L. Robert Charles, the general sales director for Playbill magazine and a 30-year veteran of the magazine's advertising sales staff, died Feb. 10 in Manhattan after a battle with cancer.
Mr. Charles was 72 and lived in New York City with his wife, Barbara. In December 2000, he was recognized by Playbill president and publisher Philip S. Birsh for his 30 years of creative, aggressive and consistent work at Playbill. Birsh underscored that, above all, Mr. Charles was always "a gentleman."
"Bob was a wonderful gentleman who did everything for other people and had remarkable standards and incredible devotion to doing all things well," Birsh said. "In the 30-plus years I knew Bob I never heard him say a thing that wasn't positive about everyone. We have a family business here and we have suffered a very bad loss. We view this as having lost a family member."
Mr. Charles was responsible for such longstanding Playbill advertisers as Macy's, Lancôme, Chanel, American Express, Chase, Texaco and AT&T, among others. One of the things that kept Mr. Charles passionate about his work, according to colleagues, was the link to the performing arts: Playbill appears in Broadway, Off-Broadway and regional theatres, at the Metropolitan Opera and in concert halls throughout the United States.
Mr. Charles was an enthusiastic consumer of theatre, classical music and opera. If classical music was playing in the office of a colleague, he might pop his head in the doorway to name the composer and the title of the piece. He was also a reader of Playbill On-Line, and would ask staff members of the latest buzz about an upcoming show. He was also co-host, with Playbill senior editor Louis Botto, of Playbill's long-running Spelvin luncheons, in which Mr. Charles and Botto paid tribute to the invited cast and crew of a currently running Broadway show. Before joining Playbill, Mr. Charles worked in advertising at Scandinavian Airlines (SAS). Elaine Klein, Playbill's West Coast sales director, joined Playbill in 1970, the same year as Mr. Charles. Klein said Playbill's then-vice president and general sales manager, William W. Browne, Jr., called on SAS for business. "Bill Browne saw this extraordinary, bright young man, and asked Bob to join the staff," Klein said. Mr. Charles jumped at the chance to be close to the arts.
"He was a very aesthetic person," Klein said. "He saw beauty in absolutely everything. Not only music, but reading, acting, the arts — he went to museums and traveled to Scotland to see castles. He really stopped and smelled the flowers. He was a person that may have been born in one religion, but was a citizen of the world. I never sensed a streak in him that was mean or distasteful."
Klein added, "His clients absolutely adored him. He had a wonderful laugh. He was a great guy to tell a joke to because he would give you a great belly laugh. He was not a morbid person, he was somebody who enjoyed life."
Mr. Charles is survived his wife, Barbara Charles; son Frederick Charles and daughter-in-law Eileen; two grandchildren, Ian Robert and Clara Mary; a sister, Sr. Jorene Cieciuch, O.P.; brother Richard Cieciuch; and mother Helena Cieciuch. His father, Leon Cieciuch, predeceased him.
Friends may call at Frank E. Campbell, 1076 Madison Ave. At 81st Street, 7-9 PM Feb. 13, 2-5 PM and 7-9 PM Feb. 14. Mass of Christian Burial is at St. Jean the Baptiste Church, Lexington Avenue at 76th Street, 11 AM Feb. 15.
Contributions in his memory may be made to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, 6831 Arlington Road, Betheseda, MD, 20814.
— By Kenneth Jones