Saying “I’ll keep writing it as long as you keep reading it,” Daily Variety columnist Army Archerd took bows on Monday at a dinner in his honor at the Museum of TV and Radio in New York.
Gotham’s media elite gathered to spend “An Evening With Army Archerd,” the veteran scribe and one of the first Hollywood reporters to work in the TV medium. The museum and Variety feted Archerd in honor of his half-century in showbiz, most of which has been spent at Daily Variety.
A highlight of the evening was a video presentation prepared by museum curator and former Variety staffer David Bushman that featured some of Archerd’s greatest moments in TV and film.
On hand to honor Archerd were Lynn Redgrave; museum board member Marlo Thomas and husband Phil Donahue; Lou Diamond Phillips (on his night off from “The King and I”); Ron Silver; film producer Bill Persky; Broadway attorney John Breglio; Ernest Chambers of Merv Griffin Prods.; Archerd’s wife, Selma; and Variety vice president and publisher Gerry Byrne and co-executive editor Max Alexander, plus more than 60 other guests.
After a brief reception, guests repaired to the auditorium for a viewing of Bushman’s video. Drawing big laughs was a poolside interview with Jayne Mansfield, who demonstrated aerobic exercises as Archerd deadpanned. But the columnist drew long applause after guests viewed his scathing response (on E!’s “Gossip Show”) to Michael Jackson’s anti-Semitic slurs in a recent song. Jackson later changed the lyrics in response to Archerd’s criticism.
Museum president Robert Batscha then led a Q&A in which Archerd recalled simpler times in Hollywood. About his first local TV show in the ’50s (“Heart of Hollywood” on KNXT), Archerd remembered: “I’d call up Bob Hope and Bing Crosby and say, ‘Come on down and be on my TV show tonight’ — and they’d say, ‘Why not?’ and come on the show.”
Asked about his biggest professional disappointment, Archerd replied: “I always wanted to (interview Greta) Garbo, but never did.”
During dinner, Redgrave delivered an affectionate tribute to Archerd, before Thomas spoke about how her father, comedian Danny Thomas, respected Archerd for his accuracy — and how she grew up on the column. “I live in New York now, but I get Daily Variety, because I couldn’t live without Army’s column in the morning,” she said.
After thanking his well-wishers (and perhaps thinking about the next day’s column), Archerd said: “Nothing is more gratifying than getting a story … and the earlier in the day I get it, the better.”