A kudo for Morry Roth


Morry Roth, an old mugg and former bureau chief of Variety’s Chitown office, has gone to his reward. He ran what I considered to be one of the paper’s “friendly” offices. I first eyeballed him when he came into the 46th Street headquarters to be interviewed by Abel and Syd, sometime in the 60’s. I was struck by his close resemblance to the President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis ( I’m an old student of that period ). Spitting image, I would say. Odd, for a man who was quite “liberal”.

In my experience, there were three very “friendly” Variety bureaus, where a staffer from any of the other offices could count on a warm welcome. First and foremost, Hank Werba’s Rome bureau, always a fun scene. Secondly, London, under Roger Watkins, where you could count on a barrage of smiles and, needless to say, a visit to the local pub (after work, of course). Well, also sometimes during the so-called “hours of toil”. Good for the working morale, you see. You did a better job after wetting your whistle.

And I would add the Chitown office, located in the glorious old Wrigley Building in downtown Chicago, which comes in a close third. Morry would always “take care of” visitors from other offices, Chicago being a most friendly burg, in my experience.

On one occasion, during the famous 1968 NAB convention, he managed to get me an invite to Hugh Hefner’s famous mansion for a “pool party”, and I don’t mean the billiards variety. A very difficult invite to obtain, but Morry had entree with Hefner, I quickly learned.

A most jolly party it was, with great grub, excellent libations and, of course, the pool, available for the more courageous types (alas, I usually stick to the kiddie’s pool myself; any water over three feet makes me nervous). There were the famous Bunnies prancing about, showing off their well-known allures. But, typical of all of the old muggs, I was more interested in zeroing in on the bar and chow table. All in all, it was a most pleasant experience and I still thank Morry Roth for having taken me along.

Now, as for the New York office, at least concerning my ad department, well, the attitude towards visitors, I would say, could be described as “cool”, even “frigid”, maybe typical New York. But certainly not warm and welcoming like Rome, London and Chicago.