Wednesday, June 29, 2011

My Word!

Don Bradley, member of the Boston "We've Come for the Davenport" Chapter of the Robert Benchley Society, passed on this item of interest:
In the Spring 2011 "The Hemingway Review" they have included this topic by Nat Benchley. I received my copy of the "Review" yesterday.

Abstract: In the mid-1930s, the humorist Robert Benchley invited his friend Ernest Hemingway up to his suite at the Royalton Hotel in New York. During the visit, Hemingway wrote lewd or silly inscriptions to Benchley in four of his books: In Our Time, A Farewell to Arms, Green Hills of Africa, and The Fifth Column. Here Benchley's grandson Nat offers up those inscriptions for edification and amusement.

* * *

Robert Benchley, in his essay "Why Does Nobody Collect Me?", which appears, beginning on page 354 of Chips off the Old Benchley, describes Hemingway paying a visit to Benchley's room in New York City, during which the author and adventurer "took a pen in his chubby fist, dipped it in a bottle of bull's blood, and wrote the following:
To Robert ("Garbage Bird") Benchley, hoping that he won't wait for prices to reach the peak [blank]. From his friend, Ernest ("[blank] [blank]") Hemingway
The "Garbage Bird" reference in connection with me was a familiarity he had taken in the past to describe my appearance in the early morning light of Montparnasse on certain occasions. The epithet applied to himself, which was unprintable except in Ulysses, was written deliberately to make it impossible for me to cash in on the book."

Benchley goes on to describe Hemingway's personalization of Mr. Benchley's copy of A Farewell to Arms, in which he "filled in each blank in the text where Scribner's had blushed and put a dash instead of the original word in every case."

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Sunday Sudoku

Complete the grid so that each row, column, and 3-by-3 framed block contains the letters P A R K B E N C H (only once) RATED DIFFICULT

Register Now and Avoid July 1st Price Increase -- Robert Benchley Soc. Annual Gathering, Nov. 11-13, Washington, D.C.

The Eighth Annual Gathering of the Robert Benchley Society will be Friday through Sunday, November 11-13, 2011, in Washington, D.C.

The main event will be the Saturday, November 12, 2011, Annual Humor Awards Dinner will be held at the University Club of Washington, D.C. At this event we'll be giving out two Robert Benchley Society Awards for Humor. Mike Tuck of Eden Prairie, Minn., will be presented with the 2010 Robert Benchley Award for Humor for his essay Story Time with the Children. At this ceremony we'll also honor the soon-to-be-announced winner of the 2011 competion. Our 2011 celebrity judge of the competition Mark Russell is a member of the University Club, where we'll hold the ceremony.

For more information and to register go to

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Cocktail Culture at RISD through July 31st

Cocktail Culture: Ritual and Invention in American Fashion, 1920-1980 is the first multi-disciplinary exhibition to explore the social ritual of the cocktail hour through the lens of fashion and design.

Organized by the Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art’s Department of Costume and Textiles, Cocktail Culture features stunning fashion apparel from Balenciaga to Schiaparelli, jewelry, textiles, decorative and fine art, film, photographs, and more. More than 220 objects are included, drawn from the Museum’s vast holdings and loans from other museums and private collections.

Cocktail Culture is accompanied by a beautifully illustrated book with five essays, which is available for purchase in the Museum's shop, risd|works, and online at

Cocktail Culture is sponsored by Swarovski, with additional support from The Coby Foundation and the Museum Associates.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sunday Sudoku

Complete the grid so that each row, column, and 3-by-3 framed block contains the letters P A R K B E N C H (only once) RATED EASY

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Sunday Sudoku

Complete the grid so that each row, column, and 3-by-3 framed block contains the letters P A R K B E N C H (only once) RATED EASY

Friday, June 10, 2011

17th Century Venetian Scoops Benchley!

I was digging around in the Muse database at the Boston Athenaeum the other day and found twenty-nine citations about Robert Benchley.

One interesting piece of Benchley trivia is contained in an article from the Journal, Eighteenth Century Life, called Water, Windows, and Women: The Significance of Venice for Scots in the Age of the Grand Tour, by Iain Gordon Brown, in the Fall, 2006 issue.

Brown claims that Benchley's famous telegram from Venice -- "Streets full of water -- please advise." – was at least partly anticipated in 1670! He says that Benchley stole the phrase -- though I think this is a bit of good-natured hyperbole, since I refuse to believe they had telegrams back then. Here is Mr. Brown's take on things:

"Richard Lassels's The Voyage of Italy, published posthumously in 1670 [is where] the term 'Grand Tour' is first used. This early manuscript . . . personified Venice as a beautiful woman, one of the fairest in Europe, holding up her head in the midst of the sea with Neptune for her guard and the reason for her sleeping securely.

“'The streets,' Lassels writes, 'are full of water.' (fols. 322 – 25). It was he who said this long before Robert Benchley stole the phrase in the twentieth century, and got himself into the books of travel quotations."

Well, this is a fine kettle of Venetian something-or-other!

Happy Birthday, Nicole!

On Thursday, June 9, 2011 the United States Department of Homeland Security published in the Federal Register (76 FR 33643) a temporary final rule amending 33 CFR Part 165, to wit: Safety Zone; Nicole Cerrito Birthday Fireworks, Detroit River, Detroit, MI.
On June 11, 2011, a private party is holding a land-based birthday celebration that will include fireworks launched from a point on the Detroit River. The fireworks display will occur between 10 p.m. and 11:15 p.m., June 11, 2011. ...Accordingly, the safety zone will encompass all waters on the Detroit River within a 300 foot radius of the fireworks barge launch site located off the shore of Detroit, MI at position 42[deg]21'04'' N, 082[deg]58'32'' W.
Well, happy birthday to you, Nicole, whoever you are. It's not everyone whose birthday celebration includes a fireworks display big enough to be seen by the citizens of two nations -- Americans in Detroit and Canadians to the south in Windsor, Ontario, on the other side of that international boundary, the Detroit River.

I live in Boston, on the top of Beacon Hill, with views to both the Charles River and Boston Harbor, two popular fireworks venues. Our Fourth of July fireworks over the Charles are well-known from the national television broadcast. Major public festivities in Boston -- arrival of the Tall Ships, First Night (New Year's Eve), and other civic celebrations -- include fireworks over the harbor. Public fireworks displays from time to time through the year is just one of the benefits of city living. An added benefit is watching legal private fireworks displays, such as last week's over the Charles in celebration of the centenary of the founding of Massachusetts Institute of Technology. I'm not an M.I.T. man, nor did I attend the high-priced fireworks-watching party across the river in Cambridge, but I had just as good a view for free. Similarly with fireworks last summer over the harbor for the wedding of persons I never heard of.

Who is Nicole Cerrito? Who are these private citizens who can afford huge fireworks displays for birthdays or weddings? They certainly aren't any of the people I know. Nor likely, reader, are they persons you know. They are total strangers with a lot of money (bully for them!) who celebrate the mileposts of life -- birthdays, anniversaries, weddings -- in a big way, so big that they share it with the rest of us within viewing area of the skies, which are free. I think that's grand! And to all Robert Benchley fans in Detroit or Windsor Saturday night, I suggest you get down to the the waterfront, watch Nicole's fireworks, and raise a glass in her honor.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

From the Mail Bag

To the inquiry:

My friend sent me a bunch of Life Magazine articles by RCB and "A Polyp with a Past" was one of them, I suppose predating the script for the film, "Sex Life of a Polyp."

The Robert Benchley Society responded:

According to Gordon Ersnt, in Robert Benchley: An Annotated Bibliography (page 39), "Polyp with a Past" first appeared in Life of December 22, 1921. The film "Sex Life of a Polyp" (see Ernst page 202) dates to July 25, 1928 and is based on the essay above and on "Do Insects Think?" (Life, August 3, 1922) and "The Social Life of the Newt" (Vanity Fair, December 1919).

The RBS has on its website a List of Benchley Essays with which Books They Appear In which shows the following:

"Polyp with a Past" appears in Love Conquers All (1922) beginning on page 92 and Benchley Beside Himself (1943) beginning on page 1.

"Do Insects Think?" appears in Love Conquers All (1922) in beginning on page 62 and Benchley Round-up (1954) beginning on page 44.

"The Social Life of the Newt" appears in Of All Things (1921) beginning on page 3, Inside Benchley (1942) beginning on page 1, and Benchley Round-up (1954) beginning on page 11.

Love Conquers All is in the public domain in the United States and is available on the RBS website at

Amazon to Release DVD of Benchley in "See Here, Private Hargrove" This Month

Actors: Robert Walker, Keenan Wynn, Robert Benchley, Ray Collins, Chill Wills
Release date: June 24, 2011.

According to Wikipedia:
See Here, Private Hargrove (1942) is a book by journalist Marion Hargrove about the author's experiences in becoming a soldier in the U.S. Army during World War II. The light-hearted book was a hit with readers, and spent 15 weeks atop the New York Times best seller list. It was still in print 50 years after its original publication date.

The book was made into a film in 1944 starring Robert Walker, Donna Reed, Keenan Wynn, Chill Wills, and Robert Benchley

Monday, June 6, 2011

Did I Die and Go to Heaven? Not Yet. But I Did Stay at...

Did I die and go to Heaven? Not yet. But I did stay at the legendary Algonquin Hotel for several days just last week, mere moments before its most recent sale at 82 million smackeroos.

For a writer, member of the Robert Benchley Society, and a humorist, visiting the home of The Algonquin Round Table is akin to a holy event.

The Oak Room. The mural. Me. This is my pilgrimage to the altar of wit, brilliant repartee, sophisticated quips, and cherished literary history.

Barb Best "A Vicious Circle" by Natalie Ascencios

A display case adjacent to the elevators displays a historical collection of cultural keepsakes from The Algonquin Round Table. Included are photographs of Robert Benchley and vintage copies of some of his books.
Let us not forget Matilda, the celebrity cat whose chaise longue adorns the front lobby. She has a popular book (a biography), a Facebook page, an active Twitter account, and (I suspect) a lucrative merchandising deal. Eat your heart out, Eloise and Taco Bell Chihuahua.

I had the pleasure of meeting Matilda in The Oak Room when I was luxuriating over a lengthy, late breakfast with a writer friend. She's quite sociable (Matilda, that is).

The wallpaper upstairs in the hallways is custom made from classic New Yorker cartoons. Thurber, Arno, Steig, Addams. I never thought I'd say this, but I am in love with wallpaper.

Seeking inspiration within The Algonquin?

There is a "Writer's Block" rate at The Algonquin. Simply show a manuscript or published work to qualify.
BARB BEST is a new member of the Robert Benchley Society and in the Top Ten in the RBS Humor Writing Competition.
She is also the 2010 Erma Bombeck Global Humor Winner. Her blog is Barb's Blast.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Sunday Sudoku

Complete the grid so that each row, column, and 3-by-3 framed block contains the letters P A R K B E N C H (only once) RATED MEDIUM DIFFICULTY

The Algonquin Hotel Sells for $82 Million

Cornerstone Real Estate Advisors has acquired the Algonquin Hotel for $82 million, according Real Estate Weekly.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Introducing the New Yorker iPad App

2011 Thurber Treat Picnic - The First of Five Evenings of Good Friends, Good Food, and Great Books!

Thurber House will kick off the 26th season of Summer Literary Picnics, a series of outdoor dinners and readings with Ohio-connected authors. This year's Thurber Treat will take place on Wednesday, June 8 on the side lawn of Thurber House, 77 Jefferson Ave. (Rain site at State Auto Insurance, 518 E. Broad St.)

Winners of the Thurber Treat writing contest will be featured at the Picnic. This year they asked writers to choose from a selection of Thurber cartoons, write a caption for the cartoon, and then expand on the caption with a silly or sage story. Nancy Gilson, Arts Editor for the Columbus Dispatch, will serve as host for the evening.

Starting at 5:20, the Thurber House Young Docents will offer special guided tours of Thurber House. Picnicking will begin at 6:15 p.m.; guests can order a delicious catered dinner from Party Panache, or bring their own. You can also feel free to bring the alcoholic beverage of your choice. The program will begin at 7:00 p.m.

Tickets are $25 for the reading and dinner and $15 for the reading only. All dinner reservations must be made by 4 p.m. on Monday, June 6. Reading-only tickets are sold in advance and at the door. For more details, or to purchase tickets, call 614-464-1032 or visit

From the Mail Bag

Dear Mr. Trumbull:

I wanted to thank you for posting the Thurber Treat Contest info. Without it, I never would have known about it, never would have entered, and thus definitely wouldn’t have been named a winner. I am very appreciative.

--Katherine J. Leisering.

Algonquin Hotel May be Sold

The Algonquin Hotel, the landmark, 174-room property that's been bought and sold four times in the last 15 years, may be about to change hands once again, according to a story on The Real Deal Online.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Robert Benchley Society Names Top Ten in 2011 Humor Writing Competition

BOSTON, JUNE 1, 2011 -- The Robert Benchley Society is happy to announce the top ten semi-finalists in the 2011 RBS Annual Humor Writing Award Competition. "Once again, we had the pleasure of receiving many fine entries and I thank our preliminary judges who had the difficult task of assigning a ranking to the essays," said David Trumbull, Chairman of the Robert Benchley Society. This year's semi-finalists, in alphabetical order:
These top ten essays have been forwarded to humorist Mark Russell, who will decide on the final four, ranked in order from first place. The winners will be announced on Tuesday, July 5th, and the awards will be presented at the Robert Benchley Society Annual Awards Dinner on Saturday, November 12th, at the University Club of Washington, D.C. For details about the dinner and other activities planned for the Eighth International Annual Gathering "A Capitol Idea," November 11-13, 2011, CLICK HERE. Register NOW and avoid the July 1st price increase. This year's preliminary judges:
  • Gordon Ernst, of Morgantown, W.V., author of Robert Benchley: An Annotated Bibliography, and a Director of the RBS
  • Eileen Forster Keck, of Providence, R.I., a Director of the RBS
  • Sharon Lyon, of Ottawa, Ontario, Secretary of the RBS
  • Dan Montville, of Oak Park, Ill., author of Disabled Fables, 2008 1st place winner of the RBS Humor Writing Award, and Director of the RBS
  • Tom Saunders, of Whitmore Lake, Mich., author of The Athletic Benchley, President of the “Moderate State of Preservation” Chapter of the RBS
  • Ed Tasca, of Toronto, Ontario, 2009 1st place winner of the RBS Humor Writing Award, and Director of the RBS.

New Conference Humor Panel: ‘How To Become An Algonquin Wit’

Discover how the great Robert Benchley – columnist, actor, New Yorker critic, Algonquin Round Table regular and the man who quipped “The free-lance writer gets paid per piece or per word or perhaps” – can inspire you to tackle the silly and absurd side of life at the 2011 “Rebound In Motown” conference of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.

Thom Saunders has uncovered Benchley’s little-known essays from the rarely explored archives of the Detroit Athletic Club’s private literary magazine and collected them into a new, award-winning book, “The Athletic Benchley” – a surprising title when it comes to the author of “How to Sleep” and “I Like to Loaf.”

Saunders – winner of the Robert Benchley Award for Humor in 2005 – will be joined by Benchley fans Ken Voyles of the Athletic Club as well as New York Times bestselling humor author, 2006 Benchley Award winner and Columnist of the Year Bruce Cameron; Erma Bombeck Award winner Mike Ball; and Radio Hall of Famer and Detroit comedy icon Dick Purtan. They’ll explore what you can learn from the man who wrote “The Sex Life of the Polyp” while attempting to heed Benchley’s warning that, “There are no lengths to which humorless people will not go to analyze Humor.”

Panel topics include:
• Don't be funny – be funny consistently
• No one cares about your dog except you
• Building funny platforms and sidestepping OSHA
• Algonquin humor – without the three (or 12 martinis)
• If you think you have been funny, where do you send it? Humor's sordid side.

The panel takes place on the afternoon of Friday, June 24, during the Rebound in Motown conference of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, June 23-26 at the restored four-diamond Westin Book-Cadillac in Detroit.

A conference special rate to all members in good standing of the Robert Benchley Society and the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop is available for $299 with a registration for two or more nights at the Book-Cadillac. You can find a complete conference schedule here, special discount hotel registration here for $124 per night with free Internet and discount valet parking, airline and rental car discounts here, and conference registration here.

See you in Detroit!

Robert Benchley Society

For more information about the Robert Benchley Society, local chapters near you, our annual Award for Humor, and our Annual Gathering, visit The RBS Website