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Well! Jack Benny on a 39¢ Stamp?

His fans can't think of a better way to honor the late comedian who refused to turn 40.

November 26, 2005|Josh Noel | Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO — When the U.S. Postal Service announced this month that a first-class stamp would jump from 37 to 39 cents, Laura Leff rejoiced.

Leff, president of the International Jack Benny Fan Club, has been waiting at least a decade to get her favorite comedian's name back on a stamp. She figured that if it ever hit 39 cents, she would have the ideal way to honor his best-known joke: Benny was eternally 39 years old.

Although it seems a long shot, Leff has enlisted residents of Benny's hometown of Waukegan, Ill., north of Chicago, in a campaign to convince the Postal Service to put his image on a new stamp.

"The connection between Jack and 39 is so unique and specific to him that I don't think there should be a problem," Leff said from her home in Oakland, Calif., where she keeps hundreds of hours of Benny's comedy recordings. "There's darn few people who know Jack's humor who don't like it."

So in Waukegan on Monday, Barb Bolin, a teacher at Jack Benny Middle School, plans to recruit her students to write letters on behalf of the cause, even though she said most of them were at pains to describe the comedian's relevance.

Bolin, a longtime fan of the comic, was so excited when she was offered a job at the school named for her favorite entertainer, she "nearly fainted."

Many people fondly remember Benny's radio and TV shows, which were popular from the 1930s into the 1960s. A master of timing, he made fun of a fictional version of himself: His persona was vain, he was cheap, and he played the violin -- badly.

Benny, who died in 1974 at the age of 80, was honored on the 29-cent stamp in the early 1990s.

But getting Benny's face back on a stamp won't necessarily be easy. Postal Service spokeswoman Frances Frazier said the 15-member Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee received about 50,000 proposals each year -- about people and places and things -- and 28 or so were chosen as new first-class stamps.

The committee will announce all of its picks for 2006 by the end of the year.

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