"The Cheapest Man in the World"
Description: This sobering sobriquet goes to none other than veteran vaudevillian, radio, television comedian Jack Benny, the star of THE JACK BENNY SHOW/CBS/1950-65.
Reportedly, Benny was so cheap that when a robber accosts him on the street and demands, “Your money or your life?” Jack pauses a long time, and then shouts, “I’m thinking!”
Jack also had a lock on his refrigerator, a pay telephone in his living room, and, preferred the color “dollar bill green.”
Being the Cheapest Man in the World, Jack distrusts banks and consequently, he builds a subterranean vault several hundred feet below his home. The vault is protected by an alligator-filled moat, ear-shattering burglar alarms, a Polar Bear named Carmichael (whose savage roar was provided by Mel Blanc on both radio and TV); and a very lonely guy named Ed, the “Keeper of the Vault” who was surprised to discover the Civil War was over.
Jack gains access to his vault be first giving Ed, the password “A fool and his money are soon parted,” or “Hair of gold, Eyes of Blue” and then dialing the vault’s combination: Right 45, Left 60, Right 15, and Left 110.
In a spoof of Jack Benny’s vault, the September 27, 1967 episode of THE LUCY SHOW/CBS/1962-74 featured Lucille Ball as bank secretary, Lucy Carmichael who tries to entice Jack Benny into opening a bank account. For the occasion, Lucy constructs a vault, which is protected by an electronic eye.
The vault also has a number of wild gadgets and gags to protect the money within, including a guillotine, a tribe of tomahawk-tossing Indians, a huge fierce gorilla, a deep stream filled with piranha fish, and a patch of quicksand into which both Lucy and Jack sink.
Note: Other television cheapskates included grocery store owner Herbert T. Gillis (Frank Faylen) who lives in Central City on the situation comedy THE MANY LOVES OF DOBIE GILLIS/CBS/1959-63. Herbert was once voted “The Citizen Most Likely to Hang onto His Last Dollar.”
Mr. Stanley Roper (Norman Fell) on the situation comedy THREE’S COMPANY/ABC/1977-84. His tenants call him, “The Cheapest Man Alive!” and once said of him, “He has every dollar he ever made in his mattress... Maybe that’s why he doesn’t get romantic (with his wife). He’s afraid to wrinkle his money!”
Another runner up for this dubious award is Fred Mertz (William Frawley), a tightwad landlord on the situation comedy I LOVE LUCY/CBS/1951-57.