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book_worm Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-02-07 11:02 PM
Original message
Jack Benny confronts racist while entertaining troops during WWII
From Benny's unpublished memoirs:

"At Abadan I had an unsettling run-in with racial prejudice. I had gone into a canteen to get a sandwich and a ginger ale. There was no air-conditioning in the place. A ceiling fan was lethargically stirring up the hot air. I got my food and sat down. A sergeant sat down beside me and said, 'Hi, Mistuh Benny. Ah'm comin' to see your show t'night. You all got Rochester with you?'
'No,'I said.
'Well, I sho am disappointed. You cain't have much of a show without Rochester. He's just about the funniest damn coon in the world.'
I didn't think it was my place to get into a discussion with him about his racist language, so I merely said, 'Well, I hope we'llput on a nice show even without Rochester.' I was there to bring our men a little time out for laughter--they sure needed any relief.
But this fool wasn't satisfied. 'Seems to me, Mistuh Benny, without Rochester, you ain't got no show.'
'You really love Rochester, don't you?' I said.
'Love him? Why, sir, ah tell you ah'd walk ten miles to see that Rochester.'
'You love him so much, huh? Well, let me ask you something. Would you walk into this canteen and sit down with him at the same table?'
His expression got nasty. 'Well, sir, ah come from a part of the country where we don't sit down with nigras.'
'I thought so, young man, and that's why I didn't bring Rochester on this trip. I didn't want him to be embarrassed and humiliated by ignorant folks like you. You say you love Rochester. You'll walk ten miles to see him perform. But you won't sit down at the same table and drink a coke with him. You make me sick.'
I walked out of the canteen.

I've been watching DVDs of 'The Jack Benny Program' and for its time the relationship between Benny, white man, and Eddie (Rochester) Anderson, a black man was fascinating. Rochester, while being portrayed as Benny's valet, always got the upper-hand on his 'boss' and was depicted as an intelligent man valued by Benny and a real affection is apparent between the two. Benny says that he got lots of letters from racists at the time regarding his relationship with Rochester as being "too close" for a white man and a black man to have, and so, he had a form letter written that he sent to these people which read in part, "Why are you threatened by two men who have a real regard and affection for one another? Is it because one of the men is a negro? It is a shame that some people are still fighting the civil war after nearly one hundred years."

(I'm currently working on a biography of Jack Benny)
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JustAnotherGen Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-02-07 11:05 PM
Response to Original message
1. What a
Fantastic story!
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msedano Donating Member (682 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-02-07 11:08 PM
Response to Original message
2. Eddie Anderson
is the man's name. "Rochester" is the name of a character whom Mr. Anderson played.
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book_worm Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-02-07 11:10 PM
Response to Reply #2
3. Yes, I know--see first sentence of final paragraph
Edited on Sun Dec-02-07 11:11 PM by book_worm
and I was quoting a story in which somebody refers to Anderson as "Rochester." And obviously when I'm referring to "Rochester" it's the character he played I'm referring to.
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roguevalley Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-03-07 03:03 PM
Response to Reply #2
39. I loved them both. It was like Benny worked for Rochester. WHat
a great memory they were. Lots of people then stood up for equal rights. Frank Sinatra wouldn't put up with Sammy Davis not getting good treatment. Good times sometimes, then.

I wonder how many young people understand the debt that they owe to people who did the right thing then. I wonder how many young people understand what truly blatant racism was like. I remember it. Grandmas and Grandpas now, who did the hard work of the civil rights movement, deserve a standing O.
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NYCGirl Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-02-07 11:22 PM
Response to Original message
4. That's a wonderful story! Please let me know when your book is available.
I'm a great fan of Benny, who had just about the best timing of any comedian ever. (FYI--Al Franken is a fan, too.)
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book_worm Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-02-07 11:24 PM
Response to Reply #4
5. I've just begun research but looking for a 2009 release date
I'll keep you posted. :)
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NYCGirl Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-02-07 11:27 PM
Response to Reply #5
6. Please do. The research must be fun! N/T
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2008 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-03-07 11:38 AM
Response to Reply #5
30. I'm looking forward to it
I haven't had an opinion of Jack Benny one way or another until reading your post. Looking forward to buying a copy when it comes out.
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gateley Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-02-07 11:59 PM
Response to Reply #4
16. Sometimes when I see Bill Maher do a "look" I'm thinking "Jack B!" He was
a genius and ahead of his time.
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stlsaxman Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-03-07 12:08 AM
Response to Reply #16
17. is that picture of Biden doing a "Benny"?? look in your sig line! LOL
yup! Biden's hip to Benny, too!

::bounce::
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gateley Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-03-07 12:29 AM
Response to Reply #17
19. Ha! You're right - definitely a Benny Look! nt
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frogcycle Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-02-07 11:28 PM
Response to Original message
7. Thanks for the story
I remember watching the Jack Benny Show, and the description of their relationship is accurate. One other note - the running gag of Benny's being cheap (it was a gag - he was actually quite generous) was part of it - Benny would come up with some Lucille-Ball-like hairbrained scheme to do something for a few cents less, and Rochester would patiently say "Yes, Sir, Mr. Benny" and you knew that he knew Benny was being an idiot. He would come to the rescue at the end.

They were on radio long before TV - my parents told of hearing Benny and Rochester for years before they knew what either looked like.
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zalinda Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-02-07 11:41 PM
Response to Reply #7
12. I wonder if he got the germ of the show
from PG Wodehouse, and his Jeeves and Wooster series of short stories. Sounds a lot on how Jeeves would rescue Wooster.

zalinda
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11cents Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-02-07 11:29 PM
Response to Original message
8. Awhile back I heard an interview with Harry Shearer....
...in which he talked about his experiences as a child actor on Jack Benny's show. Shearer doesn't in general come off as an easy or forgiving guy, but his comments about Benny couldn't have been warmer. He said that Benny was one of the rare performers generous enough to be happy helping his fellow actors get the laughs -- a great straightman, in other words. He also had some stories about Benny's kindness to him on the set.
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book_worm Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-02-07 11:31 PM
Response to Reply #8
9. Thanks for that--I'm going to have to seek Shearer out for an interview.
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Bolo Boffin Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-02-07 11:31 PM
Response to Original message
10. I just saw "To Be or Not To Be" again on OnDemand.
Benny's version, not Brooks. Both are bloody brilliant, but Benny is funnier in tights.

Crackerjack script and a stand up guy.
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book_worm Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-02-07 11:34 PM
Response to Reply #10
11. I agree. One of the great black comedies of all-time
Bob Hope made many more films than Jack Benny, but he never made a masterpiece. Jack Benny did and "To Be or Not to Be" is it. He was also excellent in "Charley's Aunt" and "George Washington Slept Here."
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Jeff In Milwaukee Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-03-07 09:30 AM
Response to Reply #11
28. He was a generous comedian...
If you listen to the radio show, the rest of the cast got most of the punch lines. Jack didn't need to get the laugh every time -- he was just as gifted when being the straight man.

Really looking forward to the book.
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Hardrada Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-02-07 11:44 PM
Response to Original message
13. The Jack Benny TV show always reminds me of great times
in my childhood and youth. My grandfather whom I revered was a stalwart Benny fan and no other show could bump Benny's. Good memories in a season of fond memories.
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Froward69 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-02-07 11:50 PM
Response to Original message
14. I read in one of george Burns books
that he and benny would pal around with al jolson. al as it turned out was not racest in the slightest. just the Blackface worked for his routine.

another I read in the same book was how Burns and Benny went to a hoi-piloi party. they got to talking about how styles were getting out of control. I would have to look it up but i believe benny put a string on burns lapel and said you drooped this. later burns hired an armored truck and got a jewel case to return the string. Bennyy had to sign for it. and when he opened the jewel case and saw the string. with the note "I know you would not want to loose this." Benney fell to the floor laughing for a full 15 minutes.
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goodgd_yall Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-02-07 11:51 PM
Response to Original message
15. A biography of Jack Benny!
That is great! When I was a child, I didn't quite get his humor, but as an adult, he really made me laugh. I liked his timing and his subtlety.

Thank you for sharing this story about Jack.
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Longhorn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-03-07 12:11 AM
Response to Original message
18. I listen to Jack Benny all the time on Sirius -- the classic radio channel.
I also listen to him on various websites that play classic radio. His show makes me laugh out loud every time I listen. And I've always felt that he regarded "Rochester" with the utmost respect. He was never patronizing, nor did he make jokes at "Rochester's" expense. I've always thought that he was ahead of his time, considering how other African-Americans were depicted in entertainment, let alone in every day life. Yes, Rochester was his servant but his servitude wasn't any different than the white characters on the show. For the most part, he was a companion and friend.

I didn't get Jack Benny as a child when I saw his television show but now I find his wit and intelligence amazing. I would love to read your biography! Thanks!
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Catherine Vincent Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-03-07 12:32 AM
Response to Original message
20. That was awesome!
Jack Benny!
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alfredo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-03-07 01:02 AM
Response to Original message
21. Here's some Jack Benny video on you tube
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Demeter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-03-07 09:24 AM
Response to Reply #21
25. Thanks for the LInk
The second clip was from the day I was born!
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alfredo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-03-07 11:38 AM
Response to Reply #25
29. Glad you enjoyed them I loved the Mel Blanc clip where he was
playing the part of a Mexican musician. His timing with Benny was incredible. Look at the video with Groucho Marx and you will see two masters at work.

Mel Blanc was the master of the cartoon voices. what's up doc?


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mel_Blanc
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Aristus Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-03-07 03:48 PM
Response to Reply #29
42. "Train leaving on track 5 for Anaheim, Azusa and Cuc...
...
















...amonga!"
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alfredo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-03-07 04:46 PM
Response to Reply #42
44. Cartoons were our LSD.
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Elwood P Dowd Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-03-07 01:05 AM
Response to Original message
22. You can listen to ole' Jack Benny radio shows here....
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book_worm Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-03-07 12:58 PM
Response to Reply #22
31. Thanks
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burrowowl Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-03-07 01:10 AM
Response to Original message
23. As soon as you book is in print
let's us know!
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autorank Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-03-07 03:41 AM
Response to Original message
24. Rochester was very tolerant of Jack Benny's eccentricities.
But his body language and expressions were priceless, as were Benny's. The two of them together were
just terrific. I can remember the shows as a tiny child, well I must have been it's so long ago. I
recall Benny doing his stand up and Benny and Rochester together. You're right, it was clear that
Rochester was the brighter of the two in the skits. The story you recount is one that fits with my
impression of Benny. He seemed like a very decent man, and he was.

Ernie Kovaks is about the only other figure of that era whom I recall vividly.
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Demeter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-03-07 09:27 AM
Response to Reply #24
26. YOu Want to See "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum"
the Zero Mostel production. There you'll see the last hurrah of vaudeville. Those days will never come again.

I think of all the precious things we have lost as a nation, our sense of humor was the first.

The public of 1955 would have laughed Dubya out of politics.
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autorank Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-03-07 02:44 PM
Response to Reply #26
35. Yep, I did see that.
It was some sort of traveling version long after the original. Came to my town and I'm pretty sure that Mostel was in it. But that might be the 'fish story' part of my memory. I saw the film version and it's hilarious. You know, about Bush, he is being laughed out of the place but the media controls are much tighter and more sinister now. It's truly frightening. It's simply impossible to find people who support him other than the 20% hard core, ultra right/religious right types. But here he is, president and supposedly in th emid 30's, which again would have been a sign of total decay in times past but is barely covered as significant by the media bots. Strange times. Good luck with the book.
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rosesaylavee Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-03-07 09:17 PM
Response to Reply #26
50. No, I think the people of 1955 had their own woes ...
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msedano Donating Member (682 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-03-07 09:56 PM
Response to Reply #26
51. Culture Clash is vaudeville's last hurrah
Edited on Mon Dec-03-07 10:01 PM by msedano
If you enjoy bicultural comedy, along with political satire, "Chavez Ravine" or "Zorro" would be right down your alley. In "Ravine" they do hommage to "who's on first" with all the perfect timing and somewhere in the middle they switch to Spanish until one of the boys does a double take asking, "Why are we speaking Spanish?" and they finish the bit in English. "First base!"
http://www.cultureclash.com/ (edited to add url)

Are there episodes of Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In on Utube, speaking of vaudeville?

Benny and Anderson offered antidote to the less amusing "Amos 'n Andy" and "Beulah" shows. But I'm showing my age. Say, did I tell you about the first television program I ever watched? The neighbor bought one and my brother and I spent the evening jumping as high as we could into the air to peer over the hedge for a glimpse of the Lone Ranger. Finally Mrs. Gardner could take the thump-thump-thump no longer and invited us in to see the new-fangled device. A few years later, my folks bought one for us. This was in the day when every time an airplane flew over we'd scream up at the sky, "Hey! Is Hairy Ass Truman in that plane?"
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annabanana Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-03-07 09:28 AM
Response to Original message
27. Benny got more laughs doing NOTHING than most comedians
get in years and years of doing schtick.
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Demeter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-03-07 01:56 PM
Response to Reply #27
32. "I'm Thinking!!!"
That was my favorite Benny gag!
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Ishoutandscream2 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-03-07 02:20 PM
Response to Original message
33. Jack Benny was a comic GOD!!!!
My God - his sense of timing, the facial expression - brilliant! And this story makes me love him even more. Probably my all time favorite comic.
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Cell Whitman Donating Member (872 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-03-07 02:34 PM
Response to Original message
34. Jack Benny Show on internet TV FREE
Edited on Mon Dec-03-07 02:36 PM by Cell Whitman
Book Worm, what great subject to write about.

first...

I am sorry to say that the original of this link is dead but it used to have a really good audio show on the "feud" between Benny and Fred Allen with lots of clips. Really good. There is an email address on this page maybe you can contact the poster and get a copy of it.

http://web.archive.org/web/20060112044506/http://radio.indymedia.org/news/2006/01/8080.php

_ _ _

Elwood posted a great link of benny's radio shows up thread. Benny audio is found at archive.org for download also.

http://www.archive.org/search.php?query=jack%20benny

(they have Fred Allan at archive.org too)

_ _ _

Some of Benny's TV shows can be found at my home away from home TV4u. :7

You have to surf the site to get the hang of it. All kinds of shows, Make Room for Daddy and some old Ozzie and Harriets, they even have the cult classic "Mr. Peepers" with Wally Cox. You can also find one episode of Highway Patrol featuring the baddest ass on the planet, Dan Matthews(Broderick Crawford).


At the top of the page are the categories. When you click on one it will automatically load a show on small player without all the controls - you have to scroll down the page for other shows. Scroll down and click on Benny's photo. When you get to Benny's page you can scroll down for different shows. When you click on the show it will load automatically in the small player and start with a short commercial. When you click "view large screen" under the player, it will load a bigger player with controls. Sometimes it asks you to register for large screen, sometimes not.

Hope that was clear as mud. :7 You'll figure it out.

All the shows are good. Giselle McKenzie and Jack playing violin -- good stuff.

The Christmas show with suicidal Mel Blanc is fall down funny.

Anyway, there is a lot of great old TV here - here's the link to the "Comedy" page:

http://tv4u.com/comedy.asp

_ _

there are also some shows at Like Television which now lets you full screen without paying.

Use the drop down menu to find:

http://tesla.liketelevision.com/liketelevision/search/classictv.php?q=Classic+TV&theme=guide






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Gruenemann Donating Member (753 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-03-07 02:47 PM
Response to Original message
36. Jack Benny confronts the DRUG MENACE!
According to Woody Alley, "I remember being with Jack Benny, who was much older than me, and a very staid, Beverly Hills, Jewish comic. And he was saying to me, 'I've got to try marijuanaI'm just dying to try it.'"

Kitty Kelley claims Jack Benny smoked pot with the Reagans, George Burns, and Gracie Allen. What a party that must have been (if it actually happened)!

Bing Crosby was opposed to pot prohibition. Now we know what was in that pipe and why he had such a mellow aura.
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chemenger Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-03-07 02:55 PM
Response to Original message
37. Years ago, a friend of my father's told me a funny story
about Jack Benny. I've often wondered if it was true.

Seems that Jack Benny and George Burns were very close friends. Jack was always pulling jokes on George B. in an attempt to get George to laugh. Problem was that Jack's attempts to make George laugh always failed because George B. had an uncanny ability to anticipate what Jack was up to.

One day, Jack B. was in his hotel room when he got a call from George B. George was downstairs in the lobby and wanted to come up to Jack's room to pay him a visit. Jack thought this was the perfect opportunity to pull a joke on George that was guaranteed to make him laugh so he told George to come on upstairs and come into his room.

Jack stripped naked, climbed up on a table in his room, stuck a rose in his mouth and struck a pose waiting for George to come in.


George sent the maid in first. :rofl:

I always wondered if that story was true.
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book_worm Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-03-07 03:10 PM
Response to Reply #37
41. I've heard that too--don't know if it's true, but I'd like to think it was.
Burns was always one up on his good friend Jack, who he could make laugh with the drop of a hat.
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hootinholler Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-03-07 05:42 PM
Response to Reply #37
45. Since we're in the who knows if it happened area...
Benny was visiting Eisenhower at the White House. He walked in with his violin case and the SS asked him what was in the case. Benny replied why it's a machine gun! The SS agent said that's ok, just as long as it's not your violin!

-Hoot
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tom_paine Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-03-07 02:57 PM
Response to Original message
38. It is a shame that some people are still fighting the Civil War after almost 150 years.
That is one of the things that got us to where we are today.
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TommyO Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-03-07 03:08 PM
Response to Original message
40. What a stand up guy!
haha, get it stand up? Thank you, I'll be here all week.

Seriously though, it sounds like he had a good sense of reality, equality, and what was just the right thing to do.
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Mythsaje Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-03-07 04:38 PM
Response to Original message
43. He was a little before my time
but he sounds like quite the guy.
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Faygo Kid Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-03-07 07:29 PM
Response to Original message
46. Well!
I'm not surprised. Benny's greatest film (there weren't many) was "To Be Or Not To Be," taking on the Nazis.

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ooglymoogly Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-03-07 08:00 PM
Response to Original message
47. When I was just a kid I used to sit with my father around an old
Edited on Mon Dec-03-07 08:10 PM by ooglymoogly
cathedral of a radio and listen to Jack. My father would slap his knee in laughter and I thought he was the funniest man alive especially the creaky cob web and fun house journies down into the vault the affect of which was entering the toumb of king Tut, where he kept his very tightly held money. I loved this man who had respect for every living thing except intolerance. Would that we had more of these wonderful characters as role models today. But that was the FDR era when honorable giants were our role models.
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ooglymoogly Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-03-07 08:02 PM
Response to Original message
48. PS good luck with the bio and thanks for the post.
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brentspeak Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-03-07 08:15 PM
Response to Original message
49. On an unrelated note: Did Jack Benny ever turn 40?
Edited on Mon Dec-03-07 08:16 PM by brentspeak
;)
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book_worm Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-04-07 12:25 PM
Response to Reply #49
52. Never, he was eternally 39.
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