Bennett Cerf: Part publisher, part showman
Although he was a syndicated columnist and the author of 21 joke and riddle books that sold more than 5,000,000 copies, most Americans met Bennett Cerf on CBS television's parlor game "What's My Line?", where he matched wits with other panelists for 16 years. What most of the audience did not realize was that in addition to being a columnist, punster and raconteur, Cerf was one of the 20th century's greatest publishers, whose imprint changed the world of publishing. Born in Manhattan in 1898, Cerf was the only child of well-to-do Jewish parents whose ancestors came from France. His father was a lithographer, and his mother the scion of a wealthy tobacco merchant.