Sunday, 10 May 2015

Jack Benny Goes Home

The continual mentions of Waukegan, Illinois should have telegraphed to radio listeners that Jack Benny loved his home town. And Waukegan loved him back. A centre for the arts and a junior high school in Waukegan are named for him. One of his homes in the city has been preserved. And there’s a statue in his honour.

It’s unclear how often he ever got back home, but it happened during the spring of 1946. Benny appeared on the Quiz Kids show, based in Chicago (he did a series of shows with them in 1941 as well) and made a side trip north to Waukegan.

Here’s the Chicago Tribune’s radio columnist from June 9, 1946. Apparently, trips with Frank Remley weren’t out of the ordinary for Jack; the two were great friends for many years.

Benny Visits Folks Here, Golfs, Drives, Talks

Every summer two dozen of radio’s top entertainers vanish for three months or so. Where do they go? What do they do? Well, Jack Benny, radio’s best known worrier, is relaxing in Chicago with not a care in the world--at least nothing more serious than a guest appearance on the Quiz Kids show tonight.
Benny is taking it easy. He’s been visiting with his sister, Florence Fenchel, and father, Meyer Kubelsky, in Chicago. And he spent a couple of days golfing and reminiscing with old friends in Waukegan. He smoked countless cigars and drove all around in his convertible Cadillac. Benny is daffy about motoring. And tomorrow he will start driving back to the west coast to rejoin his family with Frank Remele, guitar player in Phil Harris’ band as companion. Benny expects to do a lot of loafing and looking on the way back. He wants to visit Colorado Springs, the Grand Canyon--and anything else that attracts his attention.
Gives Up Fretting
Benny confided that he has learned a lot about enjoying himself the last couple of years. He doesn’t even fret about the script any more--or not much. He’s got a stable of capable writers, he’s back near the top of the ratings and the critics have been cheering him for some of the best satire of the season.
A pro has got Benny all heated up over golf and he’s on the courses a lot. He shoots in the low 80s. "I’ve got something new to do," he mused. Bill and Harry Schwartz threw a golf party for him at Waukegan. Others in on it were Syd Block, Ollie Elmerman, also old friends.
Jack also visited with Julius Sinykin, in whose home he and Mary Livingstone were married, and his cousins, Mr. and Mrs. Clifford Gordon, Ben Gordon, and Ben Richman.
Goes to the Plays
Even on vacation Benny doesn't forget about the amusement world. Last week he saw "Anna Lucasta," Katharine Cornell in "Candida," and Russel Crouse and Howard Lindsay’s "State of the Union." He saw "Lucasta" and the latter play in New York and enjoyed them so much that he went again.
Benny has a yen to do a Broadway comedy and Crouse and Lindsay are conjuring up some ideas. Whether the play will come off in one year or five remains to be seen. It’s in the talking stage now.
As to his next season’s radio show Jack says it will follow much the same pattern as last year’s--consistent characterization; guests only when you can fit them perfectly into the mood of the show. Last year the Ronald Colmans were on the Benny show five times--made such a hit that a radio show may be built around them.
Defines an Ad Lib
Benny doesn’t agree that a comedian ought to pay much attention to looking for good gags.
"All you need to know is when a gag is lousy," he said, "and get rid of it."
Benny found time, also, to define a radio ad lib: "Know what you're going to say, but make it sound like you don’t."
After getting back to the coast Jack and Mary plan three weeks of golf at Del Monte. Next, Jack will make a quick trip to either Berlin or Tokyo to entertain GI’s and then he goes to work on a new picture about the life of Jack Benny tentatively titled "Always Keep Them Laughing."
And that's a summer’s vacation!

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