As I was rummaging through piles of old papers and back issues of Variety in one of the rooms in my apartment, aside from chancing upon a playbill from Tony Pastor’s Theatre at 585 Broadway, with one of the dozen attractions being Miss Lillian Russell, and a 22-page 1912 program of the New Amsterdam Theatre on 42nd Street for a “musical comedy deluxe” called The Pink Lady that included display ads for such restaurants as Shanley’s on Broadway, featuring an “exceptional Cabaret”, Cavanagh’s Restaurant and Grill on 23rd St. (“vocal and instrumental music, shell fish a specialty”), Murray’s “Cabaret in Roman Gardens” on 42nd St., Wallicks new Broadway restaurant on 43rd St. and Bustanoby’s on 39th Street (dinner $1.50, Parisian specialties, dancing, select performance, Tel.6780 Greeley”, I came across a Style Sheet that the former Variety editor Abel Green had printed in 1960 for the guidance of old and new muggs.
While many muggs hang up their Underwoods with retirement, our Peter Besas celebrated his 90th birthday in Madrid with a self-printed booklet “Never Say, ‘The Last One.’” Besas (sig “Besa”) served as Madrid stringer and later bureau chief and Latin American Director of Operations for Variety from 1969 to 1999.
We were sad to hear of the passing on April 16 in London of former Variety sales topper and one-time bureau chief John Willis. John had been admitted to a hospital a few days earlier, but then developed pneumonia. He died quickly and peacefully surrounded by members of his family. He was 86.
When I joined Variety in 1965 as a TV-radio reporter and reviewer (my signature was Knol.), the broadcast networks dominated the media landscape. I remember when I was assigned to cover a meeting of the cable TV industry association at the Statler Hilton Hotel. It didn’t even fill a small auditorium. There was plenty of room to spare. Today cable TV is a $94 billion business whose annual confab overflows the Chicago convention center.