Tuesday, 25 April 2017
The Three Bruises, A Trio Of Skating Cut-Ups
Even in their heyday, the names Jeoffery Stevens, Sidney Spalding and Monty Stott probably meant very little to audiences. However, if you were a skating aficionado in the thirties or forties, you definitely knew who The Three Bruises were.
Originally hockey players, Stevens, Spalding and Stott teamed up on a Christmas Eve in the late twenties in a London arena. Amused by the antics of two cleaning women who had gotten in one of their bosses bottles, the young men would goof around before and after hockey games and soon developing a comedic drag act where they parodied cleaning women. It turned out to be a huge hit and soon the young men were 'discovered' by impresario Claude Langdon, who needed a comedy act for his show "Marina". They called themselves The Three Bruises and soon they were so popular in England that they appeared in performances before King and Queen of England, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and King Alfonso XIII of Spain.
The Three Bruises were in Czechoslovakia when the Germans invaded prior to World War II. After bumming through Europe, they managed to safely make their way back to Great Britain before heading to America in 1939 with Arthur M. Wirtz's All Star European Ice Revue "Hello America!" While in America, all three men enrolled in the U.S. military during the War but returned to skating
in Wirtz's Centre Theatre productions before joining Hollywood Ice Revue in 1949 and transforming briefly into The Four Bruises, taking ice comedian Buster Grace into the fold.
All Three Bruises certainly earned their names. Jeoffery was a comedian both on and off ice. The "Hello America!" program boasted, "One night when finishing up a rehearsal, there was a spill and the jagged point of a figure skate ripped out his left eye, part of his nose and a good five inches of forehead. He spent weeks in the hospital and his present nose was built from part of his hip bone by a clever plastic surgeon. The muscle of his left eye was severed and, although he can see out of it, it never moves. Altogether it took 37 stitches to close the wound." He also got hit with a stick while playing hockey and ended up getting twenty seven stitches for a broken upper jaw. He was so stitched up he referred to himself as "a crazy quilt".
Sidney fell down a cliff in 1932, got up, dusted himself off and walked away with only bruises. The 'straight man' of the group, he was a licensed radio operator and a talented defence hockey player who turned down offers to play in Canada when he teamed up with Stott and Stevens. Monty was born in Calcutta, India and was sent to England by his parents to be educated. He attended school at Brighton, where he learned to skate and took up hockey. He worked on tramp steamers in the summer and operated the rink in the winter. Off the ice, he operated an antique shop in Brighton. He once suffered a serious neck injury but didn't know it was broken until three hours later when he fainted at home.
In addition to their popular cleaning women act, one of their signature numbers was a ringmaster act with a two-man skating skating horse alternately named Stalebiscuit or Tishy The Wonder Horse. During one performance, Monty and Sidney fainted mid-performance while in their horse costume.
They didn't like the smell of the leather, so they doused the inside of the hide with 'lavender water'. Overcome by fumes, Tishy The Wonder Horse with the two skaters inside had to be carried off the ice to recover.
Though the trio were in negotiation with the Ice Capades at one point, they remained fiercely loyal to Arthur M. Wirtz throughout their professional career. Many of their trademark acts were later copied by other comedic ice show trios and in the sixties, a trio calling themselves The Bruises appeared on the scene, stealing both their ideas and name. Though they faded into obscurity, these three hockey players from London were right up there with Shipstad and Johnson, Frick and Frack and others in terms of comedy acts in their heyday, very much pioneers in the ice comedy world.
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