Sunday, 22 November 2015
Benny With An 'F' (for "Farewell")
Jack was seemingly inexhaustible. He always seemed to be on the road, even while his TV series was still running. At age 79, he hit the publicity circuit to push his “second farewell.” Here’s a story from the Associated Press. I’m posting it because of the little historical connection. The column was published on January 16, 1974 and is by Jay Sharbutt. More than 25 years earlier, Sharbutt’s father Del was one of the announcers who appeared at the start and near the end of the Benny radio show, touting the benefits of Lucky Strike cigarettes (replacing John Laing in the 1948-49 season).
The special, incidentally, featured Dinah Shore, who appeared on the first Benny TV show in 1950.
Benny to say Adieu Again
By JAY SHARBUTT
AP Television Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — Benjamin Kubelsky a native of Waukegan, Ill., was in town the other day to catch a few shows, observe the snows and publicize an NBC-TV special he’ll star in come Jan. 24.
The show’s title is “Jack Benny’s Second Farewell Special.” Mr. Kubelsky, who uses the alias of Jack Benny, emphatically denied the title is the McCoy and that he really plans to retire, from show biz after some 62 years in the profession.
“Naw,” he said, lighting a cigar and propping a foot on the coffee table in his hotel suite. “This has nothing to do with retirement. There’s only one gag about it in the show.”
He said the title exists only because he found that audiences in Las Vegas and elsewhere recalled his “First Farewell Special” on television last year and laughed when he urged them to watch his second adieu.
“And I tell you,” Benny said, “it’s tough enough for an audience to remember your last show. But when they can remember a title — well, I told my manager if we don’t use the title again we’re crazy.
“Now I tell the audience we’re going to do the third, the fourth, the 90th farewell. But it all depends how this works out. I don’t know. I had another funny title they laughed like hell at.
“Shows how they do remember things. I was going to call it ‘Benny with a Y’ ...”
Benny with a cigar was asked if he wouldn’t give show biz “retirements” a bad name it he persisted in “farewell” specials.
“The first one who did it was Madame Schumann-Heink, the opera singer,” he said. “She was always making farewell appearances.”
Obvious question, but why do performers do that sort of thing?
“Well, they didn’t do too many,” Benny insisted. “But the minute you do a couple, you see, right away it becomes funny to the public.
“Performers do it because they figure if they say it’s a farewell, they're going to do a helluva business.”
Lest the Federal Trade Commission rap him for false and misleading retirement notices, he quickly added: “Don’t forget I didn’t call my special last year a farewell. I said it was my first farewell.
‘Benny with a Y’ is a play on the TV special ‘Liza with a Z’ (broadcast in 1972).
At last check, the farewell special was on a video web site but could have been taken down by the time you read this. Do a web search and enjoy it if it’s there.