Columnist 'Army' Archerd dies at 87

Journalist worked for the Associated Press, Variety

Armand "Army" Archerd, who for more than 50 years wrote a daily show business column for Variety that in its time was a must-read in Hollywood, died Tuesday of a rare form of mesothelioma at UCLA Medical Center. He was 87.

After retiring his Just for Variety column in 2005, Archerd continued to blog for the trade paper until his final days.

Archerd was known worldwide for his red-carpet interviews at the Academy Awards, which he did for nearly four decades until handing the mike to Robert Osborne in 2006. He also produced the People's Choice Awards and appeared as himself in more than 30 movies and TV shows.

Archerd's greatest achievement was raising the quality of Hollywood journalism by writing a straightforward column filled with items he always checked out personally. He reported news and gossip, often from the set or based on interviews with participants. He was a gentle but probing interviewer known for his vast knowledge of the business.

His most famous scoop was the news that Rock Hudson was dying of AIDS-related complications in 1985, after the actor had denied he had the illness and that he was gay. After Hudson's death, the New York Times reported that were it not for Archerd, the cause of death would have been misreported.

"Army was a veritable institution in Hollywood and a journalist who relished the business and the people who made it sparkle," said THR editor Elizabeth Guider, who worked with Archerd for more than a decade. "As a chronicler of the town for 50-odd years, he was unique in having the ear, and trust, of so many of the good and great. Army was never a competitor per se; he was just Army. With his passing, a style of reportage, more generous-spirited than jaded, also ends."

Archerd was known for his connections with a generation of top Hollywood stars who became his pals as well as his sources. He entertained Kirk Douglas, Gregory Peck, Jack Lemmon, Elizabeth Taylor, Danny Kaye and others at his home and attended parties and gatherings at their homes.

When there was news about his famous friends, Archerd did not hesitate to write the truth -- though he did so in a gentle, mannered fashion.

Archerd was the first journalist honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and won numerous other awards. He also was one of the first hosts of "Entertainment Tonight."

Archerd was born Jan. 13, 1922, in the Bronx and served in the Navy, where he was exposed to asbestos, which a family spokesman said is believed to have caused his cancer.

Archerd graduated from UCLA in 1941 and began his career as a journalist for the Associated Press. He was hired by Variety in 1953 to replace columnist Sheilah Graham. For the next half-century, every publicist in Hollywood vied to get an item in his column, which was believed to make or break even big stars, TV shows and movies.

Archerd often used his power to support his favorite causes, including the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Holocaust awareness.

Archerd is survived by his wife of 40 years, Selma, his son Evan and stepsons Richard and James Rosenblum. Plans for a memorial service are pending.
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