Sunday, 21 July 2019

Think Young, Stay Young

One of the reasons so many people were shocked when Jack Benny died was he looked not only healthy up until a few months before his death, but didn’t appear to be 80 years old, which he was.

He talked about youth to North American Newspaper Alliance columnist Cindy Adams, and talked about critics as well. Critics were generally kind to him, but he could get snippy about unfavourable reviews or low ratings. To be honest, though they are nostalgic today, at the time they aired Benny’s TV specials were really for Benny fans only. I doubt they attracted a new audience (especially followers of the counter-culture), even with overly obvious attempts to do it by booking “with-it” guests like Isaac Hayes who don’t look like they belong on the same screen with someone who had spent more than 20 years in vaudeville.

This was published April 26, 1968.

Jack Benny, at 39 Twice, Credits 'Thinking Young'

NEW YORK (NANA)— At the age where he can almost celebrate his 39th birthday twice, Jack Benny is called by chums "the Jewish Dorian Gray."
Deep in the heart of his 70's, his smooth, unlined face is that of a man in his 40's. Being that I know Jack and being that I also hail from peasant stock, I asked straight out if he'd ever had his face lifted.
"No, but I'm certainly flattered you think so," he grinned. "Tell you one thing, though. If I had lifted it I'd gladly admit it. I'm in a business where I must look as well as I can. I'm not a fat clown like Buddy Hackett with a funny characteristic to fall back on or point up, so I have to try and look as well as I can.
"TO ME, THERE'S no shame in having a hairpiece or lifting your face or wearing a girdle. It's the same as fixing a broken arm or repairing a bent finger. I did consult my doctor recently about tightening the extra skin on my neck a bit, but he was against it I have diabetes and at my age he said he's prefer that I don't. If I badly needed it I'd do it, though. Meanwhile, when I'm being made up for television, we use a dark shade on my neck to make it less pronounced."
"You have your own teeth, your own hair," I said admiringly. "Tell me, what's the formula for staying young."
"Thinking young," said Benny. "In my act at the Waldorf, I have a teenage girl with me. I've always utilized youngsters. New talent gives you new life. Bob Hope and I are a toss-up as to who's the world's biggest ham. He says I am and I say he is. But the point is neither of us stop. We both keep up to date. We both travel. We both keep going. I still play as much golf as I can. Sometimes it's only nine holes but at least I play!"
BENNY'S LONGTIME manager, Irving Fein, and the Waldorf's publicity girl, Lola Priess, were shushking loudly in another corner of the suite. Benny peered over once . . . twice . . . then hollered, "Hey, . . . young lady . . . er . . . what's your name?"
"Lola," she hollered back. "Well, listen, Lola, do me a favor, will ya?" "Sure," came the returning holler.
"Shaddup," yelled Jack Benny. Then, grinning happily when everybody broke up, the professional cheapskate of radio and TV fame continued, "Of course, I have reached the point where I no longer stoop to pick up a penny. It now has to be at least a nickel."
And can a Jack Benny, at this stage in the game, ever flop on stage?
"NO, I DON'T really think so," he answered slowly, thinking about it. "My trouble is with critics, not audiences. If I've done two or three good shows in a row, they just figure it's time they rapped me, so they do. I feel that after my many years of producing good entertainment they should be more considerate, but they aren't.
"See, I know what's good for me. I know how to handle my audiences. That's why I'd be a lousy director. I'd always make everybody do things the way I'd do them because that is the only way I know.
"My comedy isn't funny on paper. It's only funny in the way I make it work. Even if my audience should be bad, they'll never know it and neither will anybody watching because someway, somehow, I'll be able to pull something out.
"Let me put it this way," he smiled. "I can always keep a show from not being as bad as some of my critics will say it was!"

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