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.
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:
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 forDaily Varietyon film, music and drama, including a period of full-time work serving as lead film reviewer for a time. In a 1992 Varietystory 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.