Reply to Ron Holloway’s sig steal


Regarding Ron Holloway’s story about being perturbed that he had apparently absconded (by accident) with Hy Hollinger’s review signature Holl. years after Hy had left the paper for Paramount publicity (only to return later):

I am also guilty of same offense as charged. While working at the Daily in L.A. around 1981, I was assigned a review by editor Tom Pryor. I don’t recall if it was a concert or tv pilot review, but he did inform me I’d need a review “sig.”

As it was likely after hours in the N.Y. office of weekly Variety, I did not do the usual check with Syd Silverman’s secretary, Norma, who was the keeper of the official review sigs list (which I found out later). My evil twin brother Mark Silverman had already taken the obvious Silv. signature. I wasn’t terribly bummed, as I was about to enter the Variety secret society of reviewers with double identities, and I thought it was obvious that Silv was a member of the founding family.

With an eye to keeping my identity under the radar of crafty and unscrupulous studio exex, I proposed Mich., which didn’t ring a bell with Tom Pryor, so he figured it was OK.

Well, once the review appeared in the paper and Norma noticed it, she called and really let me have it! She scolded me up one side and down the other, saying review sigs were a singular i.d. of the “muggs,” and that duplication was verboten. Turns out that a Paris bureau staffer, Paul Michaud, who wasn’t there very long, had briefly used the review sig of Mich. After chewing my ear out, Norma relented and allowed me to continue using Mich., probably because it was more trouble to monitor this list and keep up with the changes/dupes etc. Or, it could be more likely that my last name was Silverman and she didn’t need any more headaches. I think I gave her a migraine.

Of course, I blame all of this on former TV editor Larry Michie (Mick.) who could have saved us all the trouble and just used Mich. for his reviews. Then I’d probably be known simply as Mike. or something simple.

In any event, I always thought the review sigs were a terrific method of building esprit de corps among the “ink-stained wretches” (Morrie Gelman’s words, not mine), who inhabited the Weekly and Daily newsrooms. It always made me feel part of a special “club,” and was accustomed to addressing colleagues by their sigs, rather than their names.

I never called b.o. analyst Art Murphy anything other than “Murf.”, and took great pleasure in greeting Hy Hollinger every morning with a “Hy,Ho!” which saved time as it was both a greeting and his sig name. It’s still one of the best sigs ever, and with apologies to Ron Holloway, he’s entitled to keep Holl. in perpetuity.

Of course, one of the pettiest things Peter Bart ever did (I know, long list), was to forbid use of review sigs when he was given control of Variety editorial. He called it something like an “outdated anachronism.” If there’s an upside, it means no one else will ever steal your signature. And the late Norma Nannini is still in control of the list, I’ll bet ….