Broadway will dim its lights Aug. 14 in memory of Biff Liff, the powerhouse agent and longtime theater industry veteran who died earlier this week at his home in Yorktown, N.Y. He was 96.
Named Samuel but called Biff by almost everyone who knew him, Liff had a theater career that spanned years as a production stage manager, as an associate producer under legendary Broadway impresario David Merrick, and as the powerful head of the theater department at the William Morris Agency. He received a special Tony Honor in 2006.
His first Broadway credit as a stage manager was 1949 outing “Along Fifth Avenue.” He went on to stage manage titles including “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” with Carol Channing, and later served as production stage manager for shows that included the world premieres of “My Fair Lady,” starring Julie Andrews and Rex Harrison, and “Hello, Dolly!” with Channing. As an associate producer in Merrick’s office, he had a hand in a string of famed Broadway works including “Don’t Drink the Water” (Woody Allen’s Broadway debut as writer), “Promises, Promises,” “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead,” “Marat/Sade” and “Oliver!”
Following his final Broadway credit, the 1973 show “Tricks,” he became an agent, with a client list that included Angela Lansbury, Ellen Burstyn, Jerry Herman and Chita Rivera. He also represented the estate of Eugene O’Neill, and is widely credited as the force behind the 1999 Broadway revival of “The Iceman Cometh” starring Kevin Spacey.
Born in Boston, Liff picked up the nickname Biff during his childhood. He attended Carnegie Mellon University (then the Carnegie Institute of Technology) and graduated with a degree in theater in 1939. During World War II he served as an Army officer in Chicago.
Liff, who died Aug. 10, is survived by his wife Lisette. Tonight the lights on Broadway marquees will go dark at 7:45 p.m., just before the usual 8 o’clock curtain time.