Hold off on those funeral orations for the Players' Guide! The 52-year-old, annual publication that featured the headshots and vital stats of New York actors had ceased publication Dec. 1996. But now an even older casting directory --London's "The Spotlight" -- has taken over Players' Guide and will revamp it and bring it into the 21st Century. Spotlight publisher Nigel Seale says he'll "take on an old, established enterprise and make it new again."
He intends to offer the new Guide in three formats: the regular book form, on CD-ROM, and via the world-wide-web (with help from technology developed by the British Broadcasting Company). $100 (the former price of the book alone) allows buyers of the guide to utilize all three formats.
Begun by Terese Hayden in 1944, the Players' Guide published the photographs and contact information for such then-unknown actors as Walter Matthau, Ruby Dee, Paul Newman, Kirk Douglas and James Earl Jones. The guide ballooned to a hefty annual volume, but by the early 1990's, so many actors were using videos, websites and other methods of self-promotion, the Players' Guide started to become obsolete.
Past volumes now have value for showing the beginning looks and credits of future stars, and for providing an overview of photographic and clothing styles from the 1940's to 1996, when the last volume was released. Hayden started the guide so New York actors could have the equivalent of the London Spotlight or Hollywood's Academy Players Directory. In recent years, the magazine has been run by Paul L. Ross. Ross told Playbill On Line in Dec. 1996 that he had "personal and private" reasons to cease publication, and had turned down the idea of going online. Ross will remain a "consultant" for the new Players' Guide. "I'm sure the new technology will offer American actors greater employment opportunities," he recently said of the deal.
In a New York Times article about the guide's demise, casting director John Lyons was quoted as saying, "It was a real link to that kind of old time Broadway community that is disappearing." As for The Spotlight, (nicknamed "the pulse of the profession"), its CD ROM format maintains the largest database of professional actors in the world.
The first edition of the new Players' Guide is due late fall 1997, with publisher Seale set to open a New York office in the Equity Building on West 46th St., in the near future.
--By David Lefkowitz