Sunday, 13 October 2019

Joan Benny on Her Dad

Columnist Vernon Scott posed the question “What is Jack Benny really like” and tried to get the answer from his daughter Joan.

Years later after her dad’s death, she put the answer into a book, along with parts of an autobiography her father had set aside. It’s excellent reading for any Benny fan.

Here’s what she had to tell Scott of United Press International. This was published Christmas Day 1962.

Daughter Assesses Jack Benny
By VERNON SCOTT

UPI Hollywood Correspondent
HOLLYWOOD (UPI) — What is Jack Benny REALLY like?
Not even his own daughter can provide the answer.
Joan Benny Rudolph, the comedian’s adopted daughter, spent the better part of three weeks touring the country in an attempt to enlighten the populace on the subject of parent Benny.
The pretty, blue-eyed young woman was hired by a public relations firm to spread the news that papa’s show had been switched from its traditional Sunday night television slot to Tuesday nights. But more interest was evidenced in Benny the homebody than Benny the comedian and sometime violin player.
"Daddy was surprised and somewhat indifferent when he learned I was going to be a press agent for his show," Joan said. "But he was pleased when he saw what a good job I did.
"My biggest problem was trying to explain what Daddy is really like when he isn’t performing. There just isn't any answer to that.
"He’s just like every other father, I guess.
"Daddy isn’t funny around the house. He doesn’t try to be. I know Milton Berle, Bob Hope and Red Skelton are funny when they aren’t performing, but Daddy’s different.
"Actually, he is very much the same kind of person he is on the show, except, of course, he isn’t a miser and he doesn’t drive a Maxwell. Daddy is never on when he’s at home. My mother (Mary Livingstone) is a little nervous, but not Daddy."
Joan is divorced and the mother of two children. She lives in Beverly Hills and sees her parents frequently.
"Daddy and I are very close, and we're both fanatic Dodger fans. We go to a lot of the games together.
"And I must say I approve of the way my parents raised me. I was unaware of being different from any of the other kids when I was a child. I really didn’t know I had very famous parents. Of course most of the other kids in Beverly Hills have famous fathers and mothers, too. It wasn't until I went to Stanford to college that people made any fuss over me."
Only once did Joan attempt to take advantage of her father’s position. In the old days his writers held conferences in the Benny home, plotting out weekly shows.
“One day I asked the writers if they would put together a script for me for my valedictory address from grammar school,” Joan recalled with a smile. “Well, they wrote one for me but it was so full of jokes I was afraid to read it for our graduation exercises. So I had to sit down and write a speech of my own.”
As a press agent Joan visited 16 major cities in three weeks. In each metropolis she was met by a CBS-TV representative who set up press conferences.
“I enjoyed myself, but there wasn’t enough time to really see and enjoy the cities. All I can remember about most of them was the long ride from the airports to my hotel rooms — usually about 45 minutes.
“I don’t have any plans for becoming a full-time press agent,” Joan concluded. “I’m happy enough being a mother. And if I ever discover what the ‘real Jack Benny’ is like I’ll let you know.”

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