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Archive for February, 2011

On a hot day in Denver, Colorado a friend entered the Chambers of Judge Ben Lindsey to find him sipping a cup of steaming cup of coffee. ‘Why don’t you try something cooling Judge? He asked ‘Have you ever tried chilled gin and ginger ale?’ To this Judge Lindsey replied, ‘but I’ve tried a lot of fellows who have.’
2.
When Oliver Wendell Holmes was still in the US Supreme Court Bench, he and Justice Brandeis took walks every afternoon. On one of these occasions Holmes then 92, paused to gaze in frank admiration at a beautiful girl who passed them. He even turned to look at her as she continued down the street. Then turning to Brandeis he sighed, ‘Ah, what wouldn’t I give to be seventy again!’
3.
Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black in his sixties was one of the most avid tennis players in Washington. ‘Don’t you think six sets of tennis in one day is too much for a man of 66?’ one of his friends asked him.
‘When I was 40,’replied Justice Black, ‘my doctors advised me that a man in his 40s shouldn’t play tennis. I heeded his advice carefully and could hardly wait until I reached 50 to start again.’
4.
When a lawyer asked US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall’s personal advice because he had reached ‘the acme of judicial distinction’ Marshall interrupted. He said, ‘Let me tell you what that means, young man. The acme of judicial distinction means the ability to look a lawyer straight in the eye for two hours and not hear a damned word he says.’ (quoted by Albert Beveridge)
5.
CP Ramaswamy Iyer one of the most brilliant lawyers in India (and later a Dewan of the State of Travancore) declined an offer of a judgeship early in his career. When asked why he wrote to the Chief Justice that he preferred ‘to talk nonsense for a few hours each day rather than hear nonsense all day long.’
benny

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When Bidú Sayao, the Brazilian coloratura came to New York to sign an operatic contract An American impresario all but had her signature on the contract. He was thwarted however by Mama Sayao who kept whispering into her ear. The diva constantly shook her head and the producer kept raising his offer. Again Mama Sayao, who spoke no English whispered and the Impresario who had reached his limit simply threw his hands to say, ‘Miss Sayao that is my best offer, I simply cannot go higher. Either you sign at this figure or the contract is off.’
‘But certainly!’ Bidú smiled, ‘Of course I sign.’ As soon as the contract was signed Mama again plucked the sleeve of her daughter to whisper. Miss Sayao blushed and stammered ‘My mother wants to know, please-where is the ladies room?’(Ack: Jack Harding-I Love Brazil/Bobbs Merrill)
benny

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Will Rogers (1879-1935) comic,
William Penn Adair Rogers or Will Rogers became a media sensation from humble beginnings. He grew up on a ranch in Indian Territory in what is now Oklahoma. After a few years as a rancher and cowboy he made it to vaudeville. His folksy humor and rope tricks made people take note and in 1915 he signed on with the Ziegfield Follies. In five years Rogers was a movie star, radio star and successful newspaper columnist. During the 20’s this cowboy-philosopher was a national icon whose witticisms were widely quoted in the press. Rogers is still famous for saying “I only know what I read in the newspaper” and “I never met a man I didn’t like.” He was killed in 1935 with pilot Wiley Post when their plane crashed in Alaska.
Anecdotes:
Once at a dinner in New York he was the toastmaster and each speaker for the occasion was allowed 8 minutes to speak. The first two speakers got off within time allotted but the third rambled on. After 45 minutes he hastily broke off and apologized,’ Mr. Toast-master I am sorry if I overstayed my time, but I kept my watch at home.’
Roger hunched forward and said calmly, ‘There was a calendar right behind you.’ (Eddie Cantor)
2.
Just before he left for a White House dinner one of Will Roger’s friends made a bet with him that he could not make the dour Cal laugh in two minutes.
‘I’ll bet he laughs in 20 seconds,’ answered Will.
‘Mr. Coolidge, I want to introduce Mr. Will Rogers.’ Will held his hand out looked confused and said, ‘Excuse me, I didn’t quite get the name.’ Will won the bet.
3.
During the White House dinner Mrs. Coolidge said there was only one person who could do a better impersonation of Cal than Will-and that was herself. When asked to demonstrate she went into a monologue that won Will’s applause.
‘Yes, that’s mighty fine, Mrs. Coolidge,’ conceded the cowboy-philosopher,’think what you had to go through to learn it.’
4.
The film ‘State Fair’ was a very satisfying experience for him. He had a prize boar to work with. He got along well with Blue Boar. On the last day of shooting, the Studio suggested that he buy the boar for the family larder. Rogers declined. His excuse was ‘ I wouldn’t feel right eatin’ a fellow actor.’
5.
At the dedication of the Coolidge Dam in Arizona ,in 1930 the Master of Ceremonies was Will Rogers. Arizona has been under acute drought conditions and Wiil scanned San Carlos Lake now a sea of grass and he remarked, ‘If that was my lake, I’d mow it.”
6.
A piano manufacturer tried to get a testimonial from Will Rogers for his piano. Rogers who never endorsed a product unless he really believed in wrote this letter to the firm. ‘Dear Sirs, I guess your pianos are the best I ever leaned against . Yours truly, Will Rogers.’
7.
During an interview with President Harding comic Will Rogers said,’ ‘I’d like to tell you all the latest jokes, Mr. President.’
‘You don’t have to’, Harding answered, ‘I appointed them all to office.’
benny

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Dag Hammarskjöld (1905-1961)
‘He died as he had lived-gallantly, unselfishly in the service of the highest ideals of humanity’ the tribute he paid to Trygve Lie, his compatriot on 17th Sept,1948 could be applied to himself. Dag was killed thirteen years later on that same day in a plane crash near Nbola in Zambia and he died in harness- he was en route to negotiate a ceasefire in Katanga.
Brought in as a quiet administrator Dag gave the post of Secretary-general (1953-1961)the stamp of moral magistracy it needed with the Cold War very much crackling all along the globe where the USA and Soviet Russia were trying to make the organization toe their ideological standpoints.This moral ascendancy made him father figure among the new emerging nations of Africa and Asia. His belief in equality of man regardless of color and creed was patent, a belief inherited from scholars and clergymen on his mother’s side.Hs mother had a radically democratic view of fellow human beings and his autobiography reflects his profound view of mankind.’The road inwards can become a road outwards.’
Dag was born in Sweden on 29th July1905, of a distinguished and stern father who was the Prime Minister during the WWI. The moral stamp that he bore from his parents was colored by his love for his country and character given to introspection. His resilience and diplomatic skills were sorely tested during the negotiations with Choe-en-Lai over the release of US. Airmen. On one occasion he observed, ‘If I observe myself in circuitous terms it is nothing compared to Chou.’The one typical of the inscrutability of the Chinese mandarin class and the other descended from the Swedish aristocrats got along well. No conclusion was reached after the initial talks and six months later on his birthday word reached that the Chinese Premier was releasing the US airmen for his sake. It was the beginning of the legend, ‘Leave it to Dag.’ The middle East crisis of 56-57 showed the role of UN where the Organization filled the vacuum while the dispute was discussed across the table. His theory of ‘filling the Vacuum’ has since been adopted with varying degree of success. He coaxed Gamal Nasser into accepting UNEF which kept the peace for 10 years. He declared in reply to a threat that UN was more for the protection of smaller nations that of the Big Powers. His attention was taken up by instability among African countries and he sent a UN force to Congo and subsequently to Katanga after the province had seceded. When he died he was flying to meet Tshombe. Hammarskjöld brought to his role of peace-keeper an unprecedented subtlety of method, a new insight into the problems facing the world where he kept himself above and his approach gave an international morality a tangible shape in the way nations could sit together to sort out their problems.
benny

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Alexander Woolcott (1887-1943)
He was one of the most quoted men of his generation. Woolcott dismissed Los Angeles area as “Seven suburbs in search of a city” — a quip often attributed to his friend Dorothy Parker: Of Harold Ross the editor of The New Yorker, “He looks like a dishonest Abe Lincoln.”
Woollcott was renowned for his savage tongue. He dismissed a notable wit and pianist: “There is absolutely nothing wrong with Oscar Levant that a miracle can’t fix.” He greeted friends: “Hello, Repulsive.” He submitted the shortest theatrical review in history: in his review of the Broadway show Wham!, he simply wrote “Ouch.” When a waiter asked him to repeat his order, he demanded “Muffin filled with pus.”
His judgments were frequently eccentric. Rating emotions over balanced judgment, he figuratively tossed hat in air over favored plays and performers. Catherine Cornell the actress for instance always received favorable notices. He was wrong about Proust (Dorothy Parker once said: “I remember hearing Woollcott say reading Proust is like lying in someone else’s dirty bath water. ) Wolcott Gibbs , who often edited Woollcott’s work at The New Yorker, was quoted by James Thurber in his book The years with Ross on Woollcott’s writing:
“Shouts and Murmurs” was about the strangest copy I ever edited. You could take every other sentence out without changing the sense a particle. …I guess he was one of the most dreadful writers who ever existed.
He tried his hand at acting and was spoofed by George S.Kaufman and Moss Hart (1904-1961) in their play, ‘The Man who came to Dinner’ and also starred as Sheridan Whiteside (1940)
Anecdotes:
Alexander Woolcott once asked Moss Hart to drive him to Newark to fulfill a lecture date.
‘I’ll do it.’ The playwright agreed,’ if you will let me sit on audience. I was once an assistant in a bookshop in Newark and I’d like to show them I am a big shot now.
Alexander delivered his lecture without making the slightest reference to Hart who fidgeted in his chair behind the rostrum, then said he in conclusion, ‘Tonight I’ll dispense with my usual question period. I am sure you all want to know the same thing: ‘Who is this foolish looking young man here on the platform.’
With that he retired leaving Hart to get out of that hall as best as he could.’ (ack: Bennet Cerf)
2.
Alexnder Woolcott went to France during WWI as a sergeant in a medical corps unit and then moved a dismal camp near Le Mans. The men lived in leaky tents with mud and puddles of rain under their rickety camp beds. Woolcott luckily was moved the Paris office of the US army newspaper. ‘Stars ad Stripes.’ Sgt.Woolcott spent rest of the war in luxurious living, dining nightly at the Ritz entertaining friends. When the armistice came he sailed for home on a troop transport where he met a comrade from the old medical camp at Le Mans.
‘You made an awful mistake leaving our unit when you did.’the soldier said.
‘Why?’ Woolcott asked.
‘The week after you left,’ the soldier said, ‘they put wooden floors in our tents.’
Alexander Woolcott carried drama criticisms to the masses and appeared regularly in NBC radio shows and his wild enthusiasm made theatre as exciting as baseball to great many Americans of his generation.
Admirers at the Algonquin Round Table dubbed him as ‘the smartest of the Alecs.’
benny

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Dorothy Parker (1893-1967)
Poet, wit

A woman who can come up with bon mots like ‘Brevity was the soul of lingerie,’ or’ Men seldom make pass at girls who wear glasses,’ must have had lively company and will not settle for a house in the suburbs changing diapers or fetching shoes for her ‘man in gray flannel suit.’ Dorothy Parker born of a Jewish father and a Scottish mother was a member of the Algonquin Round Table set. She could hold her own with literary heavyweights like George S. Kaufman, Alexander Woolcott, Ring Lardner, Ogden Nash and the like. She definitely settled down but married thrice, twice to the same man. She wrote copies for Vogue at $10 a week and also reported Spanish civil war, wrote short stories and Hollywood film scripts. She lived to the last, an exception to the general role of a woman as species, ‘short on logic and long on window-shopping’. Before her death she bequeathed most of her estate to Martin Luther King.
Anecdotes:
Dorothy Parker once bumped into a lady in the doorway of ’21’. She stepped back and motioned for for Dorothy to exit first, saying, “Age before beauty.” Pat came her retort, ”Pearls before swine”as she went out.
2.
Once at the Round Table, Alexander Woolcott called Franklin P. Adam, “You goddamn Christ Killer”. As he had intended the company laughed. Dorothy Parker who was half Jew and who had tried to hide the fact, said nothing. Kaufman taking note of her silence, and in mock fury said, “I’ve heard enough slur on my race. I am now leaving this table, this dining room, and this hotel.” A pause. Looking at Mrs. Parker he added, “and I trust that Mrs. Parker will walk out with me, half- way.”
benny

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In 1856 WM Thackeray the author of Vanity Fair, visited the US for his second series of lectures. In St. Louis in between lectures he took time out to sample the local color. While dining at the Barnum’s Hotel he overheard one Irish waiter telling another in awe,’Do you know who that is?’
‘No’ came the answer.
‘That is the celebrated Thacker!’replied the first waiter gloating in his knowledge.
‘What’s he done?’
‘Damned if I know!’
2.
Benjamin Jowett of Oxford was one of its lions and no visit to Oxford was complete without seeing him. Many out -of- towners had their wish fulfilled to catch a glimpse of the famous professor.
At a time when Jowett was busy translating Plato one found his study overlooked into the Bond Street.
Once he brought in a small crowd of gawks and pointing to the window above and said,’This ladies and gentlemen is Balliol College. One of the holdest in the huniversity, and and famous for its herudite of its scholars. The ‘ead of Balliol College is called the Master. The present Master of the College is the most celebrated Professor Benjamin Jowett, Regius Professor of Greek.’ Pointing to the study windows the Cockney stooped down to take a handful of gravel and said in glee, ‘There’ and he threw the gravel against the panes bringing a livid professor to the window. The ruffian announced proudly,’ladies and gentlemen, the Professor Benjamin Jowett himself!’

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