This interview for the Columbus Jewish Historical Society is being recorded
on July 3, ’07 as part of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society Oral History
Project. The interview is being recorded at 1484 Glen Avenue, the home of Ione
Benedetto. My name is Skip Yassenoff and I am interviewing Mrs. Benedetto and
that last name is spelled B-E-N-E-D-E-T-T-O.

Interviewer: Well Ione, I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time. I’ve
been collecting things regarding Leo Yassenoff’s life. In fact you gave me
quite a few of those things just a couple of years ago. So, from everything I
understand, you worked for Leo going way back. What year did you start?

Benedetto: 1944.

Interviewer: 1944, and where was their office at that time?

Benedetto: It was on East Town Street, 228 East Town Street.

Interviewer: And they were there for quite a while and then they moved . . .

Benedetto: Moved directly across the street. He built a new building at 319
East Town.

Interviewer: About what year was that?

Benedetto: Probably in the late 40s or late 50s, yeah.

Interviewer: And where was the next location?

Benedetto: And the next location, when Grant Hospital took over that
property, we moved to the old Kauffman-Lattimer Building on Front Street.

Interviewer: Now was that Front at Chestnut?

Benedetto: Front where, yeah, Front and Chestnut, yeah.

Interviewer: And then Nationwide . . . .

Benedetto: . . . . right.

Interviewer: Now, did Leo die in 197…

Benedetto: Seventy-one.

Interviewer: And he was at Chestnut?

Benedetto: We still were there, right.

Interviewer: And do you remember about what year you moved on?

Benedetto: Probably, probably in the latter part of the 70s we relocated the
office at the Ohio Stater Inn.

Interviewer: Ohio Stater Inn across from . . . .

Benedetto: Right.

Interviewer: Was that the Front Street location when I bought the South
Drive-In Theater from Leo in about ’70 or ‘7-, well it must have been ’70
cause he passed away in ’71 in August and of course I was at the Ohio Stater
Inn several times, those offices. I vaguely remember being at the Front Street
location. Wasn’t there a gift shop there when you . . . .

Benedetto: Yes, yes. You know he got involved in, he was, he had all kinds of
gifts. He hired a girl from Hawaii and he had all kinds. And he imported marble
from Italy and he had all kinds of things there, you know. Yes.

Interviewer: That’s good.

Benedetto: Yeah.

Interviewer: Now I can recall growing up in the drive-in theater business
that you were . . . . involved in working with the theaters. So you started in
1944. What was your job?

Benedetto: When I first started with Mr. Yassenoff, I was in charge of
theater advertising. He had just recently taken over the McDonald Theaters and
he had just built the Boulevard Theater and shortly after Mr. McDonald died and
he took over the theaters.

Interviewer: Now can you name some of those theaters?

Benedetto: There was the Cleve Theater, the Arlington Theater on West Fifth
and I think Avondale he took over in later years, and then of course he built
several new theaters. He built the Beechwold, was in existence at that time and
the Esquire that he built in the late 50s and then they later on converted into
remodeled and . . . .

Interviewer: So that’s what he had, the Esquire and the Beechwold when he
bought the McDonald’s . . . .

Benedetto: Right.

Interviewer: Theaters.

Benedetto: Uh huh.

Interviewer: Now Milton, I know he served in World War II. Was he in the
office when you started?

Benedetto: No, no, he was still in the service because he used to mail, he
was in the South Pacific and we used to say . . . .

Interviewer: He was in Bora Bora I remember.

Benedetto: Yes, yes, yeah. He was stationed at Bora Bora so he came back then
after the war was over in the South Pacific.

Interviewer: Then did he come right in?

Benedetto: Yes, he came into the theaters, right, uh huh.

Interviewer: Well tell me some more about your relations with Milton and the
development of the, I know the drive-ins, you know, started to develop after the

Benedetto: Right, right, the war . . . .

Interviewer: . . . . more theaters and then the Neth Theaters were acquired.

Benedetto: Right. Right. And of course I think he built a drive-in out on
West Broad at first and then we had the South Drive-In.

Interviewer: 1950 for that.

Benedetto: Right, right. And then later years we built the 17th
Avenue Drive-In. But at first, Mr. Yassenoff was still involved in purchasing,
film buying and everything and Milton and I were together and eventually . . . .

Interviewer: Did Leo actually . . . .

Benedetto: When I first went there after Mr. Sugarman left. He was booking
the films for Leo right at . . . .

Interviewer: Which Mr. Sugarman?

Benedetto: Al Sugarman.

Interviewer: Al, right.

Benedetto: Right, Charlie’s father.

Interviewer: Yes.

Benedetto: And when Mr. Sugarman left, he said, “Well Ione can do the
booking of the film,” and I worked with Mr. Yassenoff on booking the film
until Milton came back and then as time progressed, Milton became more involved
and Mr. Yassenoff concentrated on other things.

Interviewer: So were you then after Al Sugarman left, were you always
actually the booker?

Benedetto: Booker and then eventually I still did some of the theater
advertising which is mainly the calendar listings in the paper that they used to
carry. But then continued working and setting the film even though I did the
booking of the film and Milton purchased the film and did all that.

Interviewer: So he settled the film then?

Benedetto: Uh huh.

Interviewer: So you booked it . . . .

Benedetto: Uh huh.

Interviewer: and he argued about the terms.

Benedetto: Yeah . . . . yeah.

Interviewer: Okay, good. I was never clear exactly how that worked. Now was
Milton involved in the actual operation of the theaters, the management, the
general management?

Benedetto: Well they hired somebody that would be manager, Bob Brenner was
that for a number of years. But Milton was always involved and would go around
theaters and even in the earlier, before Milton returned, Mr. Yassenoff also
came around to the theaters.

Interviewer: Regarding Milton, as his children became older were they ever
involved working at the theaters at all?

Benedetto: No, no.

Interviewer: Back to Leo. How about Mrs. Yassenoff, Betty? I know she died
many years . . . . .

Benedetto: Right.

Interviewer: Was she ever around the office at all?

Benedetto: Oh yeah. She always came in at least once a week. Yes, uh huh. She
would always stop in. And I think originally Mr. Yassenoff built the Beechwold
Theater for her and Milton. She and Milton owned that jointly.

Interviewer: Now then some more theaters were built later, maybe the

Benedetto: The University, right. That, of course, was dedicated to Chick

Interviewer: Let’s just talk about Chick Harley. People call me every once
in a while about Chick Harley and actually I just got a call last week.
Apparently one of the Dispatch sports writers, Bob Hunter and one of the
Katz sons, Mark who is a sports writer, actually had a commission to write a
book about Chick Harley and so they called me and I said I didn’t really have
much. But they definitely were interested in the theater and . . . .

Benedetto: Yes, uh huh. That was dedicated. In fact, it had his image, I’m
not sure if that’s still there or not.

Interviewer: They had this big renovation too I think. Nobody really knows
who it is.

Benedetto: Right.

Interviewer: who it is.

Benedetto: In fact, he had a parade downtown and Chick Harley was here when
we had the dedication of the University Theater.

Interviewer: What year would you guess that would be?

Benedetto: That was in the 50s.

Interviewer: The 50s?

Benedetto: Yeah.

Interviewer: Now Chick Harley, did he come around the office at all?

Benedetto: Yes he was in several times and his sister and her husband lived
in Des Plaines, Illinois. Uh huh. He was a very little guy and very, you know,
shy and, you know, but Mr. Yassenoff just thought the world of Chick Harley.

Interviewer: The sports writer was telling me the other day that, of course,
back then they didn’t have the Heisman Trophy . . . .

Benedetto: No.

Interviewer: but he would surely have won it because he was named All
American as a sophomore . . . .

Benedetto: Right.

Interviewer: the first year he could play.

Benedetto: Right, right, right.

Interviewer: And that was just unheard of, I mean.

Benedetto: For his size, he was really, and Mr. Yassenoff always felt that he
built the Ohio State Stadium.

Interviewer: Exactly. Back to Milton and then Abner. Do you have knowledge of
what happened to Abner?

Benedetto: No. Abner wasn’t there at the time when I came to . . . .

Interviewer: But he was still living?

Benedetto: No.

Interviewer: He was gone by then?

Benedetto: Uh huh.

Interviewer: Well see I don’t want to dwell on this but, you know, I tried
to research that and, you know, I’ve gotten conflicting information about
where he died and certain . . . . .

Benedetto: I think he died of, where he was attending college, I believe.

Interviewer: And that was in Michigan?

Benedetto: I’m not sure. But it was . . . . Milton went to the University
of Illinois.

Interviewer: Yeah.

Benedetto: And I’m not sure where Abner went.

Interviewer: Well meanwhile I was looking at the Bexley Yearbook and I saw
that Abner, you know, was very active in high school . . . .

Benedetto: Yes.

Interviewer: and then in a subsequent yearbook, I think inserted in that
yearbook was like a reunion program for that class and it said that he was
attending or had graduated actually from Ohio Wesleyan. And then I was talking
to Cousin Susan and she thought, I think she said, “No that wasn’t her
recollection at all”.

Benedetto: Uh huh.

Interviewer: So you can’t really . . . .

Benedetto: No I’m not sure. But it was a university in Ohio state and I
think it was sort of a sad, he was young, yeah. Very much like Mr. Yassenoff.

Interviewer: . . . . my impression was.

Benedetto: Yeah, that was . . . . Very much like Mr. Yassenoff.

Interviewer: And Milton?

Benedetto: Was more of a reserved, shy . . . .

Interviewer: Very laid back?

Benedetto: laid back.

Interviewer: But friendly.

Benedetto: Uh huh.

Interviewer: And very well liked.

Benedetto: Well liked, right.

Interviewer: Absolutely.

Benedetto: Uh huh.

Interviewer: In my general research of the community through the 50s and 60s,
I looked at a lot of Ohio Jewish Chronicle issues and saw
Milton in quite a few pictures of charity situations.

Benedetto: Uh huh, he was.

Interviewer: situations, helped people. Course I always had people coming up
to me and saying, “Oh how are you related to Leo or Milton?”

Benedetto: Uh huh.

Interviewer: And some of them had relationships with Milton instead of Leo.

Benedetto: Yeah, uh huh.

Interviewer: Depending on, you know, their age and their activities.

Benedetto: No, Milton was a very likable person, uh huh.

Interviewer: Let’s just talk a little more about Leo’s empire on . . . .

Benedetto: Uh huh.

Interviewer: the location of the theaters. Then there was a theater, I can
remember when J. Real Neth passed away and Leo purchased those and that was the
Eastern Theater.

Benedetto: Oh yes and Clinton North, and then they had the Lincoln Theater
and the Cameo Theater, the Markham Theater on South High and Eastern Theater.

Interviewer: Uh huh. . . . . they had, on campus they had . . . .

Benedetto: The State. Oh yes, a big theater. Yes State Theater. The Markham
Theater and the State Theater were both great.

Interviewer: Yeah opulent.

Benedetto: . . . .

Interviewer: So Lincoln, that’s in the news now.

Benedetto: Yeah.

Interviewer: And so Jerry Knight and I were discussing the Lincoln and he
said, “What’s in the newspaper has not been totally accurate”.

Benedetto: No.

Interviewer: Wasn’t the Foundation, the Leo Yassenoff Foundation, didn’t
they, maybe give . . . .

Benedetto: I think they did, yes.

Interviewer: So you were . . . .

Benedetto: Uh huh.

Interviewer: Uh huh. I don’t think that’s in the news.

Benedetto: No I don’t think it was mentioned after the theaters were sold,
that it was taken over by Mr. Yassenoff. I think the stories would refer to it
as the J. Real Neth theaters.

Interviewer: Exactly. And so that was quite a theater empire. Then of course
some of the theaters got into trouble as, you know, lack of parking and . . . .

Benedetto: Exactly, exactly.

Interviewer: competition . . . .

Benedetto: Right.

Interviewer: other suburban theaters, the multiplexes and such. So, like the
Lincoln, were closed down and ultimately the properties liquidated.

Benedetto: Yes. After he passed away we started liquidating because all the
triplex and duplex theaters, but we did build the Forum after, it was being
built while he was still alive. But then he died prior to the opening. Uh huh.

Interviewer: . . . . Well let’s talk more about some of his other
operations. You know, things like F & Y Construction was . . . .

Benedetto: Was the primary, yes, and . . . .

Interviewer: and F & Y built a lot of notable buildings. There was the
Jewish Center . . . .

Benedetto: Yes the first one.

Interviewer: around 1950.

Benedetto: ’50, yes.

Interviewer: He was the contractor on that.

Benedetto: Yes, they built the Agudas Achim Synagogue.

Interviewer: Agudas Achim Synagogue. The Hillel on campus.

Benedetto: Yes, uh huh. And they built the Law, College of Law Building on
the campus.

Interviewer: At Ohio State?

Benedetto: Uh huh.

Interviewer: I didn’t know that.

Benedetto: Yeah the original one, uh huh. And of course this is how he became
involved with theaters because he started building theaters, not only in Ohio
but also in Indiana. Uh huh. Cincinnati and . . . .

Interviewer: Well this was probably before your time but I was friendly with
Jack Vogel who was a theater architect and they had been in the theaters and he
actually gave me a letter probably that was a solicitation letter to do the
contracting work . . . .

Benedetto: Uh huh.

Interviewer: on projects and so Mr. Vogel said that, and Leo supposedly at
one point, said after seeing the people that were owning these theaters and
their really actual minimal ability business-wise, he said, “Well if these
people can make money operating these theaters, I can make a a lot of

Benedetto: Yeah . . . .

Interviewer: And then he started building for himself.

Benedetto: That’s right. He was a very, he was a genius almost. His mind
was sort of ahead of his time. Like he built the Old Trails Theater too on West
Broad that was close to the drive-in out there. And that was built way before
its time. And then we had the Lane Avenue Theater in the Lane Shopping Center.

Interviewer: Well of course I want to talk about the Lane Avenue Shopping
Center . . . .

Benedetto: Uh huh.

Interviewer: and again I don’t think he gets any credit because that was
probably the first theater in a shopping center.

Benedetto: Yes.

Interviewer: But no one . . . .

Benedetto: Nobody . . . .

Interviewer and Benedetto: recognized that fact.

Benedetto: No. And . . . .

Interviewer: How long did that theater operate?

Benedetto: Well it operated for, and was doing well, when they closed it. The
only reason they closed it, there was a demand for a Super Duper grocery store
and apparently business-wise, he just felt that was the best move. But not
because the theater wasn’t doing business. Uh huh.

Interviewer: And he built the nice apartment complex . . . .

Benedetto: Yes.

Interviewer: south of there, Northwest Gardens.

Benedetto: Northwest Gardens.

Interviewer: And that was quite unique.

Benedetto: Yes. That was I think one of the very first ones too in the city
that was that many apartment buildings in one location.

Interviewer: And it also had, kind of in the midst of it, a little retail

Benedetto: Yes, uh huh. Blackhorse Inn, a little restaurant.

Interviewer: A restaurant there.

Benedetto: . . . . the community . . . .

Interviewer: One time I heard, I think it was Leo, maybe it was probably
Charlie Little, who referred to that as “Beatnik Village”.

Benedetto: Yes, uh huh.

Interviewer: And the Bryson Building . . . .

Benedetto: Yes he built the Bryson Building and of course, that was sold
after he passed away also. So he just did so many things.

Interviewer: So it’s kind of hard to know which direction to go here but
with the theaters, so Milton died in 1967.

Benedetto: That’s right.

Interviewer: And so I guess you continued to . . . .

Benedetto: Right.

Interviewer: continue the bookings?

Benedetto: Uh huh.

Interviewer: And then Leo passed away in ’71.

Benedetto: Right.

Interviewer: And eventually you moved up to the Ohio Stater?

Benedetto: Uh huh.

Interviewer: Jerry Knight was there for a while.

Benedetto: Yes, I think Jerry Knight probably came in ’69. Uh huh.

Interviewer: Yes, I remember Jerry saying that he took Leo to Kansas City to
look at AMC Theaters there and Leo came back quite inspired.

Benedetto: Right, yes. And this is when he decided that, originally I think
maybe that property on Refugee was . . . . a possibility. It might have been a
drive-in but of course, after Milton died, then he came and took notice of all
these triplex theaters being built and . . . .

Interviewer: Again he was an innovator.

Benedetto: Yes.

Interviewer: And the Forum was probably the first theater that had stadium

Benedetto: Stadium seating and rear projection, yes.

Interviewer: And people complained about the risers, you know, something when
the theater was finished. And today you couldn’t compete unless you had . . .

Benedetto: Stadium seating, uh huh.

Interviewer: So sometimes I guess you’re a little too far ahead of your

Benedetto: Yeah he was. Just like when he built the Old Trail Theater out on
West Broad, it was ahead of its time, before that area had developed. But it was
a beautiful theater.

Interviewer: Well I’m going to take this on into the Foundation. I think I’ll
come back to that later and what happened with that with everything. Now Leo had
a farm.

Benedetto: Mary Brook.

Interviewer: Mary Brook. And that’s across from Muirfield . . . .

Benedetto: Uh huh.

Interviewer: And Bob Walter from Cardinal Health has his house there and Mike
Moritz did have the house beside Bob, and Mike actually fell in the ravine and .
. . .

Benedetto: Yes.

Interviewer: . . . . years ago and had severe head injury. But the farm
hosted some picnics . . . .

Benedetto: Oh yes, yes. See he used to, you know how well he loved Ohio State
football and prior to when they changed the collegiate rules, you know, he used
to sponsor the Frontliners Picnics where, you know, people mainly would get
together and they would bring the recruits in that they were interested in for
football. And later on did it also for basketball.

Interviewer: Then sometime in the Summer I think he had the whole football
team up there for . . . .

Benedetto: Yes a party.

Interviewer: Six or seven

Benedetto: Six or seven, yes, uh huh. And then he also started what was
called the Dutch Uncles through the Boys’ Club and he had a big picnic every
year for the underprivileged children.

Interviewer: That was with the Dutch Uncles?

Benedetto: That’s, yes. Uh huh.

Interviewer: Did Leo do any of the cooking or . . . .

Benedetto: Oh yes. He loved . . . .

Interviewer: Was there something he was specialized in?

Benedetto: Well he always, his chili, his chili. And then he loved to make
parfaits. He was a great cook. You know, matzo ball soup. He used to bring into
the office. It was delicious.

Interviewer: Did he do potato pancakes?

Benedetto: Yes, that was another one of his specialties.

Interviewer: I thought so.

Benedetto: Uh huh. And he made cakes, poppy seed cakes. I think cooking was a
relaxation for him. He loved Mary Brook. Uh huh.

Interviewer: And of course, once again, he was ahead of his time and bought
that property that seemed way out there . . . .

Benedetto: Right.

Interviewer: and what happened? Muirfield, Jack Nicklaus developed Muirfield
right across the street . . . .

Benedetto: Yes.

Interviewer: So it turned out to be a very valuable property.

Benedetto: . . . . property.

Interviewer: A beautiful property.

Benedetto: . . . . property.

Interviewer: Well Leo seemed to be involved in a lot of different activities.
I know he was named Citizen-Journal Man of the Year.

Benedetto: Year, yes.

Interviewer: And so there was Dutch Uncles for the Boy’s Club.

Benedetto: Uh huh.

Interviewer: And of course Ohio State, the whole . . . .

Benedetto: That was a . . . ., uh huh.

Interviewer: some other organizations? I mean Jewish organizations. He was
head of the Zion Lodge of B’nai B’rith.

Benedetto: Yes.

Interviewer: He did that.

Benedetto: And he was in charge of the Jewish Fund . . . .

Interviewer: Fund . . . .

Benedetto: Yeah he was head of, was it, whatever, the Chairman . . . .

Interviewer: Right, he was probably Chairman of the drive.

Benedetto: The Chairman of the drive. Right. And well I think he was involved
in, you know . . . .

Interviewer: There was like a Press Club. I think he was . . . .

Benedetto: Yes and he was very active in the Variety Club when it existed.
The showman club down in the Hartman Building downtown.

Interviewer: All right, then let’s talk about Ohio State. It’s rumored
that he traveled with the team?

Benedetto: Yes. Uh huh.

Interviewer: Would he travel on their official, for away games would he be on
the plane with the team?

Benedetto: Well he always went the same time, you know, I can’t
specifically say, but he would, he always left on the same day that the team
left. Now whether he was, was on another plane or whatever, I can’t really

Interviewer: Did he go to every game?

Benedetto: He went to every game. He went to every game.

Interviewer: Every game?

Benedetto: Uh huh.

Interviewer: And there’s a rumor that he wanted to be in the locker room.

Benedetto: Oh yeah, I imagine he was.

Interviewer: There’s even a rumor that he gave half-time speeches.

Benedetto: That, I wouldn’t doubt it at all.

Interviewer: There’s a story, there was a game, I want to say it was at
Illinois, and Ohio State, heavily-favored, was pretty much losing in a big way .
. . .

Benedetto: Uh huh.

Interviewer: and Woody was so beside himself that he just couldn’t talk and
Leo gave a pep talk . . . .

Benedetto: Uh huh.

Interviewer: of course the team came back and won the game.

Benedetto: Uh huh. That’s very possible.

Interviewer: Possible? . . . . Well we’ll just keep that as a legend.

Benedetto: Yes. No, he even used to refer, you know, football was such a
great part of his life, you know, and even in the office, he would say,
“You know, well work is like a football game”. And somebody would say,
“When somebody throws you the ball you don’t want to fumble. You want to
catch the ball. Don’t fumble.”

Interviewer: Well he had a lot of good sayings.

Benedetto: Yes.

Interviewer: There’s one that Jerry Knight mentioned and something to the
fact that “if every- body’s running one way, I think I’m going to go
the other way”.

Benedetto: Right. Uh huh.

Interviewer: Yeah that usually works well.

Benedetto: Yeah. Uh huh.

Interviewer: So on a Monday morning after an Ohio State defeat, was that a
bad time to be around Leo?

Benedetto: Oh not really because he always had so much love for the team that
he might have been disappointed but he still never lost faith in the team. Uh
huh. And he and Woody were quite a bit alike.

Interviewer: I can see that.

Benedetto: Uh huh.

Interviewer: Did Leo employ some of the football players for, maybe, Summer

Benedetto: Well before Summer the rules changed, you know, I think he did
sponsor Vic Janowitz and Skip Doxie and a number of times, you know, some of the
boys didn’t have, I can’t specifically say, but they needed a suit, they
didn’t have one, they didn’t have the money, he would see that, and when Del
Starkey was head of the Columbus Chamber of Commerce, when they first started to
go to the Rose Bowl, this was probably when Wes Fesler was there, all the gifts
for the football players was all handled out of our office in the conference

Interviewer: It’s okay to say that now. I don’t think . . . .

Benedetto: Yeah.

Interviewer: Ohio State can get suspended for . . . .

Benedetto: No.

Interviewer: things that happened . . . .

Benedetto: Happened in the days of, well they, you know, that rule didn’t
exist at that time.

Interviewer: And John Galbreath was doing the same thing.

Benedetto: The same, yeah.

Interviewer: Right.

Benedetto: Uh huh. . . . . and saw to it, you know, they always had a big
party. It was, they were at the Rose Bowl, they always had a big party for the
team. ‘Course I’m sure they still continue to do that.

Interviewer: Did he ever employ any athletes after their college career?

Benedetto: Oh, let me think. I don’t . . . .

Interviewer: None came out in your mind?

Benedetto: Mind, huh uh.

Interviewer: So did Leo have any other theaters that were maybe outside of

Benedetto: Yes, at Ada, Ohio. They were managed by Charley and Bertie Hoff.
And we did the booking for those theaters also out of Cleveland for their
operation. And for a short time we had, took over and operated the drive-in
theater at Wooster, Ohio. Uh huh.

Interviewer: Sounds like if opportunities existed, Leo . . . .

Benedetto: Right.

Interviewer: Now let me move on into the Foundation. I remember that, well
the Art Museum still has their auditorium . . . .

Benedetto: Uh huh.

Interviewer: has his name on the plaque in front of that.

Benedetto: Uh huh.

Interviewer: Was that while he was still alive? Was that money that was
donated or was that the Foundation?

Benedetto: Probably, probably in some way or . . . .

Interviewer: And then COSI, the old COSI . . . .

Benedetto: Yes.

Interviewer: on Broad Street . . . .

Benedetto: Oh yes.

Interviewer: it had a theater.

Benedetto: Yes and a lot of . . . .

Interviewer: . . . .

Benedetto: Right. That was donated to COSI.

Interviewer: And that was while Leo was still living or?

Benedetto: No after he died.

Interviewer: That was the Foundation?

Benedetto: The Foundation, uh huh.

Interviewer: All right, well let’s talk about, so Leo passed away in ’71
and he left everything to the Leo Yassenoff Foundation.

Benedetto: The Foundation, right.

Interviewer: And Mel Schottenstein was a trustee.

Benedetto: Uh huh.

Interviewer: And Fred Daugterman and Mary Hoover were trustees.

Benedetto: Hoover, right.

Interviewer: Who was Leo’s personal secretary.

Benedetto: Secretary, right, right.

Interviewer: And you worked, well I guess ultimately, initially the office
was still intact at the Ohio Stater and then things were liquidated?

Benedetto: Right. And so at that time, when, after they liquidated the
theaters and then I was in charge of student housing. They turned it over to
student housing and I was in charge of student housing.

Interviewer: At the Ohio Stater Inn?

Benedetto: Ohio Stater Inn, right. We had our office on the third floor and
they turned the rest of the building into student housing.

Interviewer: So the, what were hotel rooms became . . . .

Benedetto: Became student rooms.

Interviewer: student rooms? How many units were there?

Benedetto: Oh, can’t remember. I guess probably it was a good amount.

Interviewer: A hundred?

Benedetto: Yeah I would say. I’m sure the hotel, you know, we just had part
of the third floor for offices. So it must have been at least a hundred
students, uh huh.

Interviewer: And before all the theaters were sold, some of the theaters like
the Esquire and the Beechwold were renovated.

Benedetto: Renovated and their names were changed.

Interviewer: The Esquire became the Carousel.

Benedetto: The Carousel. And the Beechwold became the Camelot.

Interviewer: And both buildings are still standing but with other names.

Benedetto: . . . . Right. Uh huh. I think Frank had been operating the
Drexel. Was that . . . .

Interviewer: Jeff Frank?

Benedetto: Yeah, he took over the Camelot there for a period of time.

Interviewer: Well actually I took over the Carousel and the Camelot and
operated them mostly as dollar theaters. And then I sold the Esquire lease for

Benedetto: Uh huh.

Interviewer: And then the Camelot, I did sell my lease-hold to Jeff Frank . .
. .

Benedetto: Right, Frank.

Interviewer: and more.

Benedetto: That was after, yeah, uh huh.

Interviewer: And then I think Drexel North nee Camelot and nee Beechwold
became, I think it was a Rite-Aid or was one of the drug chains . . . . health .
. . .

Benedetto: . . . .

Interviewer: exercise center.

Benedetto: Uh huh.

Interviewer: Then the Forum, that operated for a while . . . .

Benedetto: While, right.

Interviewer: . . . . and operated.

Benedetto: Yeah I think he donated that.

Interviewer: Yeah I think the Jewish Foundation . . . . and they sold the
property and kept the money.

Benedetto: So what did they ever do with that?

Interviewer: You know I don’t drive out there much so I don’t . . . .

Benedetto: Uh huh.

Interviewer: can’t recall what’s there.

Benedetto: Uh huh.

Interviewer: I’ll let you know.

Benedetto: Yeah.

Interviewer: So then ultimately then the Foundation ended up downtown?

Benedetto: Uh huh, right. They had an office in the Chamber of Commerce
Building at the time when I went downtown, at 37 North High.

Interviewer: Now what year did they move down there?

Benedetto: Eighty—, I think the Foundation, they moved down there I think .
. . . the Foundation office itself down there probably at the end of, late ’78,
’79 or ’80. I didn’t go with them, go down to the Foundation Office until
they had sold the Ohio Stater then, which was in ’82, ’81, ’81. Uh huh.
And the Foundation office was already downtown so I’m not sure.

Interviewer: Then the Foundation office closed, was it the end of ’05,
2005, or 2004?

Benedetto: Four, 2004.

Interviewer: 2004.

Benedetto: Uh huh, uh huh.

Interviewer: So you had various Executive Directors that you worked with.

Benedetto: Uh huh. Alan Goldberg and Cynthia Lazarus. Uh huh.

Interviewer: Now along the way the Foundation made a lot of excellent gifts
to the community. I think it was $2,000,000 went to the new Jewish Center.

Benedetto: Uh huh.

Interviewer: There’s the indoor practice football field . . . .

Benedetto: In the Woody Hayes facility, right. Right.

Interviewer: Yeah.

Benedetto: Uh huh.

Interviewer: I’ve seen that. There is at Camp Lazarus, the Boy Scout camp,
there’s a handicapped camper area.

Benedetto: Uh huh.

Interviewer: Can you think of any other . . . .

Benedetto: Oh he gave to so many and a lot of this was handled, you know,
before I actually was brought in so I wasn’t directly involved in that till
later. But the Museum of Art?

Interviewer: Right, the Museum?

Benedetto: Uh huh. And of course there’s another university, that
Recruiting . . . .

Interviewer: And that was, I forgot about that. Now they have the Recruiting
Center . . . .

Benedetto: Center, yes.

Interviewer: Did you see that?

Benedetto: Yes I did see that.

Interviewer: My son and I went to that . . . . last Summer. We took the
Stadium tour . . . .

Benedetto: Uh huh.

Interviewer: and ended up having a little box lunch in the lounge and then we
took our pictures in front of the mural of the stadium.

Benedetto: Of the . . . .

Interviewer: . . . . and I have the picture at the office at the . . . .

Benedetto: so that was right, but there’s just so many things like, Opera
Columbus, I think he donated, and certainly, you know for youth organizations
because he always was so involved with youth organizations.

Interviewer: Well having just named . . . .

Benedetto: Directions and you know, choices. You know the Foundation, you
know, after Mel was in charge, yeah.

Interviewer: Well don’t you think he would be, if he were still with us,
proud of having his name on, say the Indoor Practice Field at Ohio State or the
Recruiting Center?

Benedetto: Well I think he would have been happy but I don’t think it would
have been a big priority that he would, you know, that he had to be shown the
recognition, you know. I don’t think he even sought a lot of that.

Interviewer: I remember what I wanted to ask you now. Didn’t a bunch of
people say to me that out of the blue they got checks from Leo? Usually they
were written up in the newspaper for accomplishing something.

Benedetto: Yes, yes, yes.

Interviewer: Do you know anything about that?

Benedetto: He used to, you know, look at that recent newspaper. And he would
send letters congratulating ordinary people on things and he made a point of
doing that. He did it all the time, uh huh. And he, there used to be a blind
man, Williams . . . . and whenever he came into the office, irregardless of what
he was doing, he always had time for him. I can remember that. Uh huh.

Interviewer: Well Leo was . . . .

Benedetto: He was . . . .

Interviewer: he was a very successful, wealthy person who hob nobbed with
certainly lots of important people from charities . . . .

Benedetto: Charity . . . .

Interviewer: foundations . . . .

Benedetto: Charity Newsies.

Interviewer: at Ohio State . . . .

Benedetto: Charity Newsies. Charity Newsies. He was a big . . . .

Interviewer: That’s right, Charity Newsies as well.

Benedetto: Uh huh.

Interviewer: So was he a snob around the office or arrogant?

Benedetto: No, no. No, he was just as down-to-earth as you ever wanted
anybody to be. Uh huh. You know, he just was. Uh huh.

Interviewer: So in spite of his success he still had a lot of humility?

Benedetto: Yes. But very tender-hearted. Very tender-hearted. From almost one
extreme to the other. He would be given a birthday card and he would cry. And,
you know, even when my mother was ill and, you know, he was walking with arm
crutches but he made it a point to walk from one end of the office to the other
and when I had surg—, you know, he just was very kind and considerate. And his
Christmas card list, two-, three hundred people. He remembered people. Uh huh.

Interviewer: Well I saw in some of the items you gave me, he had an extensive
correspondence . . . .

Benedetto: Yes.

Interviewer: with people from way back.

Benedetto: He never lost sight of people. Well he always said they kind of
give this credit to Woody Hayes but I think Woody picked it up from Mr.
Yassenoff ’cause he always said, “You win with people”. Uh huh.

Interviewer: Well I think we’ve had a wonderful interview . . . .

Benedetto: Yeah.

Interviewer: unless you have other areas of other topics . . . .

Benedetto: I’m just grateful that I had the privilege of working with him.
He taught me so much and I admire him very much.

Interviewer: Well . . . .

Benedetto: He was a tough boss. You worked hard. But in the long run he
taught you such great work ethics.

Interviewer: Well you were with him 27 years and then counting, subsequently
I guess there was 60 years, Ione.

Benedetto: Yes, yes.

Interviewer: Well let me conclude this. On behalf of the Columbus Jewish
Historical Society I want to thank you for contributing to the Oral History
Project and this concludes the interview.

Benedetto: Thank you Skip.

Interviewer: My pleasure.

* * *

Editor’s Note: The Variety Club was actually in the Grand Theater Building
(p. 14).

Transcribed by Honey Abramson

Proofread by Marvin Bonowitz

Edited by Skip Yassenoff and Peggy Kaplan