Saturday 26 December 2015

Alan King on Benny

Tributes were seemingly endless after the death of Jack Benny on December 26, 1974. Newspapers ran more than wire service reports; their own columnists and even editorial writers would memorialise what Benny meant to the world.

Newsday did something else. It talked to comedian Alan King about Benny. King appeared on Benny’s TV show in the ‘60s and roasted him on a special in the ‘70s. But their relationship went beyond that. King talked about it years later in one of his books, and he talked about it in a column in Newsday two days after Jack’s death. King’s sentiments were universal, but he coupled it with a personal story.
‘Cheapest Man’ Gave Both Life And His Money

Special to Newsday
“Your money or your life!”
Not very funny, but it was the straight line to the biggest laugh in radio history. After spending 35 years developing an image as the “Cheapest Man in the World,” Jack Benny was walking down a dark radio street when a holdup man appeared and threatened: “Your money or your life!”
Jack didn’t answer. After one minute (you see, he was thinking about it), the audience started laughing. After his two minutes of silence they roared.
Strange, but that’s what Jack Benny’s comedy was all about. It wasn’t what he said. It’s what he didn’t say that was important.
But to a young comic of 16, it was what Jack Benny did say that was important. Whenever Jack was in New York, he'd come to see me at the famed Leon and Eddie’s on 52nd Street. And he always asked me to join his table.
“You were great,” he would say. “You’re gonna make it big. Stay with it.”
Always words of encouragement. And always treating me as an equal. He was my idol. And he became my friend. Always words of encouragement.
He never failed to call me after my TV show just to tell me that he was watching, and he enjoyed. He’d call collect.
His opening line was “Well, you don’t want me to destroy a legend, do you?”
Cheap? He was the most giving man I ever knew.
He appeared all over the world at benefits for charity, no matter what the cost. Many years ago he flew from California to appear with me for the Nassau Center for Emotionally Disturbed Children in Syosset, N.Y.
His opening line was: “I flew all the way from California because I figured it was cheaper than sending money.”
Two days later he sent a check for $5,000 to the center.
Your money or your life. Jack Benny gave up both to make this world a happier and better place. I’ll miss him.

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