Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Birthday Greetings

Benny Kubelsky was born in Waukegan, Illinois on this day in 1894. His mother wanted him to play the violin in the worst way -- and he did, winning fame and fortune in radio and television. He may not have been a true movie star, but he made one great movie (To Be or Not to Be), a lot of fine movies -- and also The Horn Blows at Midnight. (Well I liked it -- but I haven't seen it in years. It's not available on DVD.) If Benny Kubelsky were alive today he'd be celebrating his 39th birthday.

You know, of course, that Benny Kubelsky later became Jack Benny.

For many years I've listened to Chuck Schaden's Those Were the Days February broadcasts -- during "Jack Benny Month."

I guess I've always made a big deal out of it.

Part of this is because my oldest child, my Older Daughter, was also born on Benny's birthday, 22 years ago. Even before that blessed event, I had taken the position that it would be inappropriate to buy expensive presents on Benny's birthday -- but I've never sold anyone on that idea. Especially since Older Daughter was born.

Anyway, when Older Daughter was in first grade, the teacher asked the class if they knew which American Presidents were born in February.

Older Daughter was one of many who raised their hands, and the teacher called on her.

"George Washington," Older Daughter said.

"Very good," the teacher said. "Now can anyone name another one?"

Now fewer hands were raised, and those kids that left their hands up seemed kind of half-hearted. All, that is, except for Older Daughter, who was practically leaping out of her seat.

So the teacher called on her again.

"Abraham Lincoln --" said Older Daughter --

"Very good," the teacher started to say, but Older Daughter wasn't quite finished: "-- and Jack Benny."

Older Daughter has never forgiven me.

But Benny Kubelsky would have loved the story.

Happy Birthday, Jack.

(And Happy Birthday, Older Daughter.)

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