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.
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.
Since there are ever fewer and fewer postings on the Simesite as the months and years slip by, in order to show that the Site is not utterly comatose, we have decided to post excerpts from Variety’s Souvenir Album once a month which we feel former muggs might appreciate re-reading.
The Album was printed back in 2005 on the occasion of the 100th Anniversary celebration of the founding of Variety in 1905 by Sime Silverman and was held during a gala dinner in Sardi’s restaurant in New York.
Sadly, most of those who contributed articles to the Album have now passed away, so it is a fitting tribute to their memory to “rescue” these articles and reminiscences from the past which were included in the Album.
We have previously posted four contributions sent for the Souvenir Album by muggs Keith Keller, Larry Michie, Hy Hollinger and one on Jimmy Durante and Sime. You can read all these by scrolling down the pages.
For the fifth installment, here is one penned by Besa concerning his recollection of an encounter with LA sales supremo, Hal Scott.
We were pleased to have a “voice from the past” contact us, namely Catherine Challands who used to work in the London office of Variety when it was on St. James’s Street. Following are a few excerpts from the missive, which also give information on Bob Hawkins:
I found Sime’s Site when I was fiddling around on the computer looking for stuff about Variety. I worked at the London office in St. James’s Street from 1962-1970 as PA first to Harold Myers and then, when he retired, to Bob Hawkins…
I loved working there, Harold was a fantastic boss and I learned a huge amount from him (I was a rather shy and naïve young girl from South Wales when I started there) – about politics and good food among other things. I also got on well with Bob and became good friends with Bob’s wife Rosella – we used to go shopping in Soho, the only place she could get the kind of food she was used to. I’m still in touch with her. Bob is still with us at age 92 but he doesn’t use his computer anymore. I also have very fond memories of Dick Richards (film critic, also of the Daily Mirror) and Bob Ottaway (tv). In those days I took down every letter and review in shorthand, rather embarrassingly Harold had better shorthand than mine (he had been a verbatim reporter at the House of Commons at one point I think) and he could type faster!
I feel sad, as I guess some old-timers do, at how the paper has changed, but I think it is still respected in the business because you often see it quoted.
Our “man in London”, Ian Watkins, has spotted an item in a French online mag (Les Voyageurs du Soir) titled “La Whodunit, What Is It?” which delves into the question of exactly who first came up with the expression.
Here’s a rough translation of the contents of the article:
“Per Webster’s New World Dictionary the contraction Whodunit first appeared in the period between the two world wars, in 1930, from the pen of a certain Donald Gordon in the bibliographical magazine American News of Books,
“However, considerable controversy still rages about who really was the father of the expression. Thus, in the April 25, 1942 issue of the Daily Telegram its coining is attributed to having been first used in a Variety article in 1932. In an item published in the Toledo Blade on June 3, 1985, the inventor of the contraction is given as Sime Silverman in 1936 in Variety (which is patently wrong, since Sime died in 1933! PB), while another source, the Milwaukee Journal of June 10, 1946, claims it was a certain [Variety staffer) Wolf Kaufman who came up with the expression in 1935 or 1936 while writing about the film Murder of an Aristocrat, when he was seeking a term shorter than “mystery story”. The term definitely appears in the Aug. 28, 1934 issue when talking about the film adaptation of Recipe for Murder, by British writer Arnold Ridley. In any case, Variety’s use of the word Whodunit refers to a film and not a novel.”
The article goes on for another 500 words or so giving a recap of the whodunit genre, its history, and some of its most famous examples.
If anyone want to read the original French text, click on to: