svetlana Boginskaya was given two cars. However, she was too busy to learn how to drive, so she gave both cars away. One she gave to her brother; the other to her parents.

Johnny Carson once told his Tonight Show audience that he disliked taking taxis and had walked to work that day. He also said, “A cabbie drove by giving me a peace sign — half of which I returned.”

“The President asked the Japanese, ‘Why don’t you buy more American cars?’ The Japanese answered, ‘Why don’t you buy more American cars?’” — Bill Maher.

While traveling in Ireland, Peg Bracken rode in a car behind a bus bearing this difficult-to-read sign: “To Read This Sign, Hold Bus Upside Down.”

“The road was slippery/curve was sharp/white robe, halo/wings and harp/Burma-Shave.” — a Burma-Shave sign.

“Heaven’s latest/neophyte/signaled/left then/turned right/Burma-Shave.” — a Burma-Shave sign.

“I’m laying my treasures up in heaven … just look at my car.” — bumper sticker.

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