Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Variety Tower Sign Goes Up

They're prepping the new sign touting Variety at 5900 Wilshire Blvd., the skyscraper across the street from LACMA. Soon to be named "The Variety Tower," here are a few shots (taken by my colleague, Kirsten Wilder) of the letters being installed.

The tower's naming rights were formerly held by People's Bank, which was pasted atop the building for several years. 5900 Wilshire, where Variety moves in at the end of the month, has been undergoing a major $34 million rehab over the past few years. The relocation of Variety resulted from developer The Ratkovich Company's interest in attracting a marquee tenant.

The red Variety lettering will appear on the building's north and south sides.

Meanwhile, Variety legend Army Archerd -- who's been with the publication more than 55 years -- recounted the newspaper's homes through the years:

I started April 24, 1953 in Variety's Hollywood office at 6311 Yucca Street. It was Variety's second Hollywood site, having launched on Vine Street in 1933. In those days the office was filled with the sound of crackling typewriters, rude telephone rings with loud conversations to match. Carol Burnett's mother Louise worked the switchboard. "I visited her to see her plug in the calls," Carol recalls. "She told me about you. I was at UCLA majoring in theater and working as an usher at the Warner Brothers theater on Wilcox"--from which she was fired for refusing to seat a customer on the final minutes of Hitchcock's "Stranger On A Train."

"The manager ripped my epaulettes off my shoulder," Carol now laughs. The theater's since demolisher but Carol has one of its doors in her Montecito home's media room."

In The '50s, Variety's office air was filled with cigarette smoke--some of it mine--and that of vet TV/radio editor Jack Hellman's cigar--when he wasn't long-lunching at the nearby Brown Derby on Vine Street. There was no air conditioning in that first office, and during one blistering heat wave I daringly wore shorts (and a tie, of course) to the office. Editor Joe Schoenfeld was not amused.

Variety then moved to offices on the second floor of the Gang, Kopp, and Tyre bui0lding on 6404 Sunset where young attorney Bruce Ramer was soon to become a partner as they moved to Beverly Hills as Gang, Tyre, Ramer and Brown. We moved down the street to 1400 North Cahuenga in a building which formerly housed the Alan Gordon camera company. We were still close enough to Vine Street where many staffers enjoyed (lengthy) lunch interviews. We expanded and this time moved up to the new Wilshire Courtyard.

Daily Variety just celebrated its 75th anniversary in Hollywood; the Variety mothership is now 103 years old.

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