Sunday, 17 December 2017

Nothing For Benny

Jack Benny pretty much put the town of Waukegan, Illinois in the national consciousness during his radio and TV career. For years, his show made names of the little towns of Anaheim, Azusa and Cucamonga on a rail line that was purely imaginary (Anaheim is somewhat larger these days).

When Jack went on location to do broadcasts, he tried to get laughs from the local audiences by making some kind of local references. During his show broadcast from San Francisco on March 30, 1947, one of his routines referred to the restful little bayside community of Sausalito. Benny’s writers focused on the restfulness.

Local businesses reacted. They showed a lot of creativity and humour that, I would hope, Benny would appreciate. Here’s the story from the Sausalito News of April 3, 1947.

The late Wm. Shakespeare had quite a bit to say in his play, “Much Ado About Nothing.”
And as paradoxical as it may it seem, “nothing” has become quite something for Sausalito—and all because that comic of radio, Jack Benny, added his bit last Sunday to put Sausalito on the national map.
If you didn’t hear the program, the repartee went something like this:
Benny: Hello.
Rochester: Hello.
Benny: Who is it?
Rochester: Your favorite brunette.
Benny: Rochester! Where are you?
Rochester: I’m in Sausalito.
Benny: Sausalito? What are you doing there?
Rochester: Nothing.
Benny: Nothing!
Rochester: Nothing. That’s the main industry here.
Benny: What?
Rochester: They’ve got so much of it, they export it.
Benny: You mean things are kind of quiet over there?
Rochester: Quiet! Over here they think Nora Prentiss is a blabbermouth! (Editor: Ads for the movie, “Nora Prentiss,” say, “She wouldn’t talk.”)
Benny: Listen, Rochester, I didn't give you permission to go over there.
Rochester: I know, boss, but t had a couple of spare hours on my hands and I was lonesome and—well, I remembered I knew a girl over here so, well . . .
Benny: What happened?
Rochester: The main industry— Nothing! (Much laughter and applause.)
While the program writers probably expected a storm of criticism from the good residents of Sausalito and the Chamber of Commerce, quite the opposite was the result.
In spite of considerable joshing among the merchants Monday morning, the Chamber of Commerce went into immediate action.
Seizing on the word “NOTHING” as the key word to a continuing controversy, a heavy wooden box was prepared for shipment by Chamber of Commerce officials. Inside was placed a single sheet of paper bearing the printed word NOTHING . In addition, a sticker was inserted stating. “This is a partial shipment.
Unfortunately, we are unable to fill your entire order, but will do so as additional supplies are received.” The box, with its notes, were properly labeled and expressed to Jack Benny in Hollywood.
Simultaneously, a telegram was sent reading as follows:
“Jack Benny,
National Broadcasting Co.,
Hollywood, Calif.
“In recognition of the nationwide publicity given Sausalito through your program yesterday we are forwarding by express prepaid a gift as a token of our appreciation.
"The citizens of this community have often dreamed of attaining prominence, but did not expect to reach it by falling into the class of Waukeegan, Anaheim, Azusa and Cucamonga. “Since you have discovered the secret of our prominence we suggest that your gag be changed to read: ‘Cucamonga, Sausalito and Waukeegan, thereby showing no regional favoritism.
“On your next visit please accept our invitation to enjoy the fine quality of our product here at your leisure.
“Sincerely, Sausalito Chamber of Commerce.”
With the telegram duly dispatched, the box was delivered to the express office. And would you believe it, the express company was in some doubt as to the sanity of the party delivering the box, when, asked as to the contents, he replied, “NOTHING.”
Even at the cost of giving free publicity, we suggest you listen to Jack Benny, at 4 o'clock, KPO, next Sunday. Perhaps Sausalito will get nothing in return for its efforts —and then, again, the City might even get something—for nothing.
Anyway, the studio publicity department advised the Chamber that Benny will be presented with the box on Saturday when the show has its final rehearsal.

1 comment: