In honor of our 100th birthday, Variety invited Norman Brokaw (former CEO and current chair of the William Morris Agency who began his 63rd year with the agency in July) to talk back about his coverage in the ‘bible of showbiz.’
What was your introduction to Variety?
“When I came in (to William Morris) as the first mail boy and the first trainee at the age of 15, one of the first things I (observed) was the wonderful relationship that existed between William Morris and Variety.”
What do you remember about the early years?
“I remember so well the people who were out here running Daily Variety, a gentleman by the name of Arthur Ungar (editor 1933-50) and Joe Schoenfeld, who during the war years came over to William Morris when some of our people went into the service. After the war he returned as the editor. I remember people who ran the paper and ran it extremely well, like Peter Pryor, Jack Hellman, who handled radio and TV. … I enjoyed Dave Kaufman, who went out and did the interviewing and writing, but he didn’t drive.”
Have we made any errors?
“I always found Variety really on the money. You could always find fault with them, but it wasn’t anything major that stood out. If they put in the wrong name or left something out, a PR person would call and they’d correct it or say, ‘I’m sorry.’
“A gentleman I’ve known well over 50 years is Army Archerd. What I liked about Army so much — he always called me and checked out everything.”
Did we scoop too soon and help or hurt deals in the making?
“You could always try to appeal to them to wait a day or two. ‘Look, you’ve got information. I’ll be happy to call and let you know when it’s for sure.’ ”
How should agents handle their own interviews? Any lessons?
“My theory is don’t run and seek publicity. The best PR from my standpoint is when you sign somebody and then make a deal for them.”