Veteran Variety, film scribe and copy editor George Gilbert, 92, passed away in a hospital near his home in Crystal River, Florida, on the evening of February 12. His daughter, Corinne Pinkos, was with him at the end and says his illness was sudden. He was suffering from a bad cold that he just couldn’t seem to kick.
“George loved his wife, his family, the sea, the coast guard and of course Variety,” she told us.
Many of us had the pleasure of greeting George and some of his family when he attended the Variety 100 Anni dinner at Sardi’s last September, when he became one of the centers of attention and was interviewed by the local New York press.
Though upon first being advised of the Sardi’s bash he was reluctant to make the long trip at his age, at the end he did decide to attend with his daughter and son-in-law.
George started on Variety as an office boy during the Depression, in October 1934, at a salary of $15 a week. He remained on the sheet for 41 years.
In a letter written to Peter Besas in May, 1994, and published in his book Inside Variety, George reminisced:
“From an economic standpoint in the 1930’s entertainment was cheap. An orchestra seat to a Broadway musical such as Of Thee I Sing was $4.40. I remember as a kid in high school some of us would play hooky and catch the five-hour show at the old Hippodrome at Sixth Avenue and West 44th Street. If you arrived before 1 p.m. you would see two feature films, a newsreel, cartoon and eight acts of vaudeville, all for 25 cents.
“Even the Radio City Music Hall was only 40 cents before 1 p.m. Admission to the Gaiety Burlesque on the corner of Broadway and 46th Street was 25 cents before 1 p.m. There a customer could see such strippers as Georgia Southern, Margie Hart or Ann Corio. Comic Phil Silvers, who later became a top name on television, also worked there…
“Times were hard indeed during the Depression. If an office boy was required to work, say, up to 10 or 11 at night, he would receive 75 cents for ‘supper money’. There was no such thing as overtime pay.
“On Monday night in the summer we would open the floor-to-ceiling windows that faced West 46th Street. Next door was the Roxy Bar & Grill, a longtime Variety watering hole.
“A plus at the saloon was its pianist and three singing waiters. We labored at our typewriters to strains of Apple Blossom Time and If You Knew Susie that wafted through the open windows. Ah, those were the days!”.