2005 Labor Day Weekend Benchley in Boston

WHAT: Robert Benchley Society Labor Day Weekend Extravaganza

WHEN: Friday-Monday, September 2-5.

WHERE: Boston, the Hub of the Universe.

WHERE TO STAY: The Omni Parker House
(Please book you room as soon as possible as they will sell out Labor Day Weekend. Rooms start at $129 per night, but may go up as we approach Labor Day. Also note, we were not successful in arranging a room block, so you are on your own for booking a room -- sorry).


The Registration Fee of $20.00 may be paid when you arrive at the event. This fee will cover direct out-of-pocket expenses of the RBS as organizer of the program. For the individual events (dinners, tours, museum tickets, etc.) you will be on your own; the RBS will simply coordinate attendance but each person will buy his our her own ticket.


Fly to Boston's Logan International Airport or train or bus to Boston's South Station. WE STRONGLY SUGGEST you DO NOT rent a car in Boston as all the events are in easy walking distance or on frequently serviced subway or trolley lines.


  • Casual attire is appropriate for all the day-time events and the Sunday evening relaxed evening of Benchley movies.
  • For Friday afternoon and evening events informal or casual attire is appropriate.
  • For Saturday evening we suggest dinner clothes (black tie) or jazz-age vintage styles or informal attire.

    3:30-5:00 p.m.
  • PRIVATE VIEWING of the ROBERT BENCHLEY ARCHIVE and DOROTHY PARKER materials at the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center at Boston University.
  • 5:30-7:30 p.m.
  • PRIVATE BEACON HILL COCKTAIL RECEPTION. Boston's historic Beacon Hill has not changed since the days Robert Benchley spent here while an undergraduate at Harvard College and while working his first few jobs out of college.
  • 8:00-10:00 p.m.
  • DINNER at HISTORIC "Established Before You Were Born" DURGIN-PARK RESTAURANT. By the way, the true date of the founding of this famed Boston eatery was 1826.
  • 10:30 p.m.-Midnight
  • Since the 1930s the premiere Boston venue for female impersonators has been JACQUE'S CABARET. Benchley would love it; in fact drag queens were often part of the entertainment at parties arranged by Mr. B.
    10:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.
  • LITERARY WALKING TOUR OF BOSTON. Walk through Beacon Hill's Louisburg Square, site of Benchley's "We've Come for the Davenport" practical joke. Stand on the spot where Benchley's best friend, Dorothy Parker, got herself arrested. We'll end up lunching at the Onmi Parker House, the oldest continuously operating hotel in America (established 1855) and site of the famous nineteenth-century "Saturday Club" the original literary round table, or at one of the many nearby Irish pubs.
  • 2:00-5:00 p.m. (choose one)
  • SPORTING LIFE IN AMERICA I. Benchley frequently went to the racetrack with friends and even, briefly, was part owner of a race horse. Boston's Suffolk Downs is conveniently located not far from downtown.
  • HARVARD SQUARE, CAMBRIDGE. As we always say, "you can always tell a Harvard man, but you can't tell him much." A short subway ride from downtown Boston is Harvard Yard, the quirky Harvard Lampoon Building, and all the other sights of Harvard Square, many of which are unchanged from Benchley undergraduate days.
  • 7:00-8:30 p.m.
  • BOSTON HARBOR SUNSET CRUISE. A spectacular sunset adds a whole new dimension to this 90 minute sightseeing tour. With this cruise you’ll be introduced to all the history, sights and lore that Boston Harbor has to offer, plus you’ll be on hand to witness the USS Constitution’s sunset serenade as she fires her cannon and lowers her flag ceremoniously signaling the day’s end.
  • 8:45-11:30 p.m.
  • RBS AWARDS DINNER. Meet Horace Digby (A.K.A.Joe Daggy) winner the first annual Robert Benchley Society Humor Writing Competition at Cafe Pompei at 280 Hanover Street in Boston's celebrated North End. Stuard Derrick, author of Girls Who Wear Glassses: The Wicked Wit and Wisdom of Dorothy Parker will also join us for the evening's festivities.

    DRESS for the harbor cruise and awards dinner is black tie or vintage styles OPTIONAL

    11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.
  • Brunch in one of the many excellent bistros in Boston's historic SOUTH END.
  • 2:00-5:00 p.m. (choose one)
  • SPORTING LIFE IN AMERICA II. One of Benchley's first jobs out of college was at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, where his duty was to accompany one of the museum's more flamboyant patronesses, Mrs. Jack Gardner, when she went to view her beloved Boston Red Sox. Depending on ticket availability we'll include an outing to Fenway Park.
  • ARS GRATIA ARTIS isn't merely the motto of Metro-Goldwin-Mayer where Benchley made many of his films, it is also an apt appelation for Boston with our fine Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, where Benchley worked briefly after college.
  • 5:30-9:30 p.m.
  • MOVIES and MEMORABILIA. Enjoy Benchley movies on the large projection screen TV in the Victorian row house of a local RBS member. This private party will also be a great time to exhibit Benchley items from our members. A 1920s themed menu is being planned.
  • Depending on interests there are many options for arranging Labor Day events in Boston

  • RBS Chairman, David Trumbull (AREA CODE 617) ATlantic 5-6004
  • Parker House Hotel (AREA CODE 617) 227-8600
  • Gilberti Bail Bonds, Waltham 781 899-6880
  • Master Chimney Sweepers, Quincy 617-328-1365
  • Newbury Electrology --eyebrow shaping and correction a specialty--, Boston 617-262-9199
  • Atlas Elevator Service, Stoneham 781 662-2020
  • A J Spears Funeral Home, Cambridge 617 876-4047


    Food and Drink

  • Coffee regular [QWAO-fee REG-luhr]: American-style coffee with milk and sugar. Blame it on the Boston Tea Party perhaps, but in Boston we drink coffee, never tea. In the summer we drink iced coffee. The Ritz Carleton and the Four Seasons each have a very fancy --and pricey-- afternoon "tea" at which you will get about the worse brewed tea you've ever tasted. Stick with coffee while in Boston.
  • Packy: Package store, known in the rest of American as a liquor store.
  • Tonic [TWAON-ik]: Any soda such as cola, gingerale, etc. If you want tonic (as for a gin and tonic) you have to ask to ask for "tonic water."
  • American Chop Suey: Elbow macaroni with tomatoes sauce, ground beef, and grilled green peppers. Every little luncheonette serves it at least once a week.
  • Chowder: Whether fish or clam it is ALWAYS made with milk; if you want a tomato-based chowder, go to New York [FRIG'n Noo YAWK]
  • Scrod: Whatever white fish is the fresh catch of the day. A lady got in a taxi cab at Logan Airport heading in to town to get dinner; she asked the driver where is the best place to get scrod. "The combat zone," replied the driver, "but I didn't know it had a past participle."
  • Frappe: A mixture of ice cream, milk, and syrup; what the rest of America calls a milk shake. In New England a milk shake is milk flavored with syrup.
  • Moxie: The quintesential New England tonic (soft drink); you'll either love it or hate it.
  • Sam: Samual Adams Brewing Company, the local beer. "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy," Boston native Benjamin Franklin.
  • Common Victualler [VIT-ler]: A restaurant or other establishment licensed to serve meals ready to eat on the premises.
  • Pub: An establishment licensed "to sell or expose or keep for sale alcoholic beverages or alcohol to be drunk on the premises" (Mass. Gen. Laws Chapter 138 Section 2.
  • Bar: A fancy pub such as those in hotels or fashionable among the smart young set. What's the difference between a pub and a bar; about two-fifty to five dollars a drink.
  • Spa: [1] A small (usally mon-and-pop owned and run and usually on a street corner) convenience store. [2] An over-priced beauty salon on Newbury Street.

    Getting Around and Getting the News

  • The T: The MBTA = The subway or trolley.
  • The MTA: The MBTA.
  • The rattler: The MBTA.
  • The Red (Green, Blue, or Orange) Line: The MBTA.
  • Route 128: Interstate 95.
  • Boylston Street, Cambridge: J. F. K. Street, Cambridge.
  • Southie: South Boston, a blue-collar Irish neighborhood that is becoming gentrified; not to be confused with the South End, an old Yankee and lace-curtain Irish neighborhood that is already completely gentrified and is where we are holding our Sunday evening event.
  • Boston Public Garden and Boston Common (usually simply, "the common"): please note there is only one of each; no "s" at the end.
  • Jordan Marsh: Macy's.
  • Filene's: Macy's.
  • Macy's: A department store at Broadway and 34th Street in New York [Noo YAWK]; no one in Boston calls the Macy's in Boston, Macy's.
  • Record American: The Boston Herald newspaper (after all the merger was a mere twenty-some years ago, you can't expect us to change overnight do you?)
  • Herald Traveler: The Boston Herald newspaper (merged even longer ago, but many older Bostonians refuse to acknowledge it.)
  • That Murdock rag: The Boston Herald newpaper (Murdock sold it years ago, but readers of the rival Globe are convinced he's still somehow behind it).
  • The Boring Broadsheet: The Boston Globe newspaper.
  • The Globe/The Glob: The Boston Globe newspaper.
  • The lolly-pop building: A certain building in the Financial District that used to have a modernistic spoke-and-circle sculpture in front.
  • Shawmut Bank: Bank of America.
  • Bay Bank: Bank of America.
  • Bank Boston: Bank of America.
  • Fleet Bank: Bank of America.
  • Harvard Trust: Bank of America.
  • Bank of Boston: Bank of America.
  • Bank of America: Bank of America, but no one calls it that.
  • New England Telephone and Telegraph: Verizon.
  • Nynex: What New Yorkers [Noo YAWK-ahs] used to call New England Telephone and Telegraph before it became Verizon.
  • AT&T: Another name for New England Telephone and Telegraph before it became Verizon.
  • Verizon: They're located in the New England Telephone and Telegraph building in Post Office Square in the Financial District; stop by and see the mural that depicts the history of the telephone, which was invented in Boston!
  • The Statler Hotel: The Boston Park Plaza Hotel.
  • Park Plaza Hotel or Boston Park Plaza Hotel what the current owners and out-of-towners call the Statler Hotel. When Bostonians hear "plaza" and "hotel" in the same sentence they immediately assume you mean the Plaza in Noo Yawk.
  • The Tremont House [TRE-munt (note the short "e"): Courtyard Boston Tremont Hotel.
  • Courtyard Boston Tremont Hotel: Never heard of it. Oh, that's right, that's what the new owners call the Tremont House.
  • The Gas Tanks: A gayly painted gas tank near Quincy Bay along side the Southeast Expressway and the Red Line T (there used to be two of them, hence the vestigial plural).


    First off, I was not born and reared in New England, so I don't have the accent. Secondly there are several distinct New England accents and even in the greater Boston metropolitan region there are many variants on the accent depending on ethnic background, education, and income. My wife Mary was born and reared just 30 miles from Boston and she has a moderately strong Merrimac Valley accent which is very different from a Boston accent and would never be mistaken for one. In the Merrimac Valley accent "mine" is pronounced "mayan."

    So what is the "Boston accent?" Well it does have something to do with the "R." Sometimes a final R or R before a consonant is dropped; sometimes merely feebly pronounced. And sometimes they pop up where you least expect them. I once hear a politician state, "Ou-ah (our) idears (ideas) ah (are) bettah than the-ah (their) idears (ideas). The thing is that Rs do weird things in just about every variety of English and in many other languages too. In Boston English, as in all variants of English, the R affects the vowel preceeding it. That's why no Bostonian would ever confuse "bar" and "bah" (as in bah, humbug); it's alot more complicated than simply dropping the R.

    Distinctive to the New England accent is the dropping of the "H" in the "WH" combination. In most of the rest of the country there is at least some remnant of a class/education distinction, with the preferred (although not always observed) pronunciation giving equal weight to both the W and the H and the dropping of the H being something of a lower class phenomenon. Among native New Englanders educated in New England the H is always dropped. Also distinctive to the New England accent is the substitution of a pure vowel for the diphthong that most Americans employ for the long U: thus in New England the "new" is NOO, rather than the more standard NYOO. Of course, that variant crops up in other regions, especially as less preferred pronunciation, but in New England it is ubiquitous.

    The final distinguishing characteristic of the Boston accent is that the vowels tend to hold their values; For example the words merry and Mary are pronounced with a clear distinction. It is also the only American English accent that preserves the short O which is what gives it a vaguely British sound. Thus "father" and "bother" have distinctly different vowels in Boston English, but not in most of the rest of the county, where they rhyme. That "Britishness" comes out also in the short A which in some words (for example, "bath") is like the A in "father."