Valentine vignettes

Some Valentine’s Day trivia that shows another side of the ‘lovers’ holiday’

Illustration By Carey Wilson

Ah, romance. Ah, ha ha.

If you give your love only one gift on Valentine’s Day, remember laughs are cheaper than chocolates. Consider:

· To offer thanks for his fiancée’s recovery from a life-threatening illness, a Brazilian man walked penance halfway across the country, lugging a large cross on his back. While he was gone, his fiancée married another man.

· Heinrich Heine, the 18th-century German poet, left everything he owned to his wife when he died, on one condition: She had to get remarried. That way, Heine said, “There will be at least one man who will regret my death.”

· Clark Gable did not want to star with Jeanette MacDonald in the film San Francisco but was forced into it by studio bosses. For revenge, Gable ate something before their first screen kiss: garlic.

· Movie star W. C. Fields was so suspicious of his girlfriends that he hired detectives to follow them and see if they were cheating on him. One was: She married the detective who was tailing her.

Illustration By Carey Wilson

· When Angelina Jolie married Billy Bob Thornton, they both wore vials of each other’s blood around their necks.

· Composer Frederic Chopin was put off by the woman writer with the man’s name, George Sand. “What a repellent woman that Sand is,” Chopin said. “Is she really a woman? I am very much inclined to doubt it.” You probably won’t be surprised to learn that Chopin and Sand then had a torrid affair.

· In the 1800s, when some Africans saw European colonists kissing, they thought the men were threatening the women with cannibalism because smooching reminded them of the way snakes would tongue victims before dining upon them.

· When high heels were invented in France in 1590, they were worn by men to assume a position of power over other men. Men soon found that dominance was difficult to maintain when you were falling down every other step. So high heels were passed to women, where they became a symbol of sexual subservience. Upper-class women wore heels to demonstrate that they were too rich to have to move.

· In Alexandria in the 2nd century a law prohibited women from tricking men into marriage by applying makeup. In our age, men trick women into marriage by asking them.

· In 1963 the producers of a movie called Four for Texas, starring Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack, screen-tested actresses in the nude, then shot nude scenes with the actresses who won the roles. The producers knew censors would cut out the nude scenes, which had nothing to do with the movie, before the film was released.

· An Englishman followed his 224-pound wife up the stairs one night in 1903. She lost her balance and fell backward. She hit her head on the floor and died instantly. Her husband lay trapped under her body for three days. By the time friends found them, he had also died.

Illustration By Carey Wilson

· A New Jersey man choked to death on a sequined pastie he had removed with his teeth from an exotic dancer’s costume. “I didn’t think he was going to eat it,” the dancer told police. “He was really drunk.”

· Ethereal dancer Isadora Duncan made Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw a proposition: that they have a baby together. “With my body and your brains,” she said, “what a wonder it would be.” Shaw turned Isadora down, explaining, “But what if it had my body and your brains?”

· “You see an awful lot of smart guys with dumb women, but you hardly ever see a smart woman with a dumb guy,” observed writer Erica Jong.

· Is it dumber to marry for love or money? If you marry for love, your condition can be cured. People who are in love eventually won’t be. So it’s smarter to marry for money, as long as you remember the first rule: Get the money up front. For as surely as you marry for money, you will be traded in for the same reason. Being rich means never having to say: Can I afford the new model, the one with the shinier gadgets?

· Ava Gardner about ex-husband Frank Sinatra after the singer married the svelte Mia Farrow: “I always knew he’d end up in bed with a boy.”

· In 1977 an English woman impulsively kissed a painting in an art museum. “I only kissed it to cheer it up,” she explained. “It looked so cold.” It cost the museum $1,260 to remove her lipstick from the canvas. Has a beautiful stranger ever kissed you impulsively in a museum? Probably not. Which indicates that paintings are more likely to find love than you are.

· When silent-screen star Rudolph Valentino died young in 1926, a New York woman shot herself, an English actress poisoned herself, and two Japanese women committed suicide by volcano. None of these women had ever met Valentino. They had fallen for him in the movies.

Illustration By Carey Wilson

· Sigmund Freud’s wife Martha put the toothpaste on the toothbrush for her husband each night. Symbolic, Dr. Freud?

· Ernest Hemingway was allergic to strawberries but believed he could overcome the allergy by having sex before he ate them. Can you imagine the choice a polite hostess faced if she invited the writer for dinner and served strawberries for dessert? Did Emily Post have anything to say about how to handle that situation?

· When millionaire Howard Hughes married movie star Jean Peters, he wouldn’t let her shave her legs, so all her publicity photos had to be retouched.

· Katharine Hepburn had a clear-eyed view of love: “I often wonder whether men and women really suit each other. Perhaps they should live next door and just visit now and then.”

· Football legend Paul Hornung, asked why he got married in the morning, replied: “Because if it doesn’t work out, I don’t want to blow the whole day.”

· A censor from the film board objected to a scene of Marilyn Monroe and Yves Montand rolling around on a bed in the movie Let’s Make Love, explaining that because both actors were horizontal it was too much like … making love.

“Oh, that,” Marilyn pointed out. “You can do that standing up.”

Illustration By Carey Wilson

The scene stayed, but the censor was too embarrassed to stick around.

· Lady Caroline Lamb, the Madonna of the 1800s, surprised her husband on his birthday (he was prime minister of England) by having herself served naked as a banquet dish.

· The philosophy of France’s most beloved cabaret singer, Edith Piaf: “You know more about a guy in one night in bed than you do in months of conversation. In the sack, they can’t cheat.”

· Looking for that unique romantic gift for Valentine’s Day. How about keeping your sweetheart warm on those cold February nights with breath-powered foot-warmers, fashioned from tubes that ran inside your shirt, then down each pant leg. Or a two-person topcoat for snuggling on cold days. Or a machine for electroplating corpses that coated your loved one in copper so you could put him on display in his favorite easy chair.

Though romantically useless, all these inventions won U.S. patents.

· And finally, this Valentine’s Day reminder: Movie star Joan Crawford was married four times, each time for four years. Each time she married a new man, she had new toilet seats installed throughout her mansion.

Ah, true romance.

Bob Fenster is the author of Duh: The Stupid History of the Human Race and They Did What!? The Funny, Weird, Wonderful, Outrageous and Stupid Things Famous People Have Done. Contact him at