Allen Zwerdling, co-founder and co-publisher of Back Stage, died of natural causes on Jan. 12 in Rosendale, NY. He was 86.
In 1960, he created Back Stage, the performing arts trade paper, with Ira Eaker, with Zwerdling serving as editor, and Eaker as advertising director.
Zwerdlin started as an actor in the late 1930s, and launched Backstage after serving in the Army Air Force, directing, acting, teaching and newspaper editing. He served as editor of Show Business, a theatrical trade journal where he met Eaker who was the paper’s advertising director. After a dozen years, Zwerdling and Eaker left and eventually began Back Stage.
On Dec. 2, 1960, he and Eaker published the first issue of Back Stage, touting the promise to offer readers “a new, complete service weekly for the entertainment industry.”
After a shaky start, Back Stage found a stronger footing when the New York newspaper strike of 1962-63 spurred them to launch the successful publication Amusement Guide, an entertainment guide with theater, movie, TV and restaurant listings.
As New York’s television commercial production industry began to expand, the paper expanded its coverage that business.
Back Stage opened a West Coast office in 1975 and eventually expanded its coverage to Chicago, New England, and Florida as TV commercial production began to grow in these areas.
In the early ’80s, the paper split into a theater section and a commercial production section. The publishers celebrated their 25th anniversary with a black tie gala in 1985 and the next year sold the paper to Billboard Publications.
Zwerdling’s wife of 62 years, Shirley, died four weeks prior to his death.
He is survived by two daughters, a son, and a grandson.