Melvyn Zerman, Founder of Limelight Editions, Dies at 79

Obituaries   Melvyn Zerman, Founder of Limelight Editions, Dies at 79
Melvyn Zerman, founder of the theatrical publishing imprint Limelight Editions, died April 29 at his home in Manhattan. He was 79. The cause was heart failure, his son Andrew said.

Mr. Zerman, a former sales manager at Random House, founded Limelight in 1984, when theatre-related books were hardly a growing concern. His plan was to give a new lease of life to eminent books on theatre, music, film and dance that had gone out of print, while also publishing a few new titles.

He launched the house with a classic" a new paperback edition of "The Season," screenwriter William Goldman's fierce and caustic dissection of the 1967-68 Broadway season. It boasted a new foreword by New York Times critic Frank Rich. The book has never been out of print since.

Mr. Zerman seemed to gravitate toward lost causes. When the long-running "Best Plays Theater Yearbook" seemed likely to die, Limelight took it on. In 1989, Mr. Zerman reprinted jazz singer Anita O'Day's well-regarded autobiography, "High Times Hard Times," which Putnam published in 1981. He also restored New York Times critic Brooks Atkinson's most important work, "Broadway," to print.

New books included "Jean Arthur: The Actress Nobody Knew"; and "Intimate Nights: The Golden Age of New York Cabaret" by James Gavin.

Mr. Zerman retired from Limelight Editions in 2003, and a year later Amadeus Books, a music publisher, acquired the company. Hal Leonard bought Limelight in 2006, and the many landmark theatre books that Limelight published under Mr. Zerman's leadership remain in print, including "Harpo Speaks" by Harpo Marx and "The Season." New theatre books continue to be published under the Limelight imprint. Melvyn Bernard Zerman was born on July 10, 1930, in the Bronx. He took a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Michigan in 1952 and a master's in English from Columbia a year later.

In addition to his son Andrew, of Manhattan, he is survived by another son, Jared; a daughter, Lenore; and four grandchildren.

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