Confidence Games

Tale of the Chewing Gum

Circa Early 1940's/ Miami, FL

"Would everyone in the theatre, Please Stand-up?"

It's one of Billy Bruce's first times on-stage with a full-house. He's addressing the Dade Theatre crowd with a microphone. Bruce is only 17 years old and already the manager. The crowd complies, prepared for an Invocation, or perhaps the Pledge of Allegiance. Billy, who later learns to think of a microphone as his best friend, next requests, "Now would everyone, Please Turn Around?" Some mumbles and confused looks but the audience responds dutifully to the Man with the Microphone.

"Okay, Thank You all; I had forgotten where I left my chewing gum earlier today, and just wanted to see who
got it"

Tale of the Clipboard

Circa Mid 1940's/ WWII

William Michael Bruce is accepted into Officers Candidate School, US Navy, following the infamy of Pearl Harbor. Eye astigmatism keeps him from becoming a pilot, but he remains in the Navy. He's training in California for the planned invasion of Japan, as a Seaman.

One Friday, Bill's higher-ranking pals collect their passes for a little R & R in San Francisco. Bruce finds himself nearly alone on base, a junior grade sailor without credentials...but Bill does have some brass.

He decides that projecting authority is different than impersonating authority. With a commanding stride, gripping a clipboard, note pad and with pen in hand, he briskly approaches the Petty Officer of the Watch. "Hey Pal, what's your name and serial number?" Before the fellow can stand straight at attention and reply, Bruce states without equivocation "I'm going off base to complete my rounds, but by the time I get back, you had better have this Duty Station ship-shape! Are we clear?"

Bruce turns and marches off-base with all the authority granted by the clipboard, and joins his pals in town.

Tale of the Singin' Sailors

Circa Mid 1940's/ WWII

Before shipping out to California, Bill Bruce is stationed at the Opa-locka Naval Air Station, near his home town of Miami. Billy's been assigned to run his company of Seamen as an OCS trainee, and they're ready for their weekend pass. Unfortunately, someone in the company has drawn the ire of an officer. The punishment is a 3-day duty cleaning weapons and supplies in the underground Ammunition Bunker for the entire group.

The place takes on the feel of a funeral service. All eyes turn to what?

Unconventional leadership comes naturally to the guy who'll eventually be called "The Meanest Man in Sports". Bruce lets his team know that if that if they'll put their minds (and backs) into it, he'll entertain them and make the onerous task bearable. He walks through the sailors, and one by one, starts cheering guys up and onward, with jokes, stories and a shared sense of 'misery-loves-company'. They all get to laughing, but working too. After a while, the party's on, and guys are having fun; but its Bill that's the undisputed Master of this Ceremony.

The hard-nosed officer storms in the next morning, expecting to catch a group of malcontents grumbling and fighting...but instead finds the men have worked all night, side-by-side, having the time of their lives. The huge ammo dump is spotless.

"Fall In!" he barks, lining up the sailors at attention. "You men are the Finest Group of Navy Seamen I have ever witnessed! For this outstanding effort, I'm relieving you of the next 2 days of cleaning and awarding you all a 3-Day Pass... Job Well Done!"

Tale of the Many Identities

Circa/ Bill's Entire Life

Bill takes his two oldest boys for a haircut, at a barbershop he frequents. Before entering, he tells the kids, "Now, listen, whatever the barber says, just go along with it, and don't ask questions until later, OK?" They enter the doors and are greeted with a hearty, "Hey there, Russell, haven't seen you in a while, how 'ya been doing? These must be your boys!" After the haircuts are complete, the boys and father climb back in the car. The kids inquire, "Why does he call you Russell?" Bill laughs and shakes his head and says, "The very first time I walked in the place, he mistook me for an old friend named Russell, and I didn't want to embarrass him, so I've played along...for almost 15 years!"

Bill Bruce is at work (he's sole proprietor of a fence installation company; he owns the one-story office building). A door-to-door survey-taker rings the bell. Bill indulges the gentlemen with responses to his survey, and at the end, is asked his name. "Mr. Franklin", Bill replies. "And your first name, sir?" "Certainly, it's Benjamin..." A few beats pass, and the survey-taker realizes he's been had; he nods his head slowly and thanks Bill for his valuable time.

William Bruce often has himself introduced as Dr. Bruce Williams, well-known author and lecturer. With his straight-faced stage persona, unsuspecting audiences settle in for another serious and tedious presentation; only to find that each story has a punch-line. Posing as a financial advisor, Bill intones "Sales and income figures show an easing up of the rate at which business is easing off. This is proof that there is a slowing up of the slow-down. Of course, that isn't quite as good as an upturn in the downturn...but on the other hand, it's a good deal better than either a speed up of the slow down or a deepening of the downturn..."

William Michael Bruce gets his last driver's license on June 22, 1998, which is issued by the State of North Carolina. It says, "BIRTHDATE: 02-09-1923". But Bill was born on February 9, 1924. Turns out, this was not a one time mistake. Billy Bruce had wanted to drive a year earlier than was legally allowed. So at 15 years old, he 'fibbed' about his age for his first license, and never bothered to correct it...for the next 62 years.

Back to Top