Lee Silver, Longtime Shubert Executive, Dies at 91

By Robert Simonson
20 Aug 2012

Lee Silver, a longtime executive at the theatre-owning Shubert Organization, died Aug. 15 at Cedar Manor in Ossining, NY, where he had been recovering from a brief health setback, according to his son, Matthew Silver. He was 91.



Mr. Silver worked as Corporate Relations Director of the Shubert Organization from 1974 until his retirement this January at the age of 90. Among his activities were working with Shubert Chairman Gerald Schoenfeld in his efforts to rehabilitate and revitalize the deteriorated Times Square district during the late '70s and '80s. This involved active participation in the work of the Mayor's Midtown Citizens Committee, which was chaired by Schoenfeld.

In his position at the Shubert Organization, Mr. Silver was often the mouthpiece for the powerful theatre owners and producers, issuing official statements on behalf of the company. Due to his longevity in the theatre business, he was in later years frequently interviewed by journalists who mined his memory for recollections of stage shows, events and personalities from the 1950s, '60s and '70s and beyond.

Born in Manhattan on May 2, 1921, to a grocer and his wife, he began his career as a newspaperman at The Daily News, winning the post of copy boy when he went to the paper asking to be hired as a reporter. Following service in the Army during World War II, he returned to the News as a reporter, covering the police and fire beats, as well as politics, the United Nations and the theatre. Eventually he became a drama critic, and then arts editor.

Schoenfeld himself hired Mr. Silver. The theatre owner was impressed with the wide number of public fields Mr. Silver had access to during his years as a journalist. "My dad wasn't thinking about leaving," said Matthew Silver. "He was perfectly happy at the News. It had something to do with Gerry's wanting to have outreach into the community, into the police and fire departments and City Hall. My dad had contacts everywhere."

Mr. Silver was also a Vice President of the Broadway Association, a member of the New York Press Club, The Society of Silurians and Manhattan Community Board 5. He served on the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission Advisory Board, The Department of Transportation Midtown Mobility Task Force and Midtown South Precinct Council.

He is survived by his wife Joy and two sons, Jonathan and Matthew, and two grandchildren.

Lee Silver was known throughout the theatre industry as a modest and genuinely nice man, and as a diplomat. Matthew recalled his father being particularly proud of his work he did covering the erection of the United Nations building for The Daily News. One day, when at the construction site for the UN tower, a gust of wind blew his hat into the building's footprint. When workers rushed to retrieve it, Mr. Silver said, "No. Let it stay there and be part of the foundation."