Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Our Top Ten Funny Writers for 2012

The Robert Benchley Society is pleased to announce the ten semi-finialists in the competition for the 2012 Robert Benchley Humor Writing Award. The top ten entries, in alphabetic order by author, are:
These essays are in the hands of this year's celebrity judge, comedian Arte Johnson, perhaps best known for playing Wolfgang the German soldier on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In. Mr. Johnson will select the top four essays in order and send the writer of each essay a personal note stating what he liked about the essay. The Annnual Award Ceremony and Dinner will be held this fall in Los Angeles at a date to be determined based on the availability of our winners and Mr. Johnon.

The judges in the first round, which resulted in the top ten semi-finalists were:
  • 2005 Benchley Society First Place Award Winner, President of the Longwood, Washington "We Only Came to See if There Really is an Award" Chapter of the RBS, and West Coast Vice Chairman of the RBS, Horace Digby;
  • Author of Robert Benchley: An Annotated Bibliography, and RBS Director, the late Gordon E. Ernst;
  • President of the Washington, D.C. "Lost Locomotive" Chapter of the RBS, Matthew Hahn;
  • Writer and RBS Director, Eileen Forster Keck;
  • RBS Co-Founder and Director, Sharon Lyon;
  • RBS East Coast Vice Chairman, Christopher Morgan;
  • 2007 Benchley Society First Place Award Winner, author of Disabled Fables, and RBS Director, Dan Montville;
  • Chairman of the Ann Arbor "A Moderate State of Preservation Chapter" of the RBS, editor of The Athletic Benchley, and RBS Director, Tom Saunders;
  • Co-Founder and Director of the RBS and past Vice Chairman, Pamela Siska; and
  • 2009 Benchley Society First Place Award Winner and RBS Director, Ed Tasca.

Gordon Ernst, 1959-2012

Gordon Emery “Chip” Ernst, Jr., 52, of Morgantown passed away on May 13, 2012 at his home. Gordon was born on December 31, 1959 in California to the late Gordon E. Ernst, Sr. and Muriel R Ernst.

Gordon was a very intelligent member of society. Scholastically he graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in History and went on to receive his Masters degree at Kent State University in Ohio. Following his education, he found his career at West Virginia University as an Associate university librarian. Gordon’s passion of expanding his mind and learning new things made this career a great fit. Gordon took great pride in being the Director of the Robert Benchley Society. A tribute was made in Mr. Ernst’s honor and can be viewed by going to http://www.mcculla.com/.

Gordon is survived by his two sisters who loved him dearly, Nancy Kiefer and her husband Raymond of Illinois and Barbara Havemann and her husband Alan of Wisconsin. He is also survived by several nieces and nephews.

In honoring Gordon’s wishes, McCulla Funeral Home his provided cremation services and there will be no public memorial services. Online condolences may be extended to the family at http://www.mcculla.com/

Friday, May 18, 2012

RBS Boston Chapter Remembers Gordon Ernst

The Boston "We've Come for the Davenport" Chapter of the Robert Benchley Society met Thursday, May 17th, at the downtown clubhouse of the Harvard Club of Boston to raise a glass in memory of our friend and pre-eminent Benchley scholar Gordon Ernst.

Above: Chris Morgan and David Trumbull enjoy the view from the 38th floor as they share reminiscences of Gordon.

Above: Gordon Ernst in Boston for the 2010 Robert Benchley Society's Seventh Anniversary International Annual Gathering. Photo credit: Chris Morgan.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Remembering Gordon Ernst

As fans of Robert Benchley and classic movies, we were saddened today to learn the news of the passing of our good friend Gordon Ernst. He was just 52. Gordon’s day job may have been as a research librarian at West Virginia University, but to many others he was a fountain of knowledge about classic films of the 1930s and 1940s.

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.

Robert Benchley Society Shocked by Death of Gordon Ernst

I regret to inform you that Gordon Ernst died unexpectedly this past weekend, Mother's Day weekend. Gordon was Authories/Cataloging Librarian at West Virginia University and the notice to the Robert Benchley Society of his death was made in an email from the Head of the Cataloging Department received a few minutes ago.

In addition to his professional duties at the University, Gordon was the world's leading scholar on Robert Benchley. He was the author of Robert Benchley: An Annotated Bibliography and at the time his death was serving as a Director of the Robert Benchley Society. He was a long-time, well-beloved member of the Society and we all shall miss him terribly.

I'll post more information as soon as it becomes available.

-- David Trumbull

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Expose Yourself to Art

On Sunday, May 13, 2012, the Boston "We've Come for the Davenport" Chapter of the Robert Benchley Society met for an afternoon of life drawing based on the similar successful Chapter Round-up in November.
Above, Mary DiZazzo-Trumbull sketches our models Shoney and Jim.

David Trumbull made a music compilation CD for the party.

For more photos of Shoney and Jim, click here [WARNING, CONTAINS NUDE IMAGES.]

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Rare View of Benchley's Digs at the Royalton

As many Robert Benchley fans know, when in New York Robert lived across the street from the Algonquin Hotel at the Royalton New York Hotel, 44 West 44th Street, where the clutter in Benchley's rented rooms prompted his friend Noel Coward (1899-1973) to remark, "I must say, it looks lived in." Recently, Robert's grandson Nat gave the Robert Benchley Society permission to reproduce, on our website, a photographic copy of a painting of Robert's digs at the Royalton produced by Robert's son Nathaniel. You can see it on our website by clicking here. Please note that the image is copyrighted by the estate of Robert Benchley.
Nat's blog "Benchly on Benchley" may be viewed at www.natbenchley.com.

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