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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Hey, Rochester:  It’s Jack Benny’s Daughter in Westport

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By Larry Untermeyer

A Westport group took a laughter-filled walk down memory lane today with the daughter of one of the 20th century’s most famous U.S. entertainers—Jack Benny.WestportNow.com Image
Joan Benny of Greenwich regaled the Y’s Men of Westport Weston today with stories about her legendary comedian father, Jack Benny. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Larry Untermeyer for WestportNow.com

Joan Benny of Greenwich regaled the Y’s Men of Westport Weston weekly meeting with story after story about her father and other entertainment world greats.

They included members of Benny’s radio entourage—Rochester, Mary Livingston (Benny’s wife), singer Dennis Day and announcer Don Wilson. 

She also told stories about other celebrities including Benny’s legendary rival Fred Allen and comedian Bob Hope. 

Benny, who died in 1974 at age 80, played the role of someone comically “tight” with his money, insisting on remaining 39 years old despite his actual age, and often playing the violin badly.

Benny was known for his comic timing and his ability to get laughs with either a pregnant pause or a single expression, such as his signature exasperated “Well!”

His radio and television programs, tremendously popular in the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s were a foundational influence on the situation comedy.WestportNow.com Image
Jack Benny, Mary Livingston, and Joan Benny in an undated photo. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) File photo

Born in New York City, Joan Benny grew up in Hollywood while her father’s career flourished in radio, television and in movies. 

After graduating from Stanford, she moved to New York to begin a career in acting and modeling.  Her vivacious personality earned her numerous guest appearances on talk shows and game shows. 

Choosing another direction for her talents, she returned to California for marriage and motherhood. 

While raising her four children, she taught math, worked at UCLA and several charitable foundations. When she no longer felt it imperative to remain home with her children, she started new ventures, lecturing, teaching and writing, 

In 1990, she published her book which became a best seller, “Sunday Nights at Seven: The Jack Benny Story” the title of which recalls the time of her father’s famous radio show. 

Judging by the Y’s Men’s hilarious reaction to her talk, reading the book should provide an amusing and entertaining journey down memory lane.

Posted 11/19 at 10:30 PM
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