Bridge & Humor: George Burns

George Burns
George Burns

George Burns: JANUARY 20, 1896 – MARCH 9, 1996

George Burns died at age 100 on March 9, 1996. Mr. Burns spent his lifetime in show business and created millions of laughs.  It is reported that Mr. Burns was buried with three cigars in his pocket, had on his toupee, his ring and watch, which was a gift from his wife, and in the pocket of his suit were “his keys and his wallet with ten 100-dollar bills, a five, and three ones, so wherever he went to play bridge he’d have enough money.”

Several years ago, he was asked by an interviewer if he ever considered retiring. «Retire to what?» an amused Mr. Burns asked. `I play bridge for two hours a day to get away from work. Why the hell would I want to retire to play bridge 24 hours a day?».  George Burns played bridge every day of his life.  He loved bridge. But at 3 o’clock, he could be in the middle of a hand, he’d stand up (and say) ‘Thank you gentlemen,'» and go home to take a nap. He used to say: Bridge is a game that separates the men from the boys. It also separates husbands and wives.

George Burns tells of an occasion when the Marx brothers decided to win a tournament by using the old «one-under-one» system, in which a spade bid really means a heart, a no-trump bid means a spade, etc. «Before the evening was through,» says Burns, «they were so confused they didn’t know what they were doing. They were the first ones eliminated.»

Burns was perhaps one of the best bridge players in Hollywood. Well, if not the best, the funniest. Burns’s bridge-table techniques have often carried him close to fisticuffs. «Once,» he recalls, «I’m playing bridge with George Raft and Mack Gordon—you know, the guy who wrote Did You Ever See a Dream Walking? I have a spade void and eight hearts in my hand. I’ve got a hundred honors. All I’m missing is the ace, but the rest of my hand is nothing. Mack—my partner—opened with a spade. Raft passed. I bid four hearts. Mack put down his cards and stared out the window. ‘Four spades!’ he yelled—really yelled—out the window.

«I said I didn’t know we were playing with somebody across the street, but I yelled out the window ‘Five hearts!’ Mack sucked in his breath.

» ‘Five spades!’ he yells out the window. We kept on going, and finally he yells, ‘Seven spades!’

«I looked at him. ‘I’ve got as much money as you have,’ I said. ‘Seven no trump.’

«Mack gets up. ‘I think we can straighten this out down in the street,’ he says.

» ‘O.K.,’ I said. I looked at George Raft. ‘I never had a fist fight in my life,’ I says. ‘But I think I can beat this guy. I’m gonna hit him in no place but the stomach.’

«We are walking down the stairs to the street, first George Raft, then me following him, and then Mack following me. Halfway down the stairs I stopped and said to George, ‘You know, George, one of the greatest songs I ever heard is, Did You Ever See a Dream Walking?

«Mack thinks for a moment, and then he says, ‘Let’s go up and finish the game.’ «