Syd Silverman, 85, Who Kept Variety Boffo for 30 Years, Is Dead

Sime Silverman founded the weekly version of Variety on a shoestring in 1905. He began Daily Variety in 1933, shortly before he died and was eulogized as the “oracle of show business, the sworn foe of grammar, and the man who never let anyone pay a check.”


The first issue of Variety in 1905.

“Iniside ‘Variety:’ The Story of the Bible of Show Business (1905-1987)” by Peter Besas

Sime wielded a thick black pencil that split infinitives, popularized inventive adjectives and nouns (hoofer, chantoosies, warblers, kidvid, boffo) and turned other nouns into verbs (authored, readied, helmed). Variety was a pioneer in printing movie reviews and is believed to be the first publication to list television ratings and movie box-office grosses regularly.

Variety’s inventive headlines were famous. When the stock market crashed in 1929, it proclaimed, “Wall Street Lays an Egg.” When rural American moviegoers rebuffed films with bucolic themes, it declared, “Stix Nix Hick Pix.”

In contrast to Sime Silverman, Peter Besas wrote in 2000 in “Inside Variety: The Story of the Bible of Show Business (1905-1987),” Syd was “ultra conservative in business ventures,” a “staunch defender of the status quo” and a “measured vigilant administrator.”

“Sime lived for show business,” Mr. Besas wrote. “Syd was only marginally interested, to the extent it was necessary to run his business.”


Syd Silverman and his wife, Joan, at a celebration of Variety’s 100th anniversary at Sardi’s restaurant in Midtown Manhattan in 2005.

Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images

He was born Syd Silverman on Jan. 23, 1932, in Manhattan and raised in suburban Harrison, N.Y. His mother, the former Marie Saxon, was a vaudevillian who starred in several films, including “The Broadway Hoofer” (1929).

Syd graduated from the Manlius School, a military academy in central New York. (After a merger it became the nonmilitary Manlius Pebble Hill School.) He inherited Variety in 1950, at age 18, when his father, Sidne, who was president and publisher, died.

After graduating from Princeton and serving in the Army for two years, Syd Silverman took over as publisher from Harold Erichs, his legal guardian, who had overseen Variety…

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