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Friday, September 5, 2008

Jack Benny

Perhaps no entertainer is better known than the beloved Jack Benny (1894-1974), who, as he loved to say, was born in Waukegan a “long, long, long time ago.”

Actually, Benny was born Benjamin Kubelsky in a Chicago hospital to Waukegan residents Emma Sachs and Meyer Kubelsky. He first performed as a violinist when he was only eight at the Waukegan Phoenix Opera House. His mother fretted that “without practicing, he’ll be a nothing.” Though Benny loved the violin, he hated to practice. He was a daydreamer and after only one year of high school was thrown out of Waukegan Central High.

In 1911, Benny left home to perform in a vaudeville act with pianist, Cora Salisbury, and eventually gained recognition. After Benny became a star of radio, film, and television, he never forgot his hometown, often mentioning Waukegan in his act, and visited frequently.

In this rare color photo, Benny is pictured celebrating Waukegan's centennial. Here he is on June 25, 1959, at the Lake County Museum of History in Wadsworth (the predessesor of the Lake County Discovery Museum), judging a fiddling contest, and no doubt mocking his own skills as an accomplished violinist.

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