Our Friend Benny Luke
The onset of 2013 heralded frigid air, sub zero temperatures, and the rare occasion of snowfall in Paris. As the city of lights slowed in abundance of slush and icy sidewalks, the warmth of a dear friend was extinguished as his peaceful soul consumed its last breath of the cold air. After a long battle, his time had finally arrived, and he yielded.
The tragic loss of our Benny Luke is as much a loss to the expatriate African American community in Paris as is to the greater American culture of arts and entertainment. IMDb movie database list 6 starring titles for Benny, including the three renditions of his reprising role of the dutiful and loyal ‘domestique’ Jacob in La Cage Aux Folles I, II, and III (The Wedding)
If you were a part of the Paris scene during the 90s, you knew him invariably as the one man manager / entertainment center at Haynes in its waning days or at the fledging Bojangles, during its 15 minutes on the scene. Were it not for Benny, the iconic Haynes restaurant would have certainly closed its doors many years ahead of its eventual evaporation into widow Hayne’s Iberian voyeurism. The legacy and history of African Americans in Paris was the beneficiaries while our appetites for soul food were satisfied for yet a few more years.
The man from Oakland, California established himself as a stage dancer in Parisian music-halls and cabarets. He once shared the stage with non other than Josephine Baker herself. Over some 40 years in Paris, Benny Luke became a local fixture in the expatriate African American community. Most will recall Benny’s humility, his affable smile, and his gregarious personality. But he was so much more than just our friend. He was a piece of the African American history and legend in Paris, a man known by many and loved by all.