Huntington Beach

It was a swinging tribute to our veterans

SWING DANCING kicked off the musical entertainment in “A Tribute to the Hollywood Canteen” on Tuesday in the theater at the Huntington Beach Central Library (Orange County Tribune photos).

By Jim Tortolano

“I have been all over the world. I have performed in New York and London. I’ve been a star on Broadway, on radio, in movies and television,” deadpanned Jack Benny. “And here I am, on a Tuesday afternoon in Huntington Beach.”

OK, it wasn’t the real Jack Benny, but Huntington Beach was the place to be if you admired war veterans and nostalgic entertainment from the days of the jitterbug and Big Band music.

JACK BENNY, or a reasonable facsimile, was on stage, too.

In honor of Veterans’ Day, 100-year-old World War II sailor and Surf City resident Dale Berkihiser was honored for his service to his country at the Huntington Beach Central Library Theater.

Berkihiser, who trained to be a Navy radio technician in 1945 after years of helping to build military planes for Douglas Aircraft, was presented with a plaque by Mayor Barbara Delgleize on behalf of the city council.

The ceremonies began with a patriotic video by Jim Whirlow of JRW Group Entertainment, and after the presentation of the plaque, kicked into high gear with the staging of a lively musical revue, “A Tribute to the Hollywood Canteen.”

Impersonators of Bette Davis and Clark Gable hosted the show, which include faux versions of Benny, Doris Day, the Andrews Sisters and Dorothy Dandridge as well as swing dancing routines.

A packed house applauded Berkihiser and roared with laughter at Benny’s jokes, then enjoyed the vocal and dance stylings of the performers who recreated the entertainment culture of Hollywood in the Forties, in the 21st century in Huntington Beach.

DALE BERKIHISER gives the V-for-victory salute of World War II at Tuesday’s event.

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