Joseph A. Cohen, who claimed the record for longest uninterrupted service as a reporter with Variety — 44 years — died July 6 in New York of heart failure. He was 86.
Cohen, based in New York, covered the vaudeville and nightclub circuits during his Variety tenure as a reporter and reviewer. Using the signature Jose., he reviewed performers — everybody from Jimmy Durante and Martin & Lewis to Liberace and Wayne Newton — when stage shows mounted in theaters and clubs on Broadway were in their heyday in the ’40s and ’50s.
Born in Philadelphia on Dec. 25, 1910, Cohen attended Temple U. and then worked briefly at the Philadelphia Daily News before moving to New York to cover vaudeville for Billboard. He joined Variety in 1944 to report on, as he put it, “theaters, nightclubs and other dens of iniquity.”
He was a friend of such entertainers as Frank Sinatra and Milton Berle, and became a fixture at the New York Friar’s Club. When Cohen retired from Variety in 1988, he became writer-editor of the Epistle, the house organ of the Friar’s. The June 1986 Friar’s roast of Cohen drew a number of comedians as speakers, including three of his cronies: Henny Youngman, Joey Adams and Soupy Sales.
Cohen had a wife and son, both of whom died. Survivors include three sisters, two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.