Famous People and
Leonard Da Vinci
FORTUNE examines business
leaders and artists who have gone beyond the limitations of
Others: Robin Williams,
Ann Bancroft, Arctic Explorer, Alexander Graham
Bell, Michael Faraday, George Patton, Cher, John Lennon,
Muhammad Ali, World Heavyweight (Champion Boxer), Magic Johnson,
Greg Louganis, Steve Redgrave -
Olympic Gold Medalist (rowing),
King Carl XVI
Gustaf of Sweden,
Thomas Jefferson,John F. Kennedy,
Hewlett, Co-Founder, Hewlett-Packard,
Henry Ford, F. Scott Fitzgerald,
Gustave Flaubert, Agatha
It may be hard to believe that one of the world's most famous
actors was once just as average as everyone else, but such was the
case with Tom Cruise. Tom was born Thomas Cruise Mapother IV, on
July 3, 1962 in Syracuse, New York. He was the third of four
children, and the only son of Mary Lee and Thomas Mapother. Tom's
father, an electrical engineer, was constantly looking for work
during Tom's childhood. As a result, Tom and the rest of his
family never had the opportunity to settle down in one place.
Their constant moving around was hard on the family, and
especially hard on Tom.
Not long after settling into Glen Ridge, NJ, Tom's parents
divorced. Tom's mother was given custody of the children, and the
tight economic situation became even tighter for the family. With
no older brothers, Tom was now the oldest man in the house,
although still only a 12-year-old boy. In addition to problems at
home, being dyslexic was yet another obstacle standing in the way
of Tom's education. Not excelling in school, Tom entered a
seminary for the priesthood at the age of 14. Tom left not long
afterwards, and enrolled in Glen Ridge High School.
Tom continued to struggle academically during his high school
years. Before ever seriously considering acting in high school,
Tom joined the wrestling team there. However, after suffering a
serious injury he decided to do something else. That something
else was acting. Tom would act in two high school musicals before
graduating from high school in 1980.
back to top
He told me that his teachers reported that . . . he was mentally
slow, unsociable, and adrift forever in his foolish dreams.
--Hans Albert Einstein, on his father, Albert Einstein
In school, his teaching staff described Albert in less than
stellar terms. Apparently nothing came easily, except, I suppose,
Physics, when he finally got there. In the meantime, he could not
remember the time's tables, he couldn't read very well, and
spelling defeated him. Sounds familiar. It was even suggested that
Albert might be mentally handicapped.
hen he was 12, Albert taught himself Euclidean geometry, and came
up with a totally unique proof for the Pythagorean theorem.
Einstein had great difficulty in school. He hated the dull and
unimaginative spirit at the school in Munich. It is also said the
Mr. Einstein was dyslexic. When he was 15, his family moved to
Italy, and a year later, he left to make his own way in the world.
He arrived in Switzerland, where he attended school in Arrau. Once
again, Einstein was dissatisfied with the instruction there, and
frequently cut class. With the time away from class, he studied
physics on his own and played his beloved violin. In 1900, he
passed his final examinations by studying the notes of a
classmate. His professor, however, did not recommend him for a
business leaders and artists who have gone beyond the limitations
Sunday, April 28, 2002
By Betsy Morris
Consider the following four dead-end kids.
One was spanked by his teachers for bad grades and a poor
attitude. He dropped out of school at 16. Another failed remedial
English and came perilously close to flunking out of college. The
third feared he'd never make it through school--and might not have
without a tutor. The last finally learned to read in third grade,
devouring Marvel comics, whose pictures provided clues to help him
untangle the words.
These four losers are, respectively, Richard Branson, Charles
Schwab, John Chambers, and David Boies. Billionaire Branson
developed one of Britain's top brands with Virgin Records and
Virgin Atlantic Airways. Schwab virtually created the discount
brokerage business. Chambers is CEO of Cisco. Boies is a
celebrated trial attorney, best known as the guy who beat
In one of the stranger bits of business trivia, they have
something in common: They are all dyslexic. So is billionaire
Craig McCaw, who pioneered the cellular industry; John Reed, who
led Citibank to the top of banking; Donald Winkler, who until
recently headed Ford Financial; Gaston Caperton, former governor
of West Virginia and now head of the College Board; Paul Orfalea,
founder of Kinko's; Diane Swonk, chief economist of Bank One. The
list goes on (see table, Dyslexic Achievers). Many of these adults
seemed pretty hopeless as kids. All have been wildly successful in
business. Most have now begun to talk about their dyslexia as a
way to help children and parents cope with a condition that is
still widely misunderstood. "This is very painful to talk about,
even today," says Chambers. "The only reason I am talking about it
is 100% for the kids and their parents."
What exactly is dyslexia? The Everyman definition calls it a
reading disorder in which people jumble letters, confusing dog
with god, say, or box with pox. The exact cause is unclear;
scientists believe it has to do with the way a developing brain is
wired. Difficulty reading, spelling, and writing are typical
symptoms. But dyslexia often comes with one or more other learning
problems as well, including trouble with math, auditory
processing, organizational skills, and memory. No two dyslexics
are alike--each has his own set of weaknesses and strengths. About
5% to 6% of American public school children have been diagnosed
with a learning disability.
Actress and Activist
Whoopi Goldberg Date of birth: November 13, 1950
Goldberg was born Caryn Johnson in New York City and spent the
first years of her life in a public housing project in Manhattan.
She made her performing debut at age eight with the Helena
Rubinstein Children's Theatre at the Hudson Guild. After dropping
out of high school, she found work as a summer camp counselor, and
in the choruses of the Broadway shows Hair, Jesus Christ
Superstar and Pippin.
In 1974, after
a failed marriage, she moved to California with her young daughter
and, the following year, helped found the San Diego Repertory
Theatre and joined the improvisational theater group Spontaneous
Combustion. It was at this time that she adopted her distinctive
stage name and began to develop the character monologues that were
to make her famous. After moving to the San Francisco Bay Area,
she joined another improvisational group, the Blake Street
Hawkeyes, acquired a following for her work as a stand-up
comedian, and toured the U.S. and Europe with her one-woman
production, The Spook Show.
In 1983 the legendary director
Mike Nichols saw her perform and, the following year, presented
her on Broadway in a one-woman show of her own creation. The show
was an enormous success, and brought her to the attention of
Steven Spielberg, who cast her in the leading role in his film of
Alice Walker's The Color Purple. Making her film debut in
this coveted role instantly established her as one of Hollywood's
leading actresses. Her performance in Ghost won her an
Academy Award. She followed this with memorable performances in
the box-office smash Sister Act and the critically
acclaimed Robert Altman film, The Player. Her other film
credits include Made In America; Corinna, Corinna; Star Trek:
Generations and Boys on the Side. In addition to her
acting roles, Whoopi Goldberg has hosted her own television talk
show and has earned rave reviews for hosting the annual Academy
back to top
Life certainly has been a most excellent
With a resume of over 40 films, the 37-year-old actor regularly
turns down movie roles to go on the road with his alternative rock
band, Dogstar. Fortunately for
fans, Reeves completed back-to-back sequels for the franchise
prior to heading out on a summer tour.
While moviegoers will have to wait until next summer for
The Matrix Reloaded
and summer 2003 for
Reeves' latest film,
opens this month. Hardball tells the story of a
down-on-his-luck con artist who, in exchange for a loan from his
friend, agrees to coach a little league from an inner-city Chicago
housing project. The film is based on the book by Daniel Coyle and
and D. B. Sweeney.
Keanu, whose name means "cool breeze over the mountains" in
Hawaiian, was born in Beirut, Lebanon in 1964 to Patricia, a
showgirl, and Samuel Nowlin Reeves, a geologist. He was only two
when his parents divorced and his mother moved him and his younger
sister Kim to New York. Shortly thereafter, in search of a more
family friendly environment, they moved again - this time to
Due to dyslexia, Reeves was never much of an academic, but
quickly found that hockey was not only something that he loved,
but something he was good at. But then Reeves discovered a new
love - acting - and hockey took a back seat.
Against the advice of family and friends, Reeves dropped out of
Toronto's High-School for the Performing Arts to pursue an acting
In 1986, after a few stage plays and a handful of bit parts in
made-for-TV movies, Reeves landed his first big break. Bratpacker
Rob Lowe was in Toronto filming Youngblood, a hockey-themed
movie. Eager to put his hockey skills to use, Reeves snared a
supporting role. Youngblood was just the motivation Reeves
needed to give acting his best shot and after production wrapped
he left Toronto and headed for Hollywood.
Reeves' brooding good looks quickly landed him auditions and,
not long after, a role in River's Edge, co-starring
Reeves' performance in the morose teen drama caught the attention
of critics, but unfortunately the movie wasn't as well received by
Reeves immediately followed it up with an understated
performance in the period drama Dangerous Liaisons and went
on to play
bumbling boyfriend in the ensemble comedy Parenthood. But
it wasn't until his hilarious portrayal of a totally cool teen in
1989's Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure that Reeves
received widespread recognition.
It was an association Reeves tried unsuccessfully to shake with
subsequent roles, including that of a surfer FBI agent in Point
Break (1991), a narcoleptic male hustler in Gus Van Sant's
My Own Private Idaho (1991), a hapless lawyer who raises the
ire of the Count himself in Francis Ford Coppola's Dracula
(1992), an ill-mannered spoiler in a film version of Shakespeare's
Much Ado About Nothing (1993) and Prince Siddartha in
Bernardo Bertolucci's box office disaster, Little Buddha
In the 1994 mega-hit Speed, Reeves' turn as a heroic L.A.
police officer battling a maniacal bomb enthusiast (played by his
River's Edge co-star Dennis Hopper) cast a new light on the
type of role he could play. Reeves' save-the-day performance
opposite Sandra Bullock's damsel in distress helped Speed rake in
over $121 million and catapulted the previously underrated actor's
paycheck past the $10 million mark, making him a bona-fide action
Many questioned his decision to turn down $12 million for
Speed II, opting instead to go out on tour with his band. But
Reeves got the last laugh when the sequel about a runaway cruise
ship tanked. "The script I read sounded pretty ridiculous. I mean,
just how fast can an ocean liner go?" said Reeves about his
reasoning. "It hardly qualifies for speed."
In 1997, Reeves starred opposite
in The Devil's Advocate. His portrayal of an enthusiastic
young attorney who inadvertently chooses Satan as his mentor
(chillingly played by Pacino) cast Reeves opposite ingenue
with whom he would re-team on the tear-jerker Sweet November.
In 1999, lightening struck again for Reeves with the futuristic
cyber-thriller The Matrix, co-starring Laurence
With an intriguing man vs. computer plotline and eye-popping
digital effects, The Matrix earned over $170 million and
remains one of the top selling DVDs of all time.
Acting is what he does for a living, but it's not his life. He's
got a new CD in the works and several film projects to choose
from. Reeves may never shake his airhead Bill & Ted persona
entirely, but at least there's a whole new generation of fans will
think of him more as The Matrix's Neo than an adolescent
stoner. To that end, Reeves was reportedly paid $30 million for
both Matrix sequels plus 15 percent of the gross - and
that, dude, is excellent, most excellent.
British "bad boy"
actor and self-proclaimed "Mr. England" Oliver Reed, who appeared
in 108 films and television movies over his 41-year career, died
May 2nd, 1999 in the Malta capital of Valetta while completing the
film "The Gladiator". Reed, whose roles ranged from B-Horror films
to Dickens classics, was 61 years old.
Wimbledon, London, England on February 13th, 1938, Robert Oliver
Reed was the nephew of British film director Sir Carol Reed and
the grandson of legendary actor and agent Herbert Beerbohm Tree.
Reed's childhood was one he openly acknowledged as isolatory,
raised between divorced parents who ignored one another, as well
as Reed himself, who was sent as soon as feasible to boarding
schools. Reed suffered from dyslexia that went undiagnosed until
his late adulthood and performed poorly as a student, which found
him frequently punished both at home and at school. Reed did excel
at sports, and toward the end of his school days became a
competitive long distance runner. It was ultimately his physical
strength and size that got the young actor noticed and landed him
his first job at 17- as a bouncer at a burlesque club.
shrugged off assistance from his theatrical family members and
used his contacts as a bouncer to charm his way into bit parts and
walk-on roles in London films. In 1958 Reed made his first
credited film appearance in the movie "London Calling", which
helped the young hopeful secure regular work as a supporting actor
famous for its B-films and horror tales and launched careers for
cult horror icons Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. In 1961
Hammer did the same for 23-year-old Oliver Reed when he played the
starring role in "Curse
of the Werewolf".
dangerously close to being typecast as a man-beast both on and off
screen, his string of Hammer horror films casting him as
sociopaths and fiends as in "These Are The Damned" to literal
monsters. Off screen, Reed's behavior could rival that of his
outrageous film alter egos. He arrived in Galway Airport, Ireland,
passed out and drunk on a baggage carousel. In Madrid, while
shooting one of 5 films he appeared in during 1973, Reed stripped
naked in a hotel restaurant and dove into an aquarium. On that
occasion Reed was asked to leave the premises not for his
skinny-dipping communion with the hotel goldfish but for taking
part in a brawl. The ex-bouncer turned film star was famous for
his fisticuffs, a 1963 altercation leaving him with 36 stitches
closing an interesting assortment of facial lacerations.
remarkably rarely complained about the excesses and adventures
that went along with Reed, and he was never short of work,
maintaining an amazing ability to be a consummate and considerate
professional when the cameras rolled. Reeds films included some of
the most acclaimed in each of 4 decades, and showed the actor to
possess an unexpected versatility. Reed could play sensitive
swashbuckler "Athos" (a role he reprised 3 times in "The
3 Musketeers and its sequels) or
a comedic wild-west brigand in "Great Scout and Cathouse
Thursday". Reed could boast credit for the first full-frontal male
nudity in a feature film for his revealing role in the critically
in Love" and wreak laughter as
the alternately storming and simpering "God Vulcan" in Terry
Gilliam's 1989 hit "The
Adventures of Baron Munchausen".
Reed was as convincing as a God of the Forge twisted around the
finger of Uma Thurman's "Venus" as he was a fiendish and
despicable "Bill Sikes" in "Oliver!"
had been well into filming his role as ex-fighter turned trainer
"Proximo" in the Ridley Scott adventure "The
Gladiator" on the Isle of Malta
when he met his end, an end which moved his "Women In Love"
co-star Glenda Jackson to comment to the press that she was "very
sorry he was gone, but I think he probably went the way he would
Reed had been
relaxing at a Valetta pub between filming and suffered a fatal
heart attack after reputedly consuming 3 bottles of rum and
defeating 5 (much younger) Royal Navy sailors at arm wrestling.
Oliver Reed was 61 years old. He is survived by his 3rd wife,
Josephine Burge Reed, a son, Mark, and a daughter, Sarah, both
from earlier marriages.
back to top
Don't believe everything the
Night Court star says; he thrives on illusion and mystery.
(TV GUIDE--Al Martinez p.10-13,
Feb 9, 1985)
man with the slightly mussed hair is sitting at the judge's bench
on the set of Night Court, smiling. He smiles easily,
evoking the image of a little boy all dressed up in his daddy's
black judicial robe, having a very good time. A few moments
earlier he was throwing M&M's in the air and catching them in his
mouth. Wow, what fun!
Now, as a
particularly difficult scene is about to be shot for the third
time, he claps and says good naturedly, "Come on, gang, we have
the technology, we can make this funny!" And in a movement that is
barely discernible, prop lottery tickets appear suddenly in his
hand and almost just as suddenly disappear. The boyish man smiles
again, full of Sunday surprises and ice cream innocence.
His name is
Harry Anderson. He plays Judge Harold T. Stone on Night Court,
a second season NBC comedy that revolves around life after
dark in a Manhattan courtroom. Judge Stone is an amateur magician
who often wears a sweat shirt, jeans and sneakers under his
Anderson isn't too different from Stone. He is a practicing
magician and former street hustler who has elevated the art of the
shell game to the level of television performing in what he
considers the ultimate scam: making people think he is acting when
all he's doing is being himself. And even though he has given up
selling snake oil for the sake of TV stardom, he can still con
the socks right off your feet.
Some of the
people who put Night Court together aren't sure how much of
the 32-year-old actor is real and how much is illusion. Story
editors Stu Kreisman and Chris Cluess are among those who wonder
whether even Anderson's street background is what he says it is.
"I don't think anyone really knows except maybe his wife and his
dog," Cluess says.
"They'll tell the kid later," Kreisman adds.
They'll have to. The kid is Eva Fay, age 4, and she has seen daddy
take so many things out of her ear while performing magic around
the house that when she loses a shoe, the first place she checks
is her ear.
expertise at put on and illusion makes it difficult to separate
substance from shadow. He used to like to say he was raised by
lizards and then kidnapped by a band of gypsy comedians who held
him captive in an Atlantic City hotel room.
If what he
says is true, he's been on the streets off and on since he was
about 16 and has worked the shell game from New Orleans, where he
was arrested once, to San Francisco, where he gave up hustling
when an irate customer punched him in the jaw.
He was born in
Newport, R.I., and his parents were divorced early in his youth.
He spent his growing-up years living with both of them separately
as well as with other relatives.
father brought him to L.A.'s San Fernando Valley when he was a
teenager. His mother, who had lost custody of her son, followed to
be near him. When his father died, Anderson moved in with her
until his graduation from North Hollywood High.
Anderson is eating a grilled-cheese sandwich in the cafeteria of a
leased Hollywood studio just five blocks from his home. He usually
walks or bicycles to work.
with him are three other members of the cast: John Larroquette,
who plays assistant DA Dan Fielding; Selma Diamond, who plays
crusty, cigarette-smoking court matron Selma Hacker; and the
newest cast member, Ellen Foley, who plays public defender Billie
They all love
Anderson. Larroquette because he has a "nice National Lampoon
attitude"; Foley because he was helping her pass her driver's
license test that week, and Diamond because "he's just one of us."
She adds: "I give Harry a hug every morning, and I damned well
don't go around hugging just anybody"
As he eats,
Anderson talks about the eerie coincidences of personality and
character that bind him to the fictional Judge Stone. They are
both named Harry, they are both con artists in their way and they
both do card tricks to relax.
"All that was
already in the script before I even entered the
picture," Anderson says. "People think they wrote the script
especially for me. They didn't. But after I read it, I knew I was
coincidences are confirmed by executive producer Reinhold Weege.
"Harry walked into the first reading, introduced himself as a
magician as well as an actor and announced, 'I am Harry Stone',"
Weege recalls. "Then he proceeded to be the character."
the part from the beginning. In addition to feeling he was born
for the role, the show represented a chance to get off the road
and spend more time with his wife, Leslie, and their daughter. A
"day job," he calls it.
so certain. He knew, because of Anderson's appearances as Harry
the Hustler on Cheers, that the actor was being sought by
the other two networks. But Weege felt Anderson was too young and
possibly too inexperienced for the part of Judge Stone.
said the onetime producer of Barney Miller, "my gut told me
to go ahead with him anyhow, and I did."
Sweeps," a book about NBC, the authors say Anderson was failing on
the road and desperate for the television job. The actor scoffs.
thousand a year isn't exactly failing," he says. "That's what I
was making when Night Court came along. Was I desperate for
the role? Sure I wanted the job. But I was more desperate not to
fail than I was desperate to succeed. I just don't like failing."
another coincidence he
feels tied him from the
start to Judge Harry Stone. First he points out that in the pilot,
Judge Stone has the word "fun" tattooed on his shoulder. Then he
unbuttons his own shirt and exposes his left shoulder. The word
"fun" is tattooed there.
there for 10 years," Anderson insists. "Talk about being meant for
the role!" He zooms on to another subject like a magician blurring
his trick with speed, and only after being halted and returned to
the tattoo business does Anderson admit reluctantly that the word
"fun" was put there only after he saw it in the script.
the head-shaved giant who plays bailiff Bull Shannon, arches his
eyebrows. "I didn't know that," he says. "I thought the story was
This much is
reasonably certain. Anderson learned magic on the street and
combined it with a wicked sense of humor to create an act he took
to campuses, clubs and county fairs throughout the West when his
street career ended.
It was while
he was performing in one of the clubs—Hollywood's Magic Castle—
that he was spotted by an agent This led to a job in Las Vegas,
which led to appearances on Saturday Night Live, which led
Court was next.
"I have one
character," Anderson is saying later in the living room of his
home. "He happens to be a judge right now, but he's the same guy
I've always been playing. Any magician plays a role. I'm a
performer, not an actor.
"I walk around
before the show, have a cigarette, drink some coffee, chew some
gum, clear my throat, make sure my fly is up, get on camera and
let it happen."
He lives with
Leslie and Eva Fay in an old white stucco house on a hillside
overlooking Hollywood. The lawn is overgrown and the house needs
painting, but its charm is obvious. Inside, the living room is
crowded with a pool table, an old Wurlitzer jukebox, a barber
chair and an ancient nickel slot machine.
wearing jeans and T shirt, is showing a guest around the house
while discussing his latest effort to stay healthy.
just kicked beef and sugar," he says. "Beef was tough, but we're
better off without it." Having said that, he lights a cigarette.
Irony or put on?
simply grins, shrugs and replies that it is best not to allow the
mystique of the magician to be pierced by straight answers.
Illusion is his stock in trade. There is little question that he
is first a magician and second a television star. What he's doing,
he explains, is building a vast audience now for the time he
returns to the stage "with a smile and a deck of cards."
Anderson says, he would like the security of a hit show and the
"utter joy" of live audiences during the off season. "I don't see
a lifetime career as a television star," he adds, "but I do see a
lifetime career as a magician."
Halloween, he performed before a large audience in an ocean front
resort town. "I was the happiest guy in town. I ate a live guinea
pig and drove a bed of spikes through Leslie. It made me realize
how much I missed the road."
about that for a moment, then adds: "When Court ends, I don't see
myself going into another TV series. How much con can the world
that he even managed to con North Hollywood High into making him
class valedictorian in 1970. He did it, he says, by learning only
what he knew the teachers wanted and not a word more and by buying
synopses of books for book reports. Colleagues don't believe that.
They say he memorizes a script in one reading and is never
shrugs. "I'm not saying I'm dumb," he says. "Just quick."
Back on the
set, Anderson gives Ellen Foley a quick hug (it's only her second
appearance on the show and she's nervous), jokes with Larroquette
and mimics producer Jeff Melman, who is directing the episode, by
parodying the walk of an extra who is parodying the walk of the
Anderson's wife of seven years (it
is his second marriage, her first), a practicing mentalist, enjoys
her husband's impish sense of humor. It was that way from the
beginning, Leslie remembers:
"On our first
date, he said to me, 'Let me take you away from this place and I
will take you to another place very much like this place'." She
laughed and went with him. Six months later they were married.
seems nothing else to do on the set, Anderson drags out a
concertina and begins to play. He used to travel with a woolly
monkey, he explains, and taught himself to play the concertina,
the flute and the harmonica as part of his street act.
As he plays,
John Larroquette whistles along with him. They're good friends as
well as lighthearted pranksters. Anderson is known for his
practical jokes and Larroquette was the victim of one of them.
Anderson had convinced him at a stage show they were attending
together that a pretty actress wanted to meet Larroquette in her
dressing room. When Larroquette visited her after the show, the
startled actress knew nothing about it. Larroquette backed out
with sheepish apologies.
magician," a fellow illusionist says with a shrug. "He likes to
He is known
for opening his home to members of the cast and crew either for
lunch, special occasions or casual get-togethers. Most define the
gesture as an element of Anderson's friendly, open nature; though
at least one sees it as his desperate effort to be accepted, a
result of a childhood filled with upheaval.
Anderson says he doesn't know. He views those desultory growing up
years as neither sad nor happy. They simply brought him to where
he is now, believing that home and family are the most important
things in his world.
he says between takes, "that next to John Ritter, I am the
luckiest man in the world." He pauses, then adds: "No, /'m
the luckiest, he's just the richest."
Then he is
back on Judge Stone's bench, looking happy and boyish and causing
pieces of paper he holds in his hands to appear and disappear.
HARRY ANDERSON CUTS HIMSELF A DANDY DEAL AS NIGHT COURT'S
[People Magazine p.53-57, April
29, 1985, Cutler Durkee)
Harry Anderson, opportunity knocked-or more precisely threw a good
right hook-late one afternoon in San Francisco. Anderson, then
21, was running a street hustle-the old shell game-when a sore
loser became justifiably suspicious of the game's integrity. The
loser expressed his dissatisfaction, breaking Anderson's jaw. "I
spent six or seven weeks with my mouth wired shut and really
thought about what I was doing," says Harry. "I don't like to
sweat while I work, much less get beat up. There had to be an
easier way to make a living."
There was. Anderson reworked his
shell-game hustle into a comedy expose, a fast-patter,
sleight-of-hand marvel that delighted audiences without, in the
end, actually revealing anything about how the scams worked. Then
he would pass the hat. "I didn't make as much money, but the
longevity was better," says Anderson, whose new act took him from
street corners to college campuses and small clubs, then to
Saturday Night Live (eight times), Late Night with David
Letterman and NBC's Cheers, as the bar's house
hustler. That led to a starring role as a wiseacre judge in his
own NBC sitcom, Night Court, which has just been renewed
for its third season. "I don't think doing television can be
called going straight," says Anderson, 34. "I mean, how much can
anyone really work to earn that much money? There's a certain
element of swindle involved, but it's one of those wonderful
swindles where you don't have to run away."
Still, one senses unease. Anderson
is a man in love with flimflam. His natural arena is the carnival
midway, and to him a dollar honestly earned is somehow,
inevitably, tinged with disappointment. Onstage he dresses like a
'40s cardsharp; at home in the Los Feliz section of L.A. he
lovingly restores slot machines, magic props-including a 10-toot
guillotine-and old arcade games. "Nowadays most carnival
games are very difficult to win, but they're straight," says
Anderson. "It was better when they looked easy to win, but
there was no way. Things like Roll-a-Ball and Cover-the-Spot
are becoming a vanishing tradition." Ask about his childhood
influences, and Anderson mentions Bill the Three- Eyed Geek
("Actually he wasn't so much a Three-Eyed Geek as a Cleft Palate
Geek") and a host of oddball acquaintances who taught him to eat
glass, drive a spike up his nose and other tricks that leave
audiences both bemused and slightly green. You have to be tactful
when you push a skewer through your arm, he observes, or "people
don't want to watch."
Much in Anderson's childhood was
unusual, to say the least. His father was a salesman who was
rarely around. A few years ago, "I got a call to go to New Jersey
to pick up his body," says Harry. "I hadn't seen him in 15
years." To reports that his mother was a hooker, Anderson, one of
three children, responds, "She was a hustler, yeah; she did a lot
of things. We moved around a lot, and she had a lot of men
friends." Yet he vehemently rejects the notion that his home life
was a tragedy. "I respect my mother; she was very concerned with
taking care of us. She did what needed to be done to try to keep
us together. People find my criminal days amusing, but they find
her background shocking. I don't draw any line."
By 16 he had lived in a dozen
cities, including New York, St. Louis and Phoenix, and had finally
set up housekeeping on his own in Los Angeles. He attended North
Hollywood High while earning money with various street hustles.
After graduation he opened a small magic shop in Ashland, Oreg.
When that folded, he traveled with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival
for three years and there-met his wife, Leslie, 32, an actress and
magician. "She invented the ultimate pea," says Anderson,
referring to the object that shell-gamers shuttle around,. "It's
foam covered with latex." Leslie sells her peas to magicians.
Success for the former hat-passer
also means he no longer has to "pay for everything with quarters."
It has allowed him to get a credit rating, buy a house -and, he
jokes, "owe more money than I can ever repay." His extravagances
include a white Mustang convertible and several computers, one of
which Anderson, who is dyslexic, has been using to teach himself
to read at a normal pace. "Just me and my Apple 11 and friendly,
friendly software," says Harry, who notes that for years he
wouldn't admit that he had a problem. "Now I've reached the point
that I can give my daughter, Eva, a run for her money." Eva, 4,
also keeps Dad busy: Last year she had to be taken to the hospital
after she stuck one of his loaded dice up her nose. Recalls
Anderson, "The doctors kept taking bets on which side would be
When it comes to numbers, Anderson
himself is rooting for a five -- the number of years he figures
Night Court will have to last before he can bank enough
money to retire very, very young. "Five years and I'm gone," says
Anderson, gleefully imagining a life of plaid pants, croquet and,
okay, maybe a movie or two, like the remake of Nightmare Alley,
the 1947 Tyrone Power geek-feature that he wants to produce.
If he ever does amass such a stash, odds are the former hustler
will invest it with caution. As he invariably tells his audiences
at the end of his act, "Never eat at a place called 'Mom's,' and
never play cards with a guy called 'Pop.' And remember, always,
that a fool and his money were lucky to get together in the first
EVERYBODY'S A COMEDIAN
[People Magazine p.36, June 22,
Harry Anderson, the 36 year old
ever-youthful Night Court jester, has been in the parenting
business for six years. He lives with his wife, Leslie, and two
children in Los Angeles, California.
Having a child is the first
thing I ever did in my life that no one questioned the value of.
It;s something that you don't have to wonder whether it was
worthwhile or important because, well, the importance is pretty
My girl is Eva Fay Anderson and
she is 6. My son Dashiell, is 17 months. He's named after Dashiell
Hammett, and Eva Fay is named after Anna Eva Fay, who is the most
famous mentalist ever. My wife is a mentalist. She did a
mind-reading act for years. So we have one child named after a
witch and one named after a rummy old mystery writer.
Becoming a father mostly just
happens. I think it might be biochemical or glandular, but
something just happens, and you kick into a certain gear. You
automatically love the child. I don't think you have to make major
adjustments. I still drive spikes through my nose in my act. If
anything, having a child makes you want to live longer to see as
much of this development as possible. But that's something most
people want to do anyway.
I think for the first couple of
weeks the baby believes it's a breast. I don't think the baby
realizes it's something. At that time you look at the child, you
dream about it. The baby is non-ego, so non-self-centered when
it's born. You never see people like that again. They change and
they don't change back.
For Leslie and me, when we
decided to have children, one of the steps in that decision was
deciding that divorce was no longer an option. We no longer had
the option of leaving. I come from a family that split up, and I
just did not see a point in having children if that was the way
they were going to live. I wanted them to be raised with love.
A lot of people say they don't
want children because it would be such a change in their life. I'm
not certain that it is. Of course I get to sit back and say this
because I have a wife that doesn't work, who gets to give the
children the majority of the quality time they need. I'm free to
pursue my professional life as I have always done. I know there
are a lot of people in situations other than that.
I'm curious how Dashiell's going
to turn out. He has a real robust personality and is real down to
earth, whereas the girl is more ethereal. His sister is quite an
intellectual for a 6-year old. She reads, and she plays music, and
this little guy tends to be more of a rock-and-roll drummer. He's
interested in bang and crash. There are things I hope he doesn't
end up as, obviously. A Republican or anything worse. But I want
him to enjoy his life.
With our first child I had the
reaction that a first child has when a second child comes because
I was used to being the kid in the family. I was the funniest one
around, and then the kid becomes the funniest. If you look around,
my life is toys and devices and tricks and stuff. A lot of people
think I'm going to grow out of it, eventually. But I think Eva
is--and Dashiell will be--pleased that they've got a dad who's got
good taste in toys.
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in 1847, Thomas Edison was a brilliant scientist and inventor. He
was thrown out of school when he was 12 because he was thought to
be dumb. He was noted to be terrible at mathematics, unable to
focus, and had difficulty with words and speech. It was very
clear, however, that Thomas Edison was an extremely intelligent
student despite his poor performance in school.
In the late 1860s and early
1870s electrical science was still in its infancy and Thomas
Edison was keeping abreast of the latest developments. He was an
avid reader of the latest research of the day and frequently
contributed articles about new ideas in telegraph design to
technical journals. Over the course of his career Edison patented
1,093 inventions. Edison believed in hard work, sometimes working
twenty hours a day. He has been quoted as saying, "Genius is one
percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration."
Hard work and perseverance
helped Thomas Edison focus his keen insight and creative abilities
on the development of ingenious tools that have laid the
foundation for our modern society.
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Born in 1452, Da
Vinci was sent to Florence in his teens to apprentice as a
painter under Andrea del Verrocchio. He quickly developed his
own artistic style which was unique and contrary to tradition,
even going so far as to devised his own special formula of
paint. His style was characterized by diffuse shadows and
subtle hues and marked the beginning of the High Renaissance
Da Vinci dedicated himself
to understanding the mysteries of nature, and his insightful
contributions to science and technology were legendary. As the
archetypal Renaissance man, Leonardo helped set an ignorant
and superstitious world on a course of reason, science,
learning, and tolerance. He was an internationally renowned
inventor, scientists, engineer, architect, painter, sculptor,
musician, mathematician, anatomist, astronomer, geologists,
biologist, and philosopher in his time.
Da Vinci was also believed
to suffer from a number of learning disabilities including
dyslexia and attention deficit disorder. Some believe that the
initiation of many more projects than he ever completed
suggest that he had attention deficit disorder. Strong
evidence in Da Vinci’s manuscripts and letters corroborates
the diagnosis of dyslexia. It appears that Leonardo wrote his
notes backwards, from right to left, in a mirror image. This
is a trait shared by many left-handed dyslexic people. In
addition to the handwriting, the spelling errors in his
manuscripts and journals demonstrated dyslexia-like language
overcame his learning disabilities by funneling his creative
talents into visual depictions of his thoughts. His creative,
analytic, and visionary inventiveness has not yet been
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was born in 1881 in Malaga, Spain. He was a famous,
controversial, and trend-setting art icon. Pablo attended
local parochial schools and had a very difficult time. He is
described as having difficulty reading the orientation of the
letters and labeled a dyslexic, and despite the initial
difficulties was able to catch up with the curriculum.
However, dyslexia made school difficult and he never really
benefited from his education. Dyslexia would trouble Picasso
for the rest of his life.
Pablo’s father was an art
teacher in Malaga, and encouraged Pablo to attend. Pablo
enrolled in the school in 1892. Despite the difficulties that
his learning disabilities posed, it became clear that Pablo
had an incredible talent. From an early age Pablo Picasso had
developed the sense of how people wanted to be seen and how
others saw them. Over the course of his career he developed a
unique sense of beauty and style that seemed to call to
people. Pablo painted things as he saw them — out of order,
backwards or upside down. His paintings demonstrated the power
of imagination, raw emotion, and creativity on the human
psyche. As others before him, Pablo Picasso took art to a new
level. A prolific painter, some of his famous works includes
The Young Ladies of Avigon, Old Man with Guitar, and Guernica.back
Branson, founder and chairman of London-based Virgin Group,
didn't breeze through school. In fact, school was something of
a nightmare for him. His scores on standardized tests were
dismal, pointing to a dismal future. He was embarrassed by his
dyslexia and found his education becoming more and more
difficult. He felt as if he had been written off.
However, his educators
failed to detect his true gifts. His ability to connect with
people on a personal level, an intuitive sense of people, was
not detected until a frustrated Richard Branson started a
student newspaper with fellow student Jonny Gems. The
incredible success of the Student was but the start of a
richly diverse and successful career.
Despite the difficulties and
challenges posed by his dyslexia, by focusing on his inner
talents, Richard Branson successfully overcame his
difficulties. From his first taste of success and believing in
himself, Richard Branson never looked back.back
Leno has worked very hard all his life. A mild dyslexic, he
did not do very well in school getting mainly C’s and D’s.
Jay, however, was determined to accomplish his goals. Despite
his poor grades, he was determined to attend Emerson College
in Boston. While told by the admissions officer that he was
not a good candidate Jay had his heart set on attending the
University and sat outside the admission officers’ office 12
hours a day 5 days a week until he was accepted into the
Jay credits his dyslexia
with enabling him to succeed in comedy. He credits his
dyslexia with helping him develop the drive and perseverance
needed to succeed in comedy, and life in general.
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