For five or six recent summers Mrs. Dave Bruno (or "Saint" Marlene) dug in deep, stood her ground and led a lonely counterattack against her irrepressible husband of almost 30 years.
"Dave, now that's crossing the line!" she'd say. "Dave, come on!"
But finally during a weak moment in 2010, Mrs. Bruno caved and relented when husband asked yet again to be allowed to don the skimpy, frilly tutu and lady's wig and prance about from curb to curb as a ballerina during Greendale's annual Fourth of July parade.
"I don't have a lot of inhibitions to begin with," explained Bruno with a smile. "But if I make a fool of myself in a costume it's not really me, it's that guy that's dressed up. Some people don't know how to take me because I'm either serious or silly--there's no in-between. A lady recognized me at the the other day and said, 'Aw, you're kind of obnoxious.' I said, 'Thank you! You've made my day!'"
As for Marlene (the "saint" title gets a playful, cognitive nod by friends who acknowledge an heroic ability to put up with her husband's antics), she let out a hearty laugh when describing the "roller-coaster ride" of sharing life with Bruno, but then paused and turned serious and reflective.
"Everyone sees him as the entertainer and comedian who puts smiles on their faces," she said. "But he's really just a very thoughtful, sincere guy who likes helping people out. He just wants to help people."
Bruno, real estate agent, speaker, character actor and author, first began wearing costumes in 2002 as he played the role of "Austin Powers" in . Since that debut he has blossomed out by also playing a high school cheerleader (in full uniform of course), Superman and a slightly paunchy Batman who has seen better days. His performances have led to somewhat of a part-time business as he's been asked to appear at a few birthday parties and other events.
As a child, Bruno was encouraged early on by his parents and four sisters to share his imitations of Elvis Presley, James Mason and "Harry the Frog," among others, with guests and neighbors. Today, he quickly credits his mom and dad for the "incredible gift" of being able to find humor in any situation. Always the class clown as a youth, while being disciplined in school Bruno would often try to stifle laughter by biting his cheeks, but wasn't always successful.
In addition to an indelible sense of humor, Bruno also inherited from his parents their lifelong affinity for inspirational quotes, sayings and words of wisdom. That passion would eventually turn his ample collection into a book, "Never Give Up! Empowering Thoughts for Challenging Times!"
Back in 1986, the title of the book would have been an appropriate rallying cry for a life-changing, near fatal car crash that gutted Bruno in more ways than one. After ramming his car one early January morning into a tree and a brick wall, he hung on to life in an intensive care ward with collapsed lungs and a shredded liver. He nearly bled to death and no doubt would have had if an ambulance not miraculously passed the scene a scant minute later and rushed him to the hospital. His wife was told he probably wouldn't survive. For the first three days after the accident Bruno miscast himself as the villain because he believed he may have killed someone that night. Not until he was told no one else was injured did his vital signs suddenly improve and he began to recover.
"My thoughts were killing me, literally," Bruno said. "It's amazing the power of the mind."
The incident, unfortunately, led to bankruptcy and the loss of their home, but it also spurred Bruno to develop his obsession with old sayings and turn it into a lucrative line of plastic wallet cards that contained motivational quotes. Twelve years later he had sold and customized more than 3 million "Success Gold Cards" to just about every Fortune 500 company. Wife Marlene and their three now-grown sons all helped with the endeavor and what had been a tragic event led to a healthy, profitable family operation and a "sense of purpose and mission."
This August the Brunos will gather together and celebrate as their first granddaughter, Evelyn ("Evi"), turns one year old, which may help explain the exaggerated smile on Bruno's face as he dances about during that month's Village Days parade. He can't tell you what character he'll play, though, because he doesn't decide until days before the event. And don't be surprised if you happen to hear an exasperated female voice emanating from the Bruno household saying, "Dave, now that's crossing the line!" It just may be a sign of good things to come for the audience. Perhaps when the time comes Bruno will drop a few hints on his new Facebook page, Dave Bruno Presents.
Mark Twain must have had people like Bruno in mind when he penned this quotation, one of many you can find in the vast collection of the book, Never Give Up!
"The human race has only one really effective weapon, and that's laughter.
The moment it arises, all our harnesses yield, all our irritations and resentments slip away, and a sunny spirit takes their place."
Whether it's during a real estate transaction, a chance encounter during one of his daily bike rides, or enjoying a bit of goofiness during a summer parade, any engagement with Dave Bruno is bound to include laughter and can make an otherwise cloudy day seem much sunnier.