Army celebrated in Walk of Fame
NEW YORK — The Bronx Walk of Fame inducted Army Archerd, Daily Variety columnist since 1953, in a ceremony Sunday that culminated in a parade down the Grand Concourse.
The walk consists of a series of “street signs” named after famed Bronx natives, with Archerd’s sign joining those of Stanley Kubrick, Regis Philbin, Colin Powell and others.
The tribute adds to Archerd’s litany of honors, which includes the star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame he received June 27, 1984.
Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion officially inducted Archerd and his fellow honorees — including “The Sopranos” star Dominic Chianese, 1960s girl group the Chiffons, NPR commentator Daniel Schorr and hip-hop pioneer Kurtis Blow — at a ceremony Sunday in Veterans Memorial Hall inside the Bronx’s Borough Hall.
Carrion then joined Archerd outside at the unveiling of his commemorative street sign, on the corner of 161st Street and Grand Concourse, right outside the Borough Hall and just blocks from Yankee Stadium.
“I earn my living in Hollywood, but my heart will always be in the Bronx,” Archerd said just before the unveiling.
Later, Archerd rode with his wife, actress Selma Archerd, and his fellow inductees on the Bronx Walk of Fame float in the Bronx Day Parade down Mosholu Parkway. His children and grandchildren were on hand for the day’s festivities.
Archerd also was an honored guest at the Bronx Ball at Orchard Beach Saturday night. The black-tie affair included a speech by Archerd and a video retrospective of his career.
Archerd is still hard at work as Daily Variety columnist after a career that has spanned six decades, during which he has accumulated a Rolodex that takes up three drawers of his desk. Archerd’s scoops include the July 23, 1985, revelation that Rock Hudson had AIDS, which was printed despite denials from Hudson’s representative and helped bring the disease into the country’s consciousness.
Archerd’s interest in showbiz began in the Bronx, where he was born during a snowstorm on Jan. 13, 1922, and lived until his family moved to California when he was 17. His family lived on Creston Avenue, Walton Avenue and then 1645 Grand Concourse, right down the street from one of his prime moviegoing spots, the Loews Paradise.
“Movies were always a part of my life,” he said. “Every Saturday — double features, serials, cartoons. In those days, in order to attract people to movies, they gave away dishes at night. I remember my parents going to the movies and seeing if they would win dishes.”
Also encouraging Archerd’s interest in showbiz was his uncle Paul Oscard, who produced “big extravaganzas with lots of showgirls and music and expensive sets” at the Paramount and the Rialto, Archerd said.
Schooled at P.S. 70 in the Bronx and Townsend Harris High School, then located in Manhattan, Archerd skipped three grades and entered City College of New York at age 15. Two years later he transferred to UCLA when his family moved to California.
After graduating in 1941, he worked at Paramount for two years before joining the Navy during WWII.
Archerd worked for the Hollywood bureau of the Associated Press before becoming the leg man for Herald Express columnist Harrison Carroll. After four years on the job, Daily Variety editor Joe Schoenfeld hired him to replace columnist Sheilah Graham.
Over the years, Archerd has visited movie sets around the world, reporting from the front lines.
In addition to his Daily Variety duties, Archerd has been involved in many television programs, including the People’s Choice Awards ceremony, which he has co-produced and co-hosted since its start in 1974.
Archerd’s job has changed dramatically since he began it. Unlike during the studio system era, he said, nowadays “every performer, actor, musician has his own armada of suppressors.”
Plus, he said, “Today every newspaper, every television station, every outlet has its own ‘show business correspondent.’ For a great many of them, it’s just copying stuff in my column.”
Archerd always begins his “Just for Variety” column with the words “Good morning.” in response to a Danny Thomas Las Vegas act in which Thomas suggested newspapers use the greeting to compensate for their relentlessly depressing stories.
Even after 52 years, Archerd still enjoys his gig.
“You’re creating something that no one else can do,” he said. “The readers of my column in Daily Variety are probably the smartest, the wealthiest, the funniest, the most creative people in the world. One thing that they don’t do, that’s what I do — bring them news which they want to find out about other people like themselves.”