The Law of Unintended Consequences

Off! Off! Off!

During a screening of ‘The Exorcist’ in La Pampa cinema in Rio de Janeiro in 1974, the audience was entirely distracted by a rat scampering to and fro before the screen. What little attention they were paying to the film was further diminished when an usherette appeared and pursued the rat with a mop.

Since this blocked the audience’s view and completely ruined a crucial vomiting scene of religious significance, the usherette and the rat were greeted with disgruntled cries of “Get ‘em off, get ‘em off!” Misconstruing the audience’s wishes, she stunned the rat with her mop and stunned the audience by proceeding to take all her clothes off. It was while dancing naked in the projector’s light that she noticed the auditorium being cleared by armed police.

Explaining her behaviour, the usherette said afterwards, “I thought that the audience was calling for me. I was as surprised as anyone.”

Sticky Situation

Early in the 1970s a promising American pianist gave a concert in the chamber music room in the Erewan Hotel in Bangkok. The recital was only a minute old when the artist discovered that, due to the climate’s excessive humidity, the D key of the treble clef began to stick repeatedly. As luck would have it, his programme comprised Bach’s D minor Toccata and Fugue and his Prelude and Fugue in D major. The reviewer in the Bangkok Post also noted that there was a problem with the piano stool which had been so enthusiastically greased that during one of the more vigorous sections the pianist suddenly found himself swivelling round to face the audience.

pic_Cartoon-pianist_376648_largeAbandoning the Toccato and D minor, he moved to Liszt’s Fantasia in G minor, at which point the G key of the bass clef also stuck. To try and free the notes the virtuoso started kicking the lower section of the piano with his foot, with the result that the piano’s right leg soon gave way and the whole instrument tilted through 35 degrees.

At this point he rose, bowed and left the stage to audience applause. When he returned he had in his hands a fire axe with which he began to demolish the piano.

On hearing the resounding crash which followed, the ushers came rushing in, and with the help of the hotel manager, two watchmen and a passing policeman, finally succeeded in disarming the man and dragging him offstage.

From ‘The Book of Heroic Failures’ by Stephen Pile

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