Sunday, 28 May 2017

1002 Roxbury Drive

Jack Benny's favourite home, by his daughter's account, was the first house he owned in California. Jack and Mary Livingstone rented three different places in Los Angeles after leaving New York, then bought a piece of land in 1937 and had a home constructed on it. The address was 1002 Roxbury Drive in Beverly Hills. The home is still there but has apparently been renovated extensively inside. It's said the house was copy of the home of George Burns and Gracie Allen but larger.

Joan Benny related in her book that the area was still fairly rural at the time and vacant lots were not uncommon. It was a kindler, gentler time. The Benny home had minimal security, with a system which Jack sometimes activated accidentally. Fans could walk up to the door if they wished—and some did.

The Bennys called it home for 30 years before Mary Livingstone decided she wanted to move. She and Jack bought two 39th floor penthouses before tiring of life overlooking the Pacific and purchasing a house hidden away in the Holmby Hills area.

Radio Mirror took a tour through the Benny house on Roxbury and published its findings in the April 1940 edition. These poorly-scanned photos accompanied the story.

House of Laughter
OF course, it's just a "tumble-down shack," the Benny house on Roxbury Drive in Beverly Hills, California, or so Jack says. Just a modest little grey home in the West. Even if you remind Jack of its Venetian chandeliers, inch-thick carpets, movie projection room, five bathrooms, two bars and real Battenburg lace piano cover, he insists those were Mary's ideas, not his. As star of his new Paramount picture, the rip-roaring "Buck Benny Rides Again," he could hardly admit that he likes such fripperies. Then, you say what about his mirrored dressing room, his antique mahogany highboy and his fourposter bed, whereupon he grins and says, what the heck, a guy's gotta have a half-way decent place to live in, and shows you all around, pleased as punch with the house and with himself for building it.

Well, it is something! White French Provençal set in the middle of an acre or more of ground with a swell green lawn in front; mammoth patio, swimming pool and rose garden in the back. And from the moment you enter the spacious, circular hall, papered in gray, canopied by a gorgeous chandelier fully ten feet long and sentinelled by a beautiful grandfather's clock, you realize you are in not only a house but a home.

The drawing room (Jack won't call it that, but Mary does) is done in soft rose beige tones with harmonizing satin-striped wall paper. The carpet is beige, the drapes beige and apple green satin brocade and most of the furniture is antique with beige and apple green coverings. But here and there a scarlet chair or cushion provides a bright color accent.

Back of the drawing room is the playroom, a gay, homey place with corner seats upholstered in scarlet or green, pool, card and backgammon tables scattered conveniently about, and a projection room opening off one end, its door cunningly concealed by two large pictures.

The very formal beige and brown dining room opens on a gay little chintz hung breakfast room, where Jack and Mary and Baby Joan eat when there isn't any "company." The library is a comfortable room with a blue Oriental rug on the floor, shelves full of books that look as though they have been read, and a handsome desk which Jack says is too fancy for any real transaction of business. Several secret closets, tucked away behind movable book shelves, were when we viewed them stuffed full of Santa Claus' Christmas presents for Joan.

Upstairs you'll find Mary's bedroom. It is very luxurious, decorated in the same quiet beige shades as the drawing room, but her dressing room, as big as some people's living rooms, is a gorgeous affair of mirrors and crystal fittings. Across a little hall, Jack's bedroom, dominated by the simply huge highboy we mentioned and his equally huge four-poster, is a pleasingly masculine room done in browns and tans, with leather upholstered chairs and even a leather upholstered chaise longue. And, yes, Jack's dressing room is lined with mirrors, though he vows he never looks in any of them—well, hardly ever!

Upstairs there is also a gay nursery for Joan and beyond that a sun deck built especially for her. There is a guest room, too, a pretty, quaint apartment complete with dressing room and bath.

The playhouse, a separate building beyond the swimming pool, has another big bar, more card and game tables, a barbecue pit and dressing rooms for swimmers. The furnishings are done in scarlet and green.

There are several other things, too, about the Benny house which make it quite complete—things like huge servants' quarters, fireplaces in every room except the dining room and kitchen, a mammoth butler's pantry (well stocked with jello) and a perfectly ducky powder room on the first floor.

All in all, the house that Jack Benny built is something to be proud of—and who wouldn't be with a charming wife like Mary and a beautiful adopted daughter like Joan to share his long cherished dream?

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