More than 130 industry people, including many past and present Daily Variety “muggs,” were on hand Monday night at the Sportsmen’s Lodge with accolades and a few roasting remarks to honor the paper’s former editor, Tom Pryor, in a Hollywood Press Club salute.
Pryor, who stood at Daily Variety’s editorial helm for 29 years, retired from his position as editor in 1988. He continued to write columns on the industry until 1990.
“As a neophyte publisher of weekly Variety in 1958, I came to Hollywood to try and persuade Tom Pryor to leave the New York Times and come to Daily Variety ,” said Variety Inc. chairman Syd Silverman. “We wanted him to succeed Joe Schoenfeld.”
At the time, Pryor was the Hollywood bureau chief for the New York Times, where he had worked his way up from copy boy to assistant film critic and editor before his stint as bureau chief in Hollywood.
“He wasn’t sure if he wanted to come to Daily Variety,” Silverman said, “but it was the best deal I ever made in my life.”
It was a good deal for Hollywood, too, as many industryites attested at the podium Monday. “For Hollywood trade paper journalism, Tom raised the standards and level of professionalism,” noted Henri Bollinger, prexy of the Publicists Guild of America. “But he was a tough sell for publicists.”
Director Robert Wise said he had known Pryor since the early 1950s, commenting that he held great respect for “all (Pryor) had done for the entertainment business.”
Michael Silverman, Daily Variety’s publisher, noted that the paper’s circulation “zoomed up” under Pryor’s editorial tenure.
“Tom could do any job on the newspaper,” Silverman said. “He is truly a man with a lot of talents.”
Commendations were also read from Bill Clinton, Lew Wasserman, Tom Bradley and Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, among others.
“I’ve known Tom since 1947,” noted MCA/Universal’s Herb Steinberg. “And I always knew him to be accessible to those of us in the industry. He never refused a call, or to hear a pitch.”
Among others who spoke were writers Hal Kanter and Bob Levinson, publicist Dale Olson, longtime Daily Variety writer Jim Harwood, Charles Champlin and director George Sidney.