Army, we already miss you
When I started at Variety, Army Archerd was about to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his column. There was a lavish party — newbies weren’t invited — and a certain expectation that he would retire. He was 80 — and he’d had a good long run, breaking the news of Rock Hudson’s illness from AIDS, among other scoops.
But Army had no interest in retiring, and continued writing for Variety — online the last few years — until two late July. Today, he succumbed to cancer, ankling to the great beyond at age 87. I’m among the many that will miss him.
Unlike some of my former Variety counterparts, I did not grow up reading the trade paper, first becoming acquainted with it as a fact checker for TV Guide. Even then, I was just scanning news items on microfiche.
I didn’t really get to know Army and his work until I started working at the paper in April 2002. Army was so wonderfully old school, scribbling notes on slips of paper, phone cradled under his ear. He was very serious about his column: When I edited Variety’s party coverage, he would call to check and see what we were running, to make sure we didn’t overlap.
When in doubt, he’d ask if I could print a copy of the story out for him — there was no chance him being able to find it in our computer system — and I’d race it over to his office. He’d scowl if the copy was too close to what he had, but otherwise, he couldn’t have been sweeter. A real gentleman, quick with a compliment and a smile.
I loved seeing him on the party circuit with his wife Selma, dapper even when others were not. And I loved that he was the one guy at Variety who considered Peter Bart a whipper snapper.
It was sad to see him slow down — his daughter’s death a year ago hit him hard — but remarkable that he kept going as long as he did. Army never lost his love for showbiz or reporting.
Tim Gray wrote an affectionate send-off for Variety, which is accompanied by a photo gallery of him with various stars, including an impossibly handsome Paul Newman. The L.A. Times also published a fine obit.