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Web of Stories offers you the chance to listen to some of the greatest people of our time telling their life stories.
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Seeing dance for the first time

Jules Engel


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Meeting Mrs Roosevelt

Stan Lee - Writer

After Jack May when I was delivering lunches, I got a job as an usher at the Paramount Theater. No, I'm sorry, at the Rivoli Theater in New York. And in those days, the Rivoli was a big, high-class movie house. People wore shirts and ties just to... and suits... just to go and see the movie. Well again, in those days being an usher at a big Broadway theater was almost like being a West Pointer. You were hired for your height. I was six feet so that got me in, and I was fairly slim. I was always skinny. But every morning they would inspect you, and your uniform, and it was a real big deal. And there was one thing… there were six aisles I think, so there were six ushers. When someone came in and… you were supposed to try to get them to come down your aisle. So there was a gesture you had to use. It took me a few… little while to learn it. You had to go like this, ‘This way please’. And it always had to be like that. You went like that to catch their attention, then you went, ‘This way please’. Well, the first week I kept hitting myself in the chin, because it's not easy to do. This way, this way. And after a while I learned how to do it so my hand just missed my chin. I was one of the best. This way… now I just did it again. This way please move that they had. Anyway, one day Mrs Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the wife of the President, was supposed to come to the theater, and everybody was so excited. We learned in advance she was coming. The Secret Service came and checked everything out, and all of us were standing in our aisles wondering who's aisle she'd come down. Came down my aisle. And I wanted to make an impression, and I didn't know what to say. I said, ‘This way please Madam President’. And then I realized I shouldn't have said Madam President… but I didn't… she didn't care. So I started leading her down the aisle, and I'm holding the flashlight, and I had my shoulders back and my head high. I figured I looked just like Errol Flynn, and I'm walking down the aisle… and I tripped over somebody's foot that was sticking out in the aisle, because my head was so high I wasn't looking down. Tripped and fell right on my face. The next thing I knew, Mrs Roosevelt had me by the shoulders and was trying to lift me up. ‘Are you all right, son?’. Oh, I was so embarrassed. But that was my first touch with greatness, and when I encountered somebody important.

Ernst Mayr - Scientist
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Donald Knuth - Scientist