By FRANK SEGERS
(Or, can you get that damned quarter-page ad in the paper past deadline?)
Call me crazy if you wish – and many do, regularly – but it occurs that Variety publisher Syd Silverman never felt as comfortable or more at ease working with anyone at the old 46th St. office in Manhattan as he did with Abie Torres.
Early each week, when editorial copy and ads for the upcoming Weekly were being mapped out, Syd and Abie, the key production person, used to sit in the rear of the street-level, bottom floor at 46th St., which accommodated the advertising and production departments.
They sat on opposite sides of a long table, as I recall, poring over the paper’s makeup page by page.
I won’t invoke the cliché of two opposites working harmoniously together – the Princeton-educated grandson of Variety founder Sime Silverman and the rough-hewn, up-from-Brooklyn Puerto Rican kid. But there it was, and it was true.
Striking was how efficiently and easily Syd and Abie communicated with each other. Conversation was minimal. Often, a grunt or two seemed to accomplish what for others would require a half day’s worth of corporate meetings. Abie seemed to intuit what Syd wanted and, perhaps, vice versa.
What also was striking was the obvious respect – and, I suspect, affection – the two shared. The feeling was not expressly articulated, of course (such things were not done on 46th Street), but shared nonetheless. When they sat at their table, Abie and Syd were more or less equals in their element.
The fact is that, rare for a publisher, Syd always placed premium value on the Weekly’s production aspect. He knew production intimately, and, certainly, so did Abie. (This knowledge was openly belittled by Variety’s new management, post 1988, much to the paper’s detriment, in my view.)
I personally did not know Abie terribly well. He was an amiable if outwardly gruff presence, who did not suffer management fools easily or gladly. As I grew to know him a bit over time, I much admired his lusty joie de vivre garnished by a wicked sense of humor.
For anyone with exposure to selling advertising, it was impossible NOT to respect and rely on Abie’s enormous knowledge and prowess at putting the Weekly to bed. He was the necessary go-to guy to get that last minute quarter-page blurb into the paper 20 minutes beyond deadline. That was as true for the 70-page issues of the early 1970’s as for the 600-page behemoths published yearly for the Cannes Film Festival.
Abie was a lifesaver regarding the always-tricky layouts of the special editorial-advertising sections, an important economic contributor to pre-1988 Variety issues. He understood and respected the enormous work put into these efforts, and was sensitive to suggestions of editorial contributors – who often lacked Abie’s sense of grace under pressure.
No matter the professional pressures of the moment, it seemed that Abie – much like Syd – was outwardly unflappable. He took care of production matters unceremoniously with dispatch and supreme confidence in his abilities, considerable but sometimes underrated by others.
My sympathies to Abie’s widow, Joya – who, as it turns out, is the niece of the late Jimmy Antinori, one of Abie’s closest working companions in the pre-1988 Variety production department.
A toast to Abie Torres’ memory is certainly in order. I thank him, I salute him and I will think of him often.