Ira Eaker, the co-founder and co-publisher of the entertainment trade paper, Back Stage, died June 26 in Tamarac, FL, after surgery, according to the Sun Sentinel.
Mr. Eaker, who was 80, created a paper read by hundreds of thousands of performers over the past 40 years. It started small in 1960, as a publication formed by Mr. Eaker and Allen Zwerdling in a basement in New York City, but blossomed into a major trade that now has a West Coast edition called Back Stage West. According to Back Stage, Zwerdling was co publisher and editor, while Mr. Eaker handled the advertising side of things.
In the early '80s, the paper was split up into two sections—one covering theatre and one covering television— to serve the trade's two major readerships. Later, the television section became a separate title, called Shoot, while Back Stage continued to cover the performing arts.
Back Stage offers news, reviews and columns—including the widely followed "Bistro Bits" cabaret column—but is read almost exclusively by performers for its casting notices. No actor has come up through the ranks in the New York acting world without picking up a copy of the paper, easily identified by its distinctive blue banner.
In 1986, Mr. Eaker and his partner sold Back Stage to Billboard Publications, which in turn came to be owned by a Dutch conglomerate. Mr. Eaker stayed on with the paper several years after Billboard, and then retired. Daughter Sherry Eaker came on board in 1977 and now serves as the trade's editor-in-chief. She is also the author of the weekly "Center Stage" column and runs the annual Bistro Awards, which honor cabaret performers. Sharing many of the day-to day editing responsibilities is longstanding managing editor David Sheward.
Many New York theatre journalists and critics have passed through Back Stage's employ, including New Jersey Star Ledger critic Michael Sommers, Variety theatre reporter Robert Hofler, Theatremania editor Michael Portantiere, TheaterWeek founder and theatre reporter Mike Salinas and Stagebill editor Andy Buck.
Currently on the staff are Sheward, who is also president of the Drama Desk organization, news editor Roger Armbrust and features writer Simi Horwitz.
Mr. Eaker was born in New York City, where his father was in the trucking business. He studied at the City College of New York, married Lee Eisenberg in 1946 and served in the US Army during World War II.
Before Back Stage was founded, he was advertising director for Show Business (1948-60).
In addition to Sherry Eaker, a fixture in the New York theatre community, Mr. Eaker is survived by wife Lee and son Dean, as well as a sister and two grandchildren.