Remembering "Mr. Broadway," Gerald Schoenfeld

By Harry Haun
02 Jul 2012

Schoenfeld (right) and Hal Prince

The study served as a kind of office-away-from-the-office for Schoenfeld. "He never walked into this house, no matter what time of the day or night we got home, that he didn't go into his study or the kitchen to do some work that he didn't have a chance to do during the day. Some nights, he'd come in, drop his bag and go back to the office.

"He liked making the theatre rounds. Little showgirls would come off the stage. 'Hi, Jer. Where've you been?' Sometimes we'd be together, and they would come up and kiss him on the lips. I'd say, 'Jerry, not nice,' and he'd say, 'Well, what do you want me to do?' I'd say, 'Turn your face.' But they didn't bother me, really. He loved smart women. I'll tell you who he was really in love with: Jessica Tandy. He loved Jessie."

The secret of their 58-year marriage was the parallel universes they juggled: he had his world (work), and she — very much at his encouragement/insistence — had hers (pottery and photography). "Jerry was very outgoing and very charming, but he liked to work alone. That's why he encouraged me so much to do my own thing."

Schoenfeld with Hugh Jackman
Photo by Aubrey Reuben

Al Hirschfeld's caricature on the book's cover catches Schoenfeld's jovial, avuncular exterior while, considerately, keeping his private demons and depressions at bay.

"He probably wouldn't have liked the caricature just because he wouldn't have wanted his picture on the book. I'm not even sure he would have gone for 'Mr. Broadway,' either. It wasn't that he was shy — he certainly wasn't that — but he didn't like to call attention to himself. Believe it or not, we couldn't find a picture of Gerald Schoenfeld alone. He was always with somebody. Any of the pictures that the archives had, any of the pictures that I had — he was always with somebody."

Well, there is one picture. "Jerry needed some press photos made, so he says to me, 'Since you're so involved in photography, who's going to take them?' I knew Robert very well so I said, 'Robert.' Robert turned out to be Robert Mapplethorpe, and the resultant shot was intensely dramatic and artful. "I just had it framed after he died because Jerry wouldn't let me put it up while he was alive."