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Carlyn F. Benjamin


1921 - 2017 Obituary Condolences
Carlyn F. Benjamin Obituary
May 11, 1921 - January 9, 2017 Carlyn Frank Benjamin, a rare Los Angeles native, was fiercely loyal to her family, a passionate and determined political activist, children's advocate, fundraiser, and the only person you would want or need in a crisis. Carlyn had an amazing life. She grew up and lived in the iconic Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. Her father and grandfather managed this first-class resort and together created the world famous Cocoanut Grove nightclub. The inquisitive young Carlyn became the "horizontal Eloise" of The Ambassador, as she often nostalgically called herself, where she witnessed many notable events, including: The gala celebration of Charles Lindberg's 1927 Paris return flight to several of the early Academy Award ceremonies to the flourishing Cocoanut Grove music scene where Bing Crosby was discovered. She met William Randolph Hearst, who lived with Marion Davies at the Ambassador for a year in the 1930's and she learned to swim from the swim coach who trained the 1932 Olympic hopefuls in the Ambassador's Olympic sized swimming pool. Like Eloise at the Plaza Hotel, Carlyn had the run of the Ambassador, spying on Charlie Chaplin, who played numerous practical jokes on her father and grandfather, alongside Tom Mix and other early Hollywood pranksters. In later years, Carlyn provided invaluable information for a number of historians who wrote about the Ambassador Hotel and Old Hollywood's vivid past, in addition to being a precious resource to the preservationists that attempted to save the Ambassador Hotel from the wrecking ball. Carlyn attended 3rd Street Elementary, JB Jr. High and LA High. She was an intelligent, determined and stylish young woman. In 1944 she married the man of her dreams, Ben Benjamin, who became a legendary ICM agent. Their home was often filled with actors, writers, producers and directors, and she called upon those relationships to help fund her greatest passion project, The Children's Booklift Fund - a social initiative she founded in the mid-60's. An avid reader, Carlyn believed that children who embraced a love of reading would be inspired to pursue their dreams. With that goal, her charity gave away tens of thousands of books to elementary schools in the city's most underserved districts. Carlyn and Ben were married for 47 years and both lived by the adage of "always do the right thing and pay it forward." They were both politically active. They protested the war in Vietnam, taking their two young children to San Francisco in the '60s to one of the largest protest marches in the country. They made a point to dress in business attire to show that "established" people, not "just hippies" were against the war. Carlyn was also tireless in her volunteer work to ban nuclear testing and in her efforts to elect Stevenson, Kennedy and McGovern, among many others. She lived a full and active life as a devoted wife, mother and grandmother. Her home was always open to friends, clients and those in need. The annual holiday party was the best ticket in town and always beautifully hosted with incredible class and style. Although age slowed her down, it never dampened her spirit. With the same determination and verve she'd had her entire life, Carlyn fought hard to stay with us no matter the challenges. But on January 9, on a quiet rainy morning at the age of 95, she left us peacefully and gracefully, surrounded by love. Carlyn Frank Benjamin is survived by her daughter, Lisa Gilmour, her son-in-law, Mark Gilmour, and her pride and joy, her three grandchildren: Jamison Gilmour, Rachael Benjamin and Ben Benjamin. Her dear son, Jeffrey, passed away in 2002, at the age of 52, from pancreatic cancer. Her husband, Ben, passed in 1991. She is also survived by her wonderful sister Jackie and many nieces, nephews, cousins and friends. In lieu of flowers, the family would be grateful for a donation made in Carlyn's memory to one of the following charities: Pancreatic Cancer Action Network - www.pancan.org, Smile Train - www.smiletrain.org, Beyond Alzheimer's - www.beyondalzheimers.com or Word Theatre - www.wordtheatre.com. Please send email messages to the family at [email protected]
Published in the Los Angeles Times on Jan. 22, 2017
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