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Bennett CerfBennett Cerf
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occurred to me to start a campaign: “President Coolidge (for instance) has read 42 of these books. How many have you read?” So you could compare your score with some famour person, and in that way get people to read the titles. It was a good idea. I thought this very popular Mayor Walker would be a perfect one to start with, because he wasn't the best-read man in the world; it wouldn't be too frightening. The place Jimmy Walker hung out evenings in those days was the Central Park Casino. This is an old building approximately opposite the 72nd Street entrance on the East Side of the Park, which was turned into a night club, and was very very popular during these days in the '20s. It packed every night. Leo Reisman was the orchestra leader and playing the piano was Eddie Duchin, and there was a young singer there named Ethel Merman. These were people just starting in those days but already very popular. Jimmy hung out there all the time. He had a girl, a star of the theater, and he was usually there with her. So I went up to him one night. He remembered me because of our adventure. I told him my idea. I said, “I want you just to glance over these titles.” I said, “You can fake it. You don't have to be honest. If you say 48, it's all right with me.”

He looked at me rather pityingly and put his hand on my shoulder. He said, “Bennett, my boy, I never read a book in my life.”

So I said, “Oh, the hell with this,” and we abandoned the idea.


Did you? It seems like an awfully good idea.

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