Year’s end Simesite wrap

Jan. 1, 2023       

Yet another year has elapsed and we have managed to get 16 responses from the muggs, which is unfortunately down considerably from only a year ago. Have the “no shows” simply been too lazy to send a contribution? Have they shuffled off this mortal coil? Will one or two of them come in after deadline? Or maybe they have just changed their email addresses and are now lost in cyberspace.

Among this year’s “missing” are Alderman, Daley, Fainaru, Grantham, Evans, Kruger, Rosovsky, Stenzel and Willis. I mention only those who in recent years replied, not those “long since not replying”. Here, in the order in which they were received, are this year’s contributors:


Variety Archive Illuminates Babylon Backstory

Los Angeles, Dec. 28

Variety reached into its expansive vault to provide real-life backstory to new theatrical film Babylon about Hollywood in the Roaring 1920s. The Variety archival article dated Dec. 23, 2022, plays off filmmaker Damien Chazelle’s new Paramount Pictures release starring Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie that captures and exaggerates that early period of “Hollywood in all its decadence, debauchery and excess.”

And Variety was there!


West Coast Daily Variety Mugg Setlowe Passes

By Bob Marich

A multi-hyphenate in journalism, writing and media, Richard Setlowe passed away at age 89 after a career on the West Coast that included working at Daily Variety. He died at Kaiser Permanente in Panorama City, Calif. ln Aug. 25 after long-term health issues.

From 1962 through 1998, Setlowe wrote for Daily Variety on film, music and drama, including a period of full-time work serving as lead film reviewer for a time.  In a 1992 Variety story about Frank Sinatra’s film career before his award-winning roles, Setlowe wrote: “From the time that studio executives and directors became aware that the skinny crooner was an actor of astonishing range, the critics constantly lamented that the actor never exercised the taste and discrimination in his roles that the singer did in his music.”

In his journalism career, Setlowe also worked as a writer and editor at the San Francisco Examiner and contributed to Time, Life and TV Guide magazines. He also was an accomplished novelist and network TV executive.

According to his obituary in Variety, “A private celebration of his life will be held at Beyond Baroque Theater in Venice, Calif., on Sept. 18 at 1 p.m. Donations may be made to the American Cancer Society.”  

Setlowe was born in New York on April 21, 1933 in the depth of the Great Depression, growing up there and in Tennessee. He finished college at University of Southern California, and then served in the U. S. Navy as an officer. Setlowe was an achiever in life and recreation as a scuba diver, snow skier and private pilot, tennis player. His wife of 50 years, Beverly Setlowe, died in 2012. He is survived by sons David Higgs and Chris Balaam and grandchildren Chase Higgs, Hailey Holfelder, Adam Balaam, Eric Balaam, great-grandson Luca Holfelder and niece Kimberly Setlowe. 

Ink-stained Hollywood

Madrid, May 14, 2022

For many decades, journalists at the old Variety office on West 46th Street referred to themselves as “ink-stained wretches” or “galley slaves”, self-mocking monikers that were prompted by the configuration of the elongated editorial room where they sat at their manual typewriters. At the head of the row of reporters, on a raised dais, next to the picture window that overlooked 46th Street, sat the publisher Syd Silverman and a series of editors-in-chief, though I believe they never cracked any proverbial whip over the “galley slaves”. The most famous of those sitting on the dais with Syd over the years were Abel Green, Bob Landry, Bob Hawkins, Mark Silverman and Frank Meyer.

The “ink-stained” monicker has now been used as the title of a new book that zeroes in on the early era of show biz jounalism called “Ink-Stained Hollywood: The Triumph of American Cinema’s Trade Press”. Its author is Eric Hoyt, a professor of Media Production at the University of Wisconsin, in Madison. and is published by the University of California Press.

Given the credentials of its author and the publisher, it is no surprise that this is a serious, academical work which does not shy away from analyses and historical details

To my knowledge, it is the first book published since my own Inside Variety (2000) that mentions some of Variety’s early protagonists, starting with Sime Silverman, but also referring to Daily Variety’s first editor-in-chief, Arthur Ungar, and others. In consonance with the title of the book, Hoyt concentrates mostly on film activities in Hollywood and when he writes of “Variety” it is usually Daily Variety that he is referring to, not the New York-based weekly.

However, a number of pages in the book are also dedicated to slanguage (Hoyt also uses the term “industry speak” which is a modern expression). His research has been thorough as he dipped into the trade press of the early part of the 20th century, and he even makes mention of the New York Clipper, a trade mag of the 1920’s which Sime acquired but then folded a year later. Also covered in the book is some of the infighting among the vaudeville moguls of the time.

If Hoyt’s book remains in the purely academical vein, eschewing any attenmpt at evoking the atmosphere of the early Variety years and the muggs that worked on it, it is notwithstanding a welcome, well-written addition to a subject – old show biz journalism – which seems to have been largely ignored since the publication of my own book. PB

Remembering Daily Variety columnist Army Archerd: The Original Blogger

By Robert Marich

White Plains, NY January 15, 2022

Army Archerd
Army Archerd

Mining its glorious history, Variety published a remembrance of Army Archerd on the 100th anniversary of his birth, January 13, 1922. Archerd, who died in 2009, wrote the “Just for Variety” column in Daily Variety from 1953-2005.

The 2022 Variety remembrance calls him “the original blogger.”

“Archerd’s first column, published April 27, 1953, addressed the new sensation of 3-D movies and included 32 other news items – which means he averaged 150 exclusives a week,” says the contemporary Variety story.

“And yes, every item was exclusive: God help the poor publicist who double-planted a story with him and another news outlet, and had to face the Wrath of Army.”

The article nicely recounts the many highlights of Archerd’s 52 years as a Daily Variety columnist. For example, in 1958, he travelled to Rome where he toured the production of Ben-Hur, starring Charlton Heston, including the epic chariot racing scene (the film was released the following year). Archerd “brought the footage he’d shot on his 8mm camera to MGM execs in L.A. Since MGM didn’t have an 8mm projector, Army brought his from home; it was the first footage they’d seen of their $15 million film and they were relieved it looked so good.”

Perhaps his most famous item — and it was a scoop —was published in July 1985 and reported that film star Rock Hudson was being treated for AIDS in Paris. At the time, AIDS was a taboo subject, but breaking the news in Archerd’s column matter-of-factly without blaring headlines was a low-key way to get the word out.

Archerd was in the Hollywood picture too. He did guest appearances as an actor in TV shows and MC’ed the red-carpet arrivals at the Academy Awards.

“On June 27, 1984, Archerd became the first journalist to be given a star on the Walk of Fame; it was in front of Mann’s Chinese (now TCL) where he emceed many movie premieres,” notes the article. Behind the scenes, Archerd also helped launch “The People’s Choice Awards” that began in 1973.

The contemporary article is penned by mugg Tim Gray who joined Variety when it was family owned.

To see the original article, click on the link below.