Sunday, 24 March 2013

Really, I'm Not Cheap. Really.

One of the things that really bothered Jack Benny was that people might really think he was a cheapskate. Why it would bother him, I don’t know. If they thought he was cheap, so what? Well, that wasn’t Jack’s attitude, so he went out of his way—on pretty much an individual basis—to prove he wasn’t tight with a nickel. Then he got resentful about it.

Jack mentioned it in several interviews, but he’s a good example from 1952.

‘Stinginess’ Costs $5000 A Year, Jack Benny Wails
United Press Hollywood Correspondent

HOLLYWOOD, Sept. 29 — That stingy character which Jack Benny plays on the radio and TV is costing him $5,000 a year, the comedian sighed today.
For 16 years the amiable Benny has portrayed a tightwad who takes in laundry, pays his valet a starvation salary and hoards cash in a basement vault surrounded by a moat, alligators, three doors and an aged gatewatcher.
By now, he says, some people believe the legend. So to counteract this catastrophe, Benny has turned into in big spender in real life. “I always have to tip as much or more than the next guy,” he said, “I donate more to organizations than I otherwise would. So my expenses are bigger than they should be because of those heavy tips.
“I've done this stingy character so long I guess maybe some people think I really am a little bit cheap.
“You know,” he added, “It's funny, but even the people who work with me tip more, too.”
Once Benny gave a dollar to a hat-check girl in a local nightclub.
“She gave it back and said, ‘Please leave me some illusion’,” he chuckled.
Benny added after a minute, “You better add that I still made her take that dollar.”
Taxi-drivers, especially in New York, kid him about his spend-thrift thrift character. He has to tip them extra-well. Once he was in a hurry to get to his radio show in New York and ran off, forgetting to pay the driver. The cabbie shouted “So it's true what they say about you!”
The comedian figures his program is such a mixture of fiction and fact (Mary Livingstone really did work in that department store) that listeners have trouble dividing the two. Once he received a letter from a Cleveland attorney berating him for not paying enough salary to Rochester, the valet on the show.
On Benny’s recent personal appearance tour around Europe that first question the London reporters popped was, “Are you really mean?” Jack was puzzled until somebody explained that in England “mean” means “stingy.”
In Holland, the queen's husband, told him with a wink, “Why don't you stay at the Palace Hotel? The price is right!”
Recently Benny handed a parking lot attendant $1 to cover a 50-cent charge. The lad pocketed the bill.
“With my reputation,” said Benny firmly, “I didn’t dare ask for the change.”

1 comment:

  1. Sixty years down the line of course, and tips like the ones mentioned really would cement the image of Jack as a cheapskate if they were handed out today. I suppose his irritation is similar to that of actors who have created iconic TV characters over the years, who come to resent being linked forever with that character.