In 1951, Red Skelton and a party of friends flew to Europe, where Skelton was to appear at the London Palladium.
As they were flying over the Swiss Alps, three of the airplane’s engines failed. The situation looked very grave and the passengers began to pray. Skelton went into one of his best comic routines to distract them from the emergency as the plane lost altitude, coming closer and closer to the ominous-looking mountains. At the last moment, the pilot spied a large field among the precipitous slopes and made a perfect landing.
Skelton broke the relieved silence by saying, “Now, ladies and gentlemen, you may return to all the evil habits you gave up twenty minutes ago.”
George Shearing (1919 – 2011) was a British piano virtuoso who overcame blindness to become a worldwide jazz star, and whose composition “Lullaby of Birdland” became an enduring jazz standard. He had been blind from birth
One afternoon, at rush hour, Shearing was waiting at a busy intersection for someone to take him across the street when another blind man tapped him on the shoulder and asked if Shearing would mind helping him to get across.
“What could I do?” said Shearing afterward. “I took him across and it was the biggest thrill of my life.”
Asked by an admirer whether he had been blind all his life, Shearing replied. “Not yet.”
William Tecumseh Sherman:
After the Mexican War (1846 – 1848), Sherman (later a general in the American Civil War) was sent by President Zachary Taylor to survey the newly acquired lands of New Mexico, Arizona, and California.
On his return, Taylor asked Sherman: “Well, Captain, will our new possessions pay for the blood and treasure spent in the war?”
Recalling the arid lands he had just explored, Sherman replied, “Between you and me, General, I feel that we’ll have to go to war again.”
Taylor was aghast. “What for?” “What for?” he asked.
“To make ’em take the darnn country back!” said Sherman.
Blake Edwards, who directed Sellers in the “Pink Panther” films, did not find him the easiest person to work with. One night, having wasted an entire day on one particular scene, Edwards was awakened by a phone call from Peter. “I just talked to God,” he said excitedly, “and He told me how to do it.”
The following day, Edwards set the cameras rolling to capture the results of Sellers’ divine inspiration. The results were disastrous.
“Peter,” sighed the harassed director, “next time you talk to God, tell Him to stay out of show business.”
When philosopher, essayist, poet, and novelist Santayana came into a sizable legacy, he was able to relinquish his post on the Harvard faculty. The classroom was packed for his final appearance and Santayana did himself proud.
He was about to conclude his remarks when he caught sight of a forsythia beginning to blossom in a patch of muddy snow outside the window. He stopped abruptly, picked up his hat, gloves, and walking stick, and made for the door.
There he turned.
“Gentlemen,” he said softly, ” I shall not be able to finish that sentence. I have just discovered that I have an appointment with April.”
Before retiring to bed, Roosevelt and his friend the naturalist William Beebe would go out and look at the skies, searching for a tiny patch of light near the constellation of Pegasus.
“That is the Spiral Galaxy in Andromeda,” they would chant. “It is as large as our Milky Way. It is one of a hundred million galaxies. It consists of one hundred billion suns, each larger than our sun.”
Then Roosevelt would turn to his companion and say, “Now I think we are small enough. Let’s go to bed.”