Broadway Community Remembers Pioneering NY Theatre Journalist Ezio Petersen

Obituaries   Broadway Community Remembers Pioneering NY Theatre Journalist Ezio Petersen
Ezio Petersen, a longtime member of the circle of New York theatre journalists, died Jan. 25. He was one of the small number of African-American reporters whose career was devoted to the stage.
Ezio Petersen
Ezio Petersen Photo by Joseph Marzullo

The cause of death was not reported.

Petersen hosted the program "The American Musical Theatre Today" for 15 years on New York's WKCR-FM, 89.9, the radio station of Columbia University. He worked as a photographer at various times for both The New York Post and United Press International, earning a Pulitzer Prize nomination along the way, according to the New York Press Photographers Association.

A collection of his images can be seen here.

The association described Petersen on its website as "a nice man with a great laugh and smile who loved Broadway and music just a little more than his photo job in New York."

New York Post theatre columnist Michael Riedel told, "I was Ezio's co-host on his musical theatre show on WKCR when I was a student at Columbia. His knowledge of musicals was vast, and he had an extraordinary collection of tape recordings of shows. He never told me how he did it, but he was able to plug into the sound systems of every Broadway musical in previews. He had the entire score to Legs Diamond on tape by the second preview! He was a generous co-host. Columbia required that a student be on every show, but Ezio treated me as professional, even though I had no idea what I was doing. It took me two years to figure out how to turn on the microphone. I do a lot of radio now, and if I'm any good, it's because I spent three years with Ezio every Sunday night from nine until midnight."

Michael Riedel
Michael Riedel Photo by Anne Wermiel

Among others who shared their memories was press agent Irene Gandy: "Ezio Petersen was one of the first photographers that took me under their wing. He was always there for my media events and was very professional and engaging. We shared our love for banana splits. I will always remember him fondly."

Press agent Jim Baldassare: "I will always remember Ezio from the very first time I met him. It was in the late 70s, and I felt like I was already his friend on our first meeting. And we remained friends throughout the years. I was always glad to see him (sometimes just from across the street in Times Square, I'd get a big smile and a wave, even when years had gone by). He was so terrific as were his photos. I'll miss him a lot."

Press agent Tony Origlio: "Ezio Petersen was a true gentleman. It was always a delight to work with him. I am certain he will be sorely missed by many of my colleagues and friends."

Press agent Judy Katz: "Rest In Peace Gentle Soul — we will all miss your big heart, smiling face and great laugh…and of course your endless support of theatre and the arts. I can’t recall a time when I reached out to ask you to cover something…. you never turned me down."

Press agent Helene Davis: "Ezio was a big man with a big heart. I first met him when I was just starting out in the business, and he was always warm and encouraging. I remember that he actually picked up his phone, and seemed happy to hear about whatever event I was pitching. He loved the theatre, and we spent many happy gala nights together. He always put the actors at ease, and treated the big stars with the perfect mix of humor and respect."

Jim Baldassare
Jim Baldassare

Publicist David Gersten: "Ezio was not only a great photographer, but in a world of pushing and shoving paparazzi he was always calm and always a professional. And he would always get his shot. I also enjoyed running into him on Sundays at Footlight Records where he always seemed to be. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of musical theatre and singers. I hope someone is transferring his hours and hours of interviews for the world to enjoy."

Press agent Marc Thibodeau: "Ezio was one of the first opening night/event photographers I got to know as a young press agent back in the early 80s and then had the complete pleasure of working with for many years thereafter. He was always unfailingly affable, easy-going and amazing at what he did, and someone I think everyone in my end of the business always trusted completely."

UPI quoted Chris Boneau of the Boneau/Bryan-Brown press agency as saying, "Ezio was a huge supporter of the theatre. Always friendly and happy, Ezio not only took great photos and did the best interviews, he was genuinely so very proud of his work. Even when he was standing in the cold or the rain or the heat to cover an opening night, he still had that huge smile on his face. And he made it all feel like a party. I'd like to think he's somewhere breezy and cool aiming his camera at someone famous. Ezio was one of a kind, and sadly, the world has lost a truly lovely, kind, GENTLE man."

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