The officers and directors of the Robert Benchley Society conferred by telephone on Thursday, February 1, 2007 beginning at 8:30 p.m. EST regarding 2007 activities of the Society.
Participating in the teleconference were:
REVIEW OF 2006 ANNUAL GATHERING and AWARD CEREMONY. Everyone in the teleconference who attended the November 10-12, 2006 program in Los Angeles reported that it was a success. There was significant interest in returning to Los Angeles for a future event. While the opportunity to visit Benchley-specific sites such as his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, was appreciated, the consensus was that a successful Annual Gathering could be held in any city with interesting things to see and do whether or not related to Mr. Benchley, and that the members forgathered for fun conjure up the spirit of Benchley in any locale.
In the absence of the treasurer, MR. TRUMBULL provided the FINANCIAL REPORT. There is a absence of finances.
The group strongly supports continuing with the ANNUAL BENCHLEY HUMOR AWARD COMPETITION. Several members noted that the contest is growing in interest both within and without the Society membership and has created an identity and purpose for the Society. DR. GOLDSMITH suggested that we revisit the rules and judging criteria for the competition to assure that the winning entries are Benchleyeque. [Note: Subsequently, MR. TRUMBULL and MR. J. HYDER reviewed the rules for the 2006 competition and report now to the group that this concern appears to be sufficiently addressed already and that perhaps the concern can be more fully addressed in the future by reminding the judges, at the time of the transmittal of the essays, of the requirements that the winning essay be "Benchleyesque (in the sense of reflecting the Benchley style and humor)".] MR. TRUMBULL reminded the group that judging is, necessarily, a subjective thing and that the best way to obtain quality judging is to choose judges who are very familiar with Mr. Benchley's work.
The following agreed to be judges for the 2007 competition:
MR. DAGGY agreed to contact well-known humorists (such as Dave Barry and Bob Newhart) and MR. MORGAN agreed to contact editors of humor anthologies in an effort to find a persons of some prominence to be the final judge of this year's competition.
It was agreed that the 2006 rules can be the basis for the 2007 rules with some modification: (1) limit entries to one per person (or perhaps one per personality for those suffering from certain psychological disorders?); (2) require that entries be submitted electronically exclusively; (3) require that entries be accompanied by a $10 entry fee, which funds will be used by the Society to buy the plaque for the winner(s) and, so far as possible, pay for the cost of the first-place winner attending the Annual Gathering and Award Ceremony; (4) add to the announcement a notice along the lines of "submission of an entry to the competition grants the Robert Benchley Society permission to publish the entry on the Society's website and online newsletter; all other rights are retained by the author."
The deadline for entries will be April 1st. MR. TRUMBULL will receive the essays, remove identifying information, assign numbers, and post the anonymous essays on the website by the April 15. Preliminary judging should be completed by May 15 to send the top ten to the final judge(s) for selection of the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place entries.
MR. FITZPATRICK agreed to help publicize the competition in New York, as did MR. SAUNDERS with regard to Detroit.
ANNUAL GATHERING. Suggestions for the 2007 Annual Gathering were:
The group was in favor of New York City this year and expressed strong desire to follow both of the other suggestions in future years. MR. FITZPATRICK, president of the "Fascinating Crimes" chapter of New York City, will report back on options for a New York gathering on September 15 and 16 to coincide with the anniversary of Mr. Benchley's birth. MR. FITZPATRICK also announced that Parkerfest will be in New York City the first week-end of October, all are encouraged to attend this event that honors Mr. Benchley's closest friend.
COMMUNICATIONS. MR. SAUNDERS agreed to the chairmanship of a Communications Committee. Serving with him will be MR. FITZPATRICK, MR. TASCA, and MR. DAGGY. They will develop a plan for an online (probably quarterly) newsletter and report back in about a month.
LOCAL CHAPTERS. In Local Chapter Activities, "The Lost Locomotive" chapter reports that Mr. Benchley continues to be warmly embraced in the Washington, D.C. area and that chapter member JAMES HYDER has created an entry for Benchley grandson, Nat Benchley, on Wikipedia.
The "Fascinating Crimes" chapter reports that Mr. Benchley is toasted every year, on the anniversary of his birth, at 21 Club in Manhattan.
The "We Only Came to See if There Really is an Award" chapter reports that they frequently gather for fun in honor of Mr. Benchley in Washington State.
Ann Arbor's "A Moderate State of Preservation" chapter president TOM SAUNDERS reports that he is working with the Detroit Athletic Club to publish essays Mr. Benchley wrote for the Detroit Athletic Club News which have not been anthologized or have been anthologized in alternative versions. He also is working with DAC to track down Benchley correspondence that had been though lost.
The Boston "We've Come for the Davenport" chapter reports plans for a March 3rd Benchley movie night. The Bostonians are also in conversation with the New England chapter of The Wodehouse Society with the intention of hold a joint event.
David Trumbull (acting as secretary the meeting)
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