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Bennett Cerf
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    (May 25, 1898-August 27, 1971)
    Born in Manhattan, New York
    Founded Random House (1925)
    Published William Faulkner, Eugene O'Neill, Ayn Rand, James Michener, Gertrude Stein, Truman Capote and Dr. Suess
    Panelist on 'What's My Line?' (1951-67)
    Compiled several joke books, including 'Try and Stop Me' (1944), 'Good for a Laugh' (1952), 'Bennett Cerf's Book of Laughs' (1959) and 'Laugh Day' (1965)
    Wrote the autobiography 'At Random' (published posthumously, 1977)
    He was married to actress Sylvia Sidney for six months.
    He bet Dr. Seuss $50 that he could not write a book using only 50 words; when Seuss succeeded with 'Green Eggs and Ham,' Cerf failed to pay up.
    He was big on puns, such as calling his weekly column 'The Cerf Board.'
    He was a founder of the Famous Writers School, which was exposed as a scam by Jessica Mitford.
    After he told Ayn Rand that he found her philosophy 'absolutely horrifying,' she chose Random House as her publisher because she admired his honesty.
    He won a landmark censorship battle that allowed James Joyce's 'Ulysses' to be published in the US after a decade-long ban (1934).
    During a radio broadcast, he introduced Gertrude Stein by noting 'I'm very proud to be your publisher, but as I've always told you, I don't understand very much of what you're saying,' to which she replied, 'Well, I've always told you, Bennett, you're a nice boy but you're rather stupid.'
    David Sarnoff, the chairman of RCA when it owned both Random House and NBC, tried to get him to quit 'What's My Line' since it aired on rival network CBS; Cerf changed Sarnoff's mind and continued appearing on the program until its cancellation.

Credit: C. Fishel

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