Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Army Archerd


Archerd was a familiar presence on the Red Carpet at movie premieres and award shows, and was the master of the 15 second interview. In fact, he invented the "Red Carpet Interview" which has since degenerated into the over-indulgent pre-show event now common before the Oscars, Emmys, and the like. But Archerd was considered a newsman, and remained conscientious about truth in reporting, even as Hollywood was his beat.

He had a brief career at Associated Press before joining Daily Variety, where his column was a Must Read for decades. Once a Hollywood type appeared in one of his columns, he knew he had made it. Archerd hated being called a gossip columnist, and believed there was a place for his brand of Hollywood News, particularly in the company town of Los Angeles. He was proud to have been the first to link Rock Hudson to Aids, which did much to raise the profile of the disease.

On occasion, he allowed his own beliefs to shadow his work, as when Elia Kazan was awarded an honorary Oscar in 1999. Kazan was infamous for naming names before the McCarthy Inquisition of the 50s; Archerd wrote, "I, for one, will not be giving him a standing ovation." On another occasion, he took issue with several anti-Semitic lyrics of a Michael Jackson song; the singer called to apologize and rerecorded the number.

Army became the famous face of the Hollywood press, and appeared as himself in over 100 films and television episodes. He researched the stars he was to greet on the Red Carpet in advance to insure he gave them the recognition they deserved (can you imagine Joan Rivers doing such a thing these days? She rarely even gets people's names right). Archerd greeted stars at the Oscars and other celeb-fests, as well as during private interviews, with a dignity and up-beat charm which suited such occasions.
Here he is with Barbra Streisand and Sammy Davis, Jr., at the first People's Choice Awards, an organization he co-founded:
With Lucy, in the early 50s:
With Paul Newman:
With Hitchcock: With the Ben Hur boys: With Halle Barry:

Army Archerd died yesterday from a rare form of cancer thought to have been caused by his exposure to asbestos during World War II. He was 87.