Sunday 21 May 2023

That's P-A-L-M...

Palm Springs was a getaway for show bizzers, but it was actually more than that for Jack Benny.

He broadcast a number of his radio shows from the resort and, reportedly, when Mary Livingstone got annoyed at the writers showing up at the Benny home to put together a show, they’d drive to Palm Springs to get it done.

The Palm Springs News of January 14, 1942, came up with a story (and a photo which we can’t reprint) about a writing session for the broadcast of January 18th. What’s interesting is nobody knew at the time their work would not air that Sunday. Two days after this story was published, Jack’s co-star in To Be or Not to Be was killed in a plane crash. Benny was so upset about Carole Lombard’s death, he refused to go on the air that weekend. A musical programme with Jack’s musical arranger, Mahlon Merrick, Dennis Day and the Sportsmen Quartet, introduced by Don Wilson was substituted.

Jack Benny's Next Week Show Born In Steam Bath Here
Scripters Sweat Out Gags In Terry Hunt’s; Benny's Show Biggest On Radio; Facts On Show & Benny

Jack Benny’s radio show for this week was born last Monday night in a rock steam bath. The show’s basic plot and gibes on the much-heckled Benny were scribbled down on some steam-soaked notes by script writers Bill Morrow and Eddie Beloin, with assistance from Harry Baldwin, Benny’s secretary.
It all happened in the rock steam bath at Terry Hunt’s health unit here, when the merry lads gathered to cook up some gags. The room temperature was 150 degrees. Wag Morrow, with merely a towel about his manly hairy figure, and perspiring bucketfulls, said somewhat weakly:
Benny Gets It
“We’re in here to get some gags. And also because we always have trouble with the show’s Finnish."
“That’s right,” said Beloin. “We’re cooking three eggs for the show instead of laying them."
One of the lads then said something about Benny always getting them rooms in a hotel WITHOUT a bath and they HAD to come to Terry Hunt’s to get clean. This was all sort of mumbled amid the heat and perpsiration [sic].
Doll & Dollface
Then amid the heat and all they figured what Benny & gang would do next week. Of course, Benny has a lot to do with shaping up the program. Then there is the highly vocal partner in the show, Benny’s wife, Mary Livingstone, a one-time stocking clerk in the May Co., L. A. nee Sadie Marks. A smart asset to the show, Miss Livingstone often depresses her fellow workers by the firmness she exhibits in advancing her convictions.
Benny calls his wife “Doll”; she calls him “Dollface.” They’ve been married since 1927, have a 7-year-old daughter named Joan Naomi.
11 Million Families
Benny today is the biggest voice on radio, omitting Franklin Roosevelt, who’s considered an amateur. Silver haired, with a smooth witty tongue, he has a Crosley rating of something near 42.4. His Jello show audience is estimated at 11 million families. General Foods, who make Jello, spend almost three-quarters of their advertising budget on Benny & Show. For his 35 half-hour shows over N.B.C., Benny this year will take in some $630,000. After he pays for orchestra, gagmen, announcer & cast he’ll have a net of some $350,000. Almost $200,000 of this goes out in taxes. Travelling expense are further deducted.
All Tires Okay
This is Benny's 8th year with Jello, 11th on the air. His real name is Benjamin Kubelsky, which he changed to Ben K. Benny, then to Jack Benny because of confusion with Ben Bernie. As a kid in Waukegan, Ill., Benny fiddled in juvenile orchestras. His parents’ hope wax he would become a concert violinist. He teamed up at 17 with a pianist named Cora Salisbury and plunged into vaudeville. He discovered his gift for ingratiating patter when doing a recruiting show for the Navy, 1917, which he’d joined. Today he has a 15-room French Colonial mansion in Beverly Hills. And despite last week's show, ALL the tires are reportedly on his car.
March Field Show
Besides radio, Benny takes in almost $100,000 for a picture. His last film finished two weeks ago, a United Artists release and Alexander Korda produced is “To Be Or Not To Be.” It's rumored he’ll do another soon for Warner’s. The Jello air show is planning a trip to New York some two weeks now to do a couple of shows and return via the Great Lakes region where they’ll toss in a show or two. The March Field show last week was called a success by the cast, who found the army boys extremely quick getting the gags. Benny said afterwards he regretted he couldn't give more of them for the boys in the camps.

The paper had a couple of other mentions of Benny in the same issue; one columnist admitted he or she backed into Benny’s car at the Racquet Club, where he answered the phone in the steam room. The same columnist mentioned Dennis Day sang “A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody” at a local club—with Dick Foran! (It must have been impromptu).

Benny attended MGM producer Joe Pasternak’s wedding while he was in the city.

The other Palm Springs paper, the Desert Sun, may have published something but the January 1942 issues are not available. The newspaper came up with a different story about the Benny writers, published February 20, 1942.

Benny Writers Go For Horseback Riding on Desert
Enthusiastic horseback riders now are Eddie Beloin and Bill Morrow, writers for the Jack Benny radio program, and their wives, as result of the efforts of Jack Best to interest them in the sport.
Best, local swimming instructor and organizer of the popular C-Circle B Club for youngsters of Cub Scout age, took the Beloins and Morrows on a horseback trip to Andreas Canyon last week and the winter visitors loved it.
Neither Beloin nor Morrow had ridden before. Now they are so enthusiastic about it they have bought Western apparel and are anxious to go on many rides when they return to the village again. Both are interested in the work of the C-Circle B and were sworn in as honorary members with due ceremonies at the meeting last Thursday.

Benny and his various teams of writers got good mileage out of Palm Springs. They dredged up and re-worked their “Murder at the Racquet Club” sketch, featuring early sound era star Charlie Farrell, mayor of the city and owner of the aforementioned club. The Christmas shopping show was set in Palm Springs one year. One episode had the police chief stick it to Jack after a long gag set-up involving Mary bobbling her lines and saying “grass reek” and then there was the time Jack and Rochester tried to hide the fact from Polly the parrot they were going you-know-where, only to have their ruse spoiled by a spell-the-words radio announcer (played by Benny Rubin). The city was more than a holiday haven. It was another element of the humour that kept the Benny show on top on radio for years.


  1. Too, there was that one time where the Palm Springs broadcast had to be drawn out no less than three weeks because ongoing problems with the telephone line between Palm Springs and the NBC studios in Hollywood before it could manage to go the full half hour; I believe the broadcast in question originated at the American Legion rooms in Palm Springs.

    1. My recollection is Bergen had a problem at one time linking Palm Springs with NBC at Sunset and Vine.

  2. Just out of curiosity, does the script in question still exist, and if so, can we see it?

    1. The Benny Estate has all the scripts. A summary of it was given in Laura's book "39 Forever, Vol. 1," but I don't think the script is accessible.