Sunday 26 May 2019

No Love, No Empress, For Benny

Last Sunday, we featured two reviews of the opening night of Jack Benny’s appearance in Vancouver in 1954. Before we leave Vancouver, let’s pass along one unusual newspaper interview given prior to the show. It’s from July 6, 1954.

The writer interpolates Benny’s violin practice as they talk about how the city looked when Benny first appeared there in vaudeville in the early ‘20s. A number of the places he frequented were gone; indeed, the very venue where he played was torn down before 1960.

One error in the story—Mary Livingstone was not born in Vancouver but spent many of her girl years there. Her house on Nelson Street is long gone, too. The same paper, by the way, had a short profile of Mary’s brother Hilliard Marks, who also grew up in Vancouver. I don’t believe Jack ever made the children’s record he talked about, but I wish he had.

‘Plink, Plunk’ Benny Plays, Reminiscing of Old Days
Sun Staff Reporter
Did you every [sic] try to talk sense to somebody while he played the violin (not too well) and dreamed of years—yes, years—before you were born?
Less than half an hour after perennial funnyman Jack Benny hit town Monday night he was in his shirt sleeves fiddling "Love In Bloom."
Plink, plunk, plink, Benny fiddled.
"The old Orpheum Theatre," he mused. "I remember playing in the old Orpheum before the First World War."
Plunk, plunk. Plank.
"Sure would like to see it. Man, what I wouldn't give to see the inside of the old Orpheum once more." Plunk.
"What's it called now? What's that you said? The International Cinema!"
"And that little cafe next door.”
"You know, the one with the long counter down one side and the booths with the curtains on them and all...."
"That's right—Love's. Used to eat there every night after the show. What times those were—I was just 39."
Plunkplunkplunk. Screek.
"Don't laugh. I'm going to have a birthday next year. Make a big thing of it. After all, a man needs a change of scene."
Actually it was a jolly Jack Benny breezed into town. He hardly chiselled anyone as he yak-yukked through the railway station.
He even gave something away— his autograph. Just one, though. That was all he was asked for.
"Ah, popularity," he sighed.
Benny was accompanied by Sammy Davis jr., who is featured in his show along with Giselle Mackenzie, Canadian-born singing star who arrived by car and then had a mild spot of trouble before finding a hotel that would let her two pet long-haired daschunds in.
Benny's wife, Vancouver-born Mary Livingstone, is due in Seattle Wednesday and Benny is "sure" she will spend a day or two here.
Benny, a Maxwell fancier from those earlier days, was greeted by a Maxwell in Vancouver, in this case Holly Maxwell of Famous Artists.
"Can't shake that name anywhere," he muttered.
Benny, not noted as a wise-cracker off the stage, just can't resist a gag and the diminutive Davis kept him hanging on to posts and baggage carts as they passed through the station.
They finally decided before getting into their cars that they would loaf through the evening and then golf this afternoon at Gleneagles.
Then it's down to work preparing for the show which opens in the Georgia Auditorium Wednesday.
But in his shirtsleeves at the hotel, the violin was the thing of the moment.
Plunk, he fiddled.
"I'm going to do a children's record with a big-name violinist when I get back home. It's going to be a good one. That's why they're going to have the other violinist."
Plink, plink.
"I remember, there was another theatre played in, the Empress I think it was." Plink. "It's a supermarket now?" Plunk.
"Say, this auditorium place we're going to play in, it's a big place isn't it? Lots of seats? Lots and lots of room?"
"Then you'll he a nice fella, won't you, and tell all these wonderful people in Vancouver to come down on down? There's LOTS of room? For everybody?" Plink-please-plink.
"You will?"

1 comment:

  1. "Jack Benny Plays The Bee Ably Assisted By Isaac Stern" aka "Jack Benny Fiddles With The Classics" Capitol Special Markets L-8108, (1956/1978 re-issue) I would consider to be a children's record as Jack is portrayed as a child. ---