Benny Jay: Lucky George

September 17th, 2013

Not long ago, I got a call from a friend who said she had another friend — a photographer named George Kufrin — who’d just finished writing a book.

“Would you read it and write about it?” my friend asked.

Well, I got to tell you — I was skeptical.

I’m a big believer in the division between writers and photographers. As in — writers do the writing and photographers take the pictures. That’s just a law of nature, like gravity — or something.

How wrong I was. Having read Lucky George, I must admit — damn, that photographer can write!

George’s got a charming and disarming voice. He’s never in rush — just lets the story tell itself. As in the opening line….

“I was born on Christmas Day, 1926. Not in a manger but in Saint Anthony’s Hospital in Chicago. My mother cried for two days because she had her heart set on a girl she could name Gloria, after her favorite movie star Gloria Swanson.”

Great opening. Especially the wisecrack about a manger. Wish I’d come up with it.



George is the luckiest man alive, in part because….


He grew up in a working-class neighborhood on the southwest side, graduating from Farragut High School — home of the Admirals!

He joined the Merchant Marines and sailed the seas, visiting ports in every country and continent, including China, Argentina, Mexico, Australia, Africa — you name it.

The picture on the cover says it all. There’s George, climbing the riggings of some ship — a big, old cat-eating grin on his face. As if to say — I can’t believe I’m so lucky.

When George’s stint with the Merchant Marines was up, he returned to Chicago and picked up where he’d left off as a freelance photographer.



He married the great Joan Kufrin!


It seems like George took pictues of everybody (in Thursday’s post, I’ll run just a few). Including the great Lena Horne.

Dang, George — you get to sail the seas and meet Lena Horne? I’m sorry — but, that’s just too much luck for one man!

So why did you write the book, George?

“I’d go to parties and they’d be talking about the good old days. I’d tell my stories and my stories were better. People would say — `you should write a book.’ So I did!”

The book ends in the mid 196s0, which means he’s got over 40 more years of stories to tell.

“But I’m not sure there’s going to be a sequel,” he said. “I’m losing my eyesight. I’m legally blind. I can see images, but that’s about it.  When I started the book five years ago, I could see much better. There won’t be a sequel unless it’s spoken.”

For the record….

George’s editor is his wife, Joan Kufrin, one of Chicago’s great freelance writers. “You can thank Joan for smoothing things out and fixing all the grammar mistakes,” he says.

Like I always say — behind every great photographer, there’s a writer.

You’re a lucky man, indeed, George!

If you want to buy the book, just follow the link.

2 Responses to “Benny Jay: Lucky George”

  1. Bob Feie says:

    Always read you in The Reader…designed the book…worked with Joan over a decade while she was at Leo…need any images…I’ll forward them with her ok.


  2. Benny Jay says:

    Thanks, Bob. I’ll be running some of George’s works tomorrow. But I’d like to run them from time to time. So please send me what you can. He’s a great photographer!

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