Gordon had a dry sense of humor and an incredibly warm personality. I first met him in Manhattan several years ago, when the Robert Benchley Society and the Dorothy Parker Society had the first joint gathering at a former speakeasy. Gordon was matching jokes with us, as well as soaking up the atmosphere of being surrounded by friends who had the same passions as he did. Gordon resided in West Virginia, and he lived for making the trips to Boston and New York City for parties with the Benchley friends.
I was impressed by Gordon’s scholarship. His book Robert Benchley: An Annotated Bibliography (Greenwood, 1995) remains the definitive comprehensive bibliography on the humorist, and is the only detailed book about Benchley’s writing and performing career. Gordon loved sharing his knowledge with others; he took to social media to broadcast little known trivia and inform us of late-night airings of Benchley films.
But it is the in-the-flesh Gordon I’ll miss the most. Sipping cocktails with us in humid Boston, on a walking tour of Manhattan, and chatting about films and directors. My most vivid, and lasting, memory of Gordon was the last time we were together. It was July 2010 and we were on a luxury boat, chartered by David and Mary Trumbull in Boston. The Robert Benchley Society was gathered for a fine meal and delicious drinks as the sun sank over the horizon. We were in perfect company and Gordon wrote later it was the highlight of his year.
For most of this year, he was battling his illness. He still wrote often online about classic films and appearances of his favorite stars on TV. Now that he is gone, it is rather easy to say he’s now having a highball with Robert Benchley and Humphrey Bogart. But I prefer to think of him still with us, having a laugh and smile.
Here’s a clip of one of Gordon’s favorite Benchley movies, How to Start the Day, from 1937. Watch this and think of our friend Gordon. We’ll miss you.