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.


Mark Silverman’s wrap combines covid and golf: a late entry

New Canaan, CT, Jan.6,2022

Right off the bat, I apologize for the late submission, but in my racket (stocks, bonds, etc.), the end of the year gets pretty cuckoo.  In addition, Pam and I had to postpone Christmas Eve with our 4 kids and their significant others, because we both got Covid a few days before Christmas.  After 10 days of isolation, me in the home office, Pam in the upstairs master, I went back to my January 2021 submission and point interested muggs to that as a backgrounder, since for the most part, NOTHING has changed in the past year.  Well, almost nothing.

We both were double vaxxed, had our booster shots and flu shots, so I don’t feel that “breakthrough” is the right adjective to describe this outcome.  It sounds a little too positive.  But luckily, our symptoms were relatively mild, our youngest daughter Olivia delivered 48 square meals to us over 8 days of “caring” for us old fogeys, separated and masked, and we managed to celebrate Christmas with our kids here in New Canaan CT on New Year’s Eve, with son Alex and his wife Liz on FaceTime from their new home in Boston.

It’s now been almost 2 years since I have been one of the WFH legion.  Our office in Greenwich called us back to work Sept. 9 officially, and I dutifully showed up 2 days a week until last week when it closed again, after I got the bug.  I hope this new variant spins itself out and we regain some normalcy.  I do miss going to the bijou, yet there is just so much content globally on streaming platforms that if you can’t find some really great longforms and one-offs, you’re not trying very hard.  We really miss traveling, and call me a fuddy duddy but I’m not looking forward to strapping on a set of VR goggles to visit the Meta Riviera.  But I’m positive billions will be made from it.  

My original 2020 golf trip to Scotland was postponed once again due to Covid concerns, now moved to August of 2022.  But manna from heaven fell during early October when I filled in for a cancellation on a friend’s trip that included a round on the Old Course in St. Andrew’s, which I had never played.  Decent weather at Gullane #1, North Berwick West, Carnoustie, Kingsbarns, but the caddies at Muirfield said they had “not seen rain like that all year.”  We played anyway, skipped the afternoon round, and made the famous coat & tie guest luncheon last until 4:00.  The real ordeal was not getting tested before, during, and again to return, but flying for 8 hours from Amsterdam with a mask on.  After that, Pam decided she needed a golf trip and we went to Charleston, SC for a long weekend.  No longer a golf widow, I have created a monster, but it’s a nice problem to have.

St. Andrews
Mark and Pam in South Carolina
Sime’s great-great granddaughter Louisa Crisafulli, Carolyn’s daughter

Since I’m late, I had a chance to read through some of the other posts.  I think we all could use Harlan’s organizational skills to be that busy during a pandemic, and Pete’s tale of the Malibou Lake fires is scary indeed, albeit with a relatively happy ending.  I’m going to have to read Norman’s post again, in order to gain further clarity. ;> )

Anyhoo, it’s really something that there’s still a saloon, or a salon maybe, where muggs can still congregate and update their comings and goings after all these years, so kudos to Peter and Ian for keeping the flame burning.  Here’s hoping that 2022 brings an end to this feisty virus and we can all get out, about, and go to the flicks without fear.  Cheers!


Roster of Weekly Variety Muggs worldwide, ca. 1988

New York, Jan. 3, 2022

Ex mugg Jim Robbins was kind enough to send us (via Norman Scherer) this list of weekly Variety staffers the reading of which may induce a sigh of nostalgia when we see all the names on it, most of whom have now passed away.

Given that the list includes Arthur Anderman and Marty Feldman, it must have been prepared, and possibly sent out at Christmas time, around 1989, after the sale, when the paper had moved its New York offices to 475 Park Avenue South.

The list includes not only reporters in the New York office, but also muggs stationed overseas, such as Roger Watkins, Ted Clark, Hank Werba, Luigi Zaccardi, Jack Pitman, Bob Hawkins, Harold Myers, Jack Kindred, Lenny Borger, Stephen Glasgow and Keith Keller.

Also included are the two telephone operators, Peggy Michitsch and Joan Crowley, as well as the New York advertising staff, including Mort Bryer, Fred Birnbaum and Abie Torres. Also listed are the two office boys, who managed to make the transition from 46th Street to Park Avenue South, Sylvester Joachim and Chris Higgins. And, of course, there is the inimitable secretary and factotum, Norma Nannini, as well as Arlene Rosenstein in accounting and Muriel Pagan in the subscription department, along with a roster of the reporters covering TV and film. In all there are close to 100 names. This surviving scribe remembers almost all of them and can now conjure up their faces as I remember them during the unforgettable years of the Silverman era. What a nostalgia trip!

Thanks a million Jim Robbins and Norman Scherer for saving this piece of memorabilia from oblivion.


Year’s end Simesite wrap

Jan. 1, 2022       

Well, we have done it again! I mean, managed to keep the Site live for another year and gotten 18 muggs to send in contributions. Albeit this is a few less than the previous year, it is certainly a satisfactory result considering that the sheet was sold 34 years ago and that Simesite has now been around for 19 of those, thanks largely to the late Roger Watkins and his son, Ian.