When Yes or No Aren’t Enough

The legendary showman Florenz Ziegfeld was well known for his constant and frantic use of the telephone and telegram. He would often send his performers telegrams after watching their work from the back of the theater, offering criticisms or suggestions.

Once, when Eddie Cantor was playing Kid Boots in Chicago, he received a twelve-page telegram from Ziegfeld with a variety of suggestions, from line changes to the removal of an entire song, and remarks about the other performers, certain scenes that needed attention, and so forth.

The entire telegram was such a jumble of questions, Cantor knew that to address each question would result in the longest telegraphed interchange ever conducted. So he simply wired back: “Yes.”

This did nothing to deter Ziegfeld, who promptly fired off another telegram, twice as long as the previous missive, which ended: “What do you mean, Yes? Do you mean yes you will take out the song, or yes you will put in the lines, or yes you will fix that scene? Or yes you have talked to the other actors?”

Cantor wired back:


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