Army Archerd, Showbiz Chronicler, Dies at 87

Obituaries   Army Archerd, Showbiz Chronicler, Dies at 87
 
Army Archerd, who chronicled the projects and practitioners of show business for a half a century through his column in Variety, died Sept. 8 in Los Angeles, the trade publication reported. He was 87.
Army Archerd
Army Archerd

The cause was a rare form of mesothelioma cancer, thought to be the result of his exposure to asbestos in the Navy during World War WII.

Mr. Archerd — whose unusual first name was an abbreviation of Armand — penned a 900-word column, titled "Just for Variety," on page two of Daily Variety five days a week until the 1990s, when it went to four days a week. His last column ran on Sept. 1, 2005, but — tireless and unwilling to break entirely from the world he had covered so meticulously for decades — he continued contributing to the paper and writing a blog for Variety.com. His last blog posting was July 27.

As a columnist, his tone was mainly friendly, kindly, even fatherly. Often, he erred on the side of a cheerleader's function, offering backslaps and good wishes aplenty. But, because of this, he was one of the few Hollywood journalists who was welcomed, respected and befriended by the actors and artists he covered, gaining their trust and frequent exclusives. When ladies' man Warren Beatty decided to settle down with Annette Bening, he gave the story to Mr. Archerd personally. His articles were a running account of every new deal, hiring, firing, honor, death and birth in the world of film and television, and, to a lesser extent, the theatre. (Like Walter Winchell, he used three dots to separate news items.)

One of his most familiar gigs was as the official greeter of the Academy Awards. He served as emcee and interviewer of stars on Oscar's red carpet for 47 years. In 1984, he was given a star on the Hollywood's Walk of Fame, in front of Mann's Chinese Theater, where he had emceed many movie premieres.

Despite his generally conciliatory approach, he sometimes took strong stands, opposing forces he disapproved of, such as the blacklisting of the 1950s and Charlton Heston's support of the NRA. He criticized Michael Jackson for including anti-Semitic remarks in his "HIStory" album, causing the singer to apologize and remove them. His most famous scoop was his report that Rock Hudson was being treated for AIDS — the first time a major celebrity was linked to the spreading virus. "He did it in a passionate way. He was a very honorable guy with a strong sense of right and wrong," producer-director Gil Cates told Variety. Armand Archerd, who had the even, mildly handsome looks of a Midwestern news anchor, was born in the Bronx on Jan. 13, 1922, to Jewish parents. He attended CCNY for two years, but when his family moved to Los Angeles, he transferred to UCLA. His Hollywood career began right after graduation in 1941, when he went to work in the mailroom at Paramount. In WWII, he served in the Navy.

Mr. Archerd and Associated Press reporter Bob Thomas opened the AP bureau in the Hollywood Citizen News on Wilcox Avenue in 1945. In 1947, Archerd was hired by the Herald-Express as assistant to drama-movie editor-columnist Harrison Carroll. Finally, in 1953, Daily Variety editor Joe Schoenfeld hired Archerd to replace columnist Sheilah Graham, the former girlfriend of novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald.

His marriage to Joan Archerd, which produced two children, Amanda and Evan, ended in divorce in 1969 after 25 years. He married his second wife, Selma, in 1970. Mr. Archerd is survived by his wife, his son and two stepsons.

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