ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA FOR LIFE - GRAVYMonday 19th September 2011
Who is Laden Kenneth Blackburn Bouconon Ewellyn Benjamin? You may better know him as the iconic cricket figure “Gravy”.
Born in All Saints to parents David & Inez Benjamin, he’s the youngest & only boy of 3 siblings.
Gravy was a very popular pupil & a budding comedian often entertaining his classmates at All Saints School with jokes when the teacher was absent.
“My parents were in the most parts loving and not strict; being the last child and only boy I got away with murder”
My first job was as at a gas station attendant at the Robinson Gas Station earning $4 per week, which went straight home to my Mother, in those days everyone helped to support the family. To earn a little pocket money for myself, I used to fix tyres & clean windshields when cars came to fill up.
He moved abroad living in BVI & New York working as a delivery driver from 1974. At this time he predicted to his good friend Leon Sheppard that he would return to his beloved Antigua in 1986.
“No-one believed that I would leave the USA, which we all know I did”.
New York’s loss was Antigua’s gain.
So how did he get the nickname Gravy?
“Believe it or not I was a very shy guy growing, up but loved my sports often playing football & cricket at Mac Pond. Football was played barefoot in the rain; I think that made us stronger athletes. But after a hard day playing I loved to go home & have my dinner but I didn’t want meat I just wanted my mother’s gravy and she gave me the nickname – Gravy.
What gave him the idea of entertaining the cricket masses?
“Watching the crowd reaction during basketball & baseball games, with the mascot entertaining the crowds, the dancing and the enjoyment. I said this is what I want to see happening when I watch cricket in Antigua. So in 1988, I was at the ARG watching my first test match since returning from the US - England v West Indies. On the last day during the presentation ceremony, it started to rain & everyone had to leave the grounds. The music was playing & people were dancing in the double decker stand. Watching the podium on the field, something said “Gravy it is your time” So I walked onto the field & started dancing. Then something came to mind & said “Gravy headstand on the podium” and the crowd went wild. This is where my career started as an entertainer in the cricket arena.
How did the buttercup can come around?
“West Indies was playing New Zealand, so I decided to make a cup out of the New Zealand butter tin. I kept this cup filled with ice cold drink & told everyone I am going to chill the New Zealand team.
This is a perfect example of what makes Gravy the man, Gravy the Icon?
“Just being different from everyone else & making sure whatever I do is original.”
“When I hear people call me a cricket icon, it’s a nervous feeling because I don’t feel that way - I am a simple, humble man.”
I feel good being involved in the Digicel Antigua & Barbuda For Life campaign because it speaks about our twin island state, sometimes people forget that it’s not Antigua alone. We are Antiguans & Barbudans For Life and the campaign speaks to that.
I love the commercial, I love it, I can’t stop myself from singing & dancing. People have stopped me thinking that it’s actually me standing outside Sir Vivian Richards Stadium.
So from humble beginnings to a national cricket icon, we hope Gravy continues to represent Antigua & Barbuda in his own inimitable style, for life.
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