RANDOM ANECDOTES NO. 4

             In his movies, John Wayne usually portrayed a man of few words. He was that way in real life, too; and on one occasion I experienced it firsthand. I was representing Junior Achievement of Canada at a Junior Achievement of America fund raiser in Washington, D.C. John Wayne was the guest speaker. His topic was listed as Volunteerism. After an unnecessarily lengthy introduction by a US Congressman, Wayne ambled up to the lectern, leaned into the microphone, and said, “Volunteering isn’t something you talk about; it’s something you do.” He then went and sat down. At first, the stunned audience didn’t quite know how to react, but quickly realizing that those ten words really said it all, and that we would never forget his message, we gave him a standing ovation.

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             In addition to his wonderful hockey skills, Bobby Hull was known for his prodigious strength. One summer evening, Bobby, his promotions manager Lester Stanford, and I were walking along a street in mid-town Toronto where there was some construction going on. There were unusual looking concrete forms laid out on the edge of the sidewalk. They were about ten inches wide, ten or twelve feet long and about an inch thick. Bobby stopped and said, “I wonder what those look like on the other side.”  Lester and I each took an end of one and were struggling to turn it over when Lester said, “Lyman, for God’s sake, look!” I turned to see Bobby, with his arms extended straight above his head, holding one of the forms while he casually examined the underside.

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             The foregoing anecdote notwithstanding, I’m not sure Hull’s feat was the greatest show of strength I ever witnessed. Lorne Keefe was a legendary PEI strong man. My colleague Mark Ladner and I were walking down Richmond Street in Charlottetown, each toting a briefcase full of files and documents, when we saw Lorne coming toward us carrying two bags of cement, the total weight of which would be at least one hundred and fifty pounds. Mark said, “Let’s stop and talk to Lorne and see how long it’ll be before he puts down the cement.” We talked long enough that Mark and I had to set down our briefcases while Lorne still effortlessly held the two bags of cement. He was still holding them when Mark and I ran out of things to talk to him about, picked up our briefcases and continued on our way.

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             One evening Bobby Hull and I somehow found ourselves at a palm reader’s on the south side of Chicago.  Although I took a pass, Bobby readily coughed up the money for a reading. The palmist would point to a line on his hand, make a dramatic prediction, and then even more dramatically ask, “Do you know what that line is?” Bobby invariably admitted he didn’t, and she invariably gave a long description of what manner of life line it was. However, after making some lengthy and profound prophecy based on her reading of a line on his hand that I knew from examining my own hand that I didn’t have, she again asked him if he knew what that line was. This time, Bobby replied, “Yeah, I know this one. That’s where Johnny Bucyk stepped on my hand one night in Boston.”

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                 Not even all his fans were aware that the late John Allan Cameron was a very well educated man with an incredible command of the English language. (He also spoke Latin fluently). He was performing at the famous Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto. A drunk sitting at a front- row-centre table was giving him a hard time. John Allan finally stopped in the middle of a song, gestured to the band to stop playing, leaned down, and said to the drunk, “Do you know what you are?” The drunk replied in a smart-alecky voice, “No, what am I?” John Allan said, “You’re a contumacious recidivist.” The drunk (as I’m sure was the case with the majority of the crowd) having no idea whether he’d been praised or insulted, shut up for the rest of the night. I readily confess that the first thing I did when I got home that night was to get out my dictionary.

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             I had just finished negotiating a new recording contract with Warner Brothers for the Canadian country singer George Fox. Stan Kulin, the president of Warner Canada, shook hands with George and said, “We’re really looking forward to advancing your career, George.” George replied, “Well, if you can be half as successful with me as you were with Bugs Bunny I’ll be very pleased.” (Thanks to my good friend, singer- songwriter Paul Grady, for reminding me about this.)

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A TALE TO WARM YOUR HEART

JOKES HAVE NO PLACE IN SPEECHES