NEW YORK — Variety’s Peter Bart received the inaugural lifetime achievement award at Thursday’s Mirror Awards, sponsored by Syracuse U.’s Newhouse School.
“Today” co-host Meredith Vieira emceed the luncheon, held at Gotham’s W Hotel. Gossip maven Liz Smith made the presentation of Bart’s nod, which followed a video packed with luminaries that Bart sardonically called “the ‘Doctor Strangelove’ of tribute films.”
“My life has been a movie written by a really disorganized writer,” Bart said in a brief but ebullient speech. “They say life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans, but I wasn’t even invited to the planning meeting.”
After offering thanks to Variety president and publisher Charlie Koones and Tad Smith, CEO of Variety parent Reed Business, Bart said he is “proud to preside over a paper that’s 102 years old, even though I’ve only been at the paper for 95 of those years.”
Bart joined Variety in 1989, marking a return to a journalism career he began at the Wall Street Journal and New York Times. He had left the newspaper biz to join Paramount Pictures, where he presided over pics such as “The Godfather” and “Rosemary’s Baby.”
The event honored media coverage of media. Aside from Bart’s nod, awards were handed out in seven competitive categories featuring 22 nominees. Two went to writers from New York magazine and one from the Economist, though upstarts such as HealthNewsReviews.org were also recognized.
Smith, who said she has known Bart for 20 years, lauded him with her customary Texas-bred flair for being “so damn smart it hurts your teeth” and “a silent assault weapon, like Dracula on a good night.”
The video tribute featured disarming and droll observations about Variety and Bart’s tenure from a who’s who including Ron Meyer, Tom Rothman, Sherry Lansing, Jerry Bruckheimer, Brian Grazer, Harvey Weinstein, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Roger Ailes and Victor Navasky.
Grazer, who admiringly compared Bart to William Randolph Hearst, said Bart’s clout was such that “I once got a review so bad that I got a cold sore on my mouth as I was reading it.”
The luncheon drew a crowd stocked with notables, among them writer William Goldman, the New Yorker’s Ken Auletta and former Viacom CEO Tom Freston.