So what were those Hollywood parties really like?
Let’s find out from the pages of Radio Guide of July 30, 1938. It sent photographer Jack Albin out to capture on film a lavish party that George Burns’ wife threw for Jack Benny’s wife. George and Jack had been best friends since touring in vaudeville in the early ‘20s and remained so until Benny died in late 1974.
Here are the other pictures from the magazine as well as the opening paragraph; you can make each picture larger by clicking on it.
THE ECONOMICS OF ENTERTAINMENT
IN A recent broadcast, Hollywood Aireporter Jimmy Fidler turned economist to opine that lavish parties such as Gracie Allen’s, honoring her best friend, Mary Livingstone, on the latter’s birthday, June 18, were not anti-social in harm times, as he had once thought, but excellent stimulants to recovery. Good or bad, this sort of money was spent: Dinner for 188 guests at $3 each—$564; refreshments, including bartenders’ pay, approximately $500; tents to cover lawns where party was held, including pay for ten tenters, four truckmen, one draper, two janitors, as well as rental on grass matting ($60), tables ($225) and garden furniture ($175), totaled over $700; portable dance flood, $20; lanterns and electricians’ pay, about $165; floral decorations, $500; insurance against guests getting hurt, $20; paid entertainers, including a seven-piece orchestra, about $1,500. Thus Gracie’s expense was well over $4,000! These pictures show what that money bought.
You may notice some people are conspicuous by their absence. None of the members of Benny’s cast, save Andy Devine, appear to have been there. Jack didn’t hang out socially with very many people on his show. In later years, he went water skiing with Mel Blanc (and visited Mel in hospital every day after an almost fatal car crash in 1961) and would go on car trips with guitar player Frank Remley, but that was about it. But the people on the Benny show loved their boss nonetheless, just as everyone else did in Hollywood and listening or watching Jack’s antics in their living rooms for years.