Remembering "Mr. Broadway," Gerald Schoenfeld

By Harry Haun
02 Jul 2012

Pat Schoenfeld

A wife with style, dignity and contained elegance, Pat Schoenfeld never expected to wind up Broadway royalty. At the outset, Jerry was just the boy next block. "We lived on West 78th Street, between West End and Riverside, and Jerry lived on 79th Street and West End. We were neighborhood kids. He was in my sister's group. I used to see him on the subway, going down to law school."

Her love of theatre began at home and with her very first brush with Broadway, The Barretts of Wimpole Street with Katharine Cornell and Brian Aherne. In time, Jerry took a sharp theatrical turn, entering the sacred Shubert fold via the law office of William Klein. A Shubert family feud (Lee vs. J.J.) was in full swing, requiring some artful dodging of bullets, and the next generation of Shuberts — a bigamist, a litigious opportunist and a drunk — was no month in the country, either. When the dust cleared, circa 1972, Schoenfeld and Jacobs were the last men standing.

"Betty Jacobs and her kids, me and my daughter, Carrie — we are the only ones who lived through those first years. I was asked, 'Do you think Jerry was a little harsh in the book?' I said, 'No, I don't. I lived through it. I knew every word of it.' It was awful. The only way we could get through it was — I don't know, we were very young."

As Schoenfeld grew with the organization, so did his pay and his perks. "When Jerry was first there, we would not go to openings. I would say that started in the '60s. I think Becket with Laurence Olivier may have been our first opening night."

She doesn't hesitate a beat when asked what was her worst opening night: "Via Galactica! He would never let me walk out so I just sat down in the ladies' room. I'll never forget it. I'd get his list of opening nights from Madeline from the office, and I'd say to him, 'Do you really have to go to such-and-such?' 'Pat, I have to go.'"

Ironically, Schoenfeld's last night out on the town was not spent at a play but at a movie, "Australia," which starred The Boy From Oz. "I'm still very close to Hugh Jackman, very close. He adored Jerry and still does" — and it shows in the affectionate foreword he contributed to the book. (Alec Baldwin seconds that, too.)

"On the way home from the movie, Jerry said, 'Do I have anything to eat?' I said, 'Tuna fish.' It was pouring down rain, and we didn't want to go to the party. He went into the kitchen, and I went on my email and saw an email from my granddaughter that she'd gotten an accolade from her college. I printed it out, took it in to Jerry, and said, 'Don't forget to call Julia tomorrow morning and congratulate her.' 'Don't worry, don't worry,' and I went to bed. He was doing his work. In the middle of the night, he woke and didn't feel well. He always said, 'They'll take me out feet first.'

"He was really just this small moment in the history of The Shuberts — consequently, everything went to the archives," she lightly laments. "I used to say to him, 'You know, I'll have to leave in my will that my grandchildren and great-grandchildren can go to the archives to see their grandfather. Now, they can go to this book."