Remembering Army Archerd


Along with Marie Silverman, I sat opposite Army Archerd in an out-of-the-way office space in the L.A. office of Variety for several years in the late 1980s. I watched him at work every day. Given a sort of Rorschach test seeking a word association with Army, I’d immediately say, “Reporter!” The exclamation point really should be an extraordinary point. From 10 to 6 most weekdays I watched Army report ceaselessly, indefatigably.

He was on the phone reporting, checking, and rechecking.  In the rare times away from the phone, Army would go back to pounding out his daily column.

To describe Army as hard-working is as inadequate as calling a beaver busy. When the roach coach sounded its horn at midday, Army actually looked annoyed. He’d have to leave his desk and phone to grab a hurried lunch that he’d eat while juggling back and forth from phone to keyboard.

Concerned about unanswered calls he’d ask me to cover for him while away from his desk. Often his phone rang with the frequency of church bells on a Sunday morning.

Army was a private person. There wasn’t a great deal of small talk between us. He never spoke about his personal life although he’d ask about my family. When my wife was in the hospital after surgery he sent flowers.

My observation of Army was special. I was in the unique position of beginning and ending my career in close proximity to unexpectedly terrific reporters. As an editorial fledgling in the early 1950s I worked as an assistant to Earl Wilson at the New York Post. Earl did for the New York jet set and nightclub crowd what Army did for Hollywood. To call them gossip columnists was hardly given them their due. Both reported and wrote without malice. I didn’t see a journalistic ax among their tools. Earl’s biggest scoop was being the first to report Ingrid Bergman becoming pregnant by Roberto Rosellini. Army made headlines by reporting Rock Hudson having AIDS.

You don’t usually think of such stories being the work of hard-nosed professional reporters. Believe it. Such reporting takes hard work. It’s not done casually. It takes a pro to do it accurately. To my observation, Army knew his assigned task in professional life was being a reporter and he performed always to the best of his abilities, which were special.