This episode is from the WNYC archives. It may contain language which is no longer politically or socially appropriate.
From card catalog: Alexander H. Cohen, theatrical producer, speaks of the theatre and its problems. Questions and answers.
Host Marshall Loeb introduces Cohen by listing his stage work. Cohen tells a story about getting theater tickets for the Kennedys. Continues with a discussion of the entertainment industry. Free Southern Theater. Challenges those who are in theater for their own benefit. There is a need for a fresh point of view in entertainment today.
Q&A (questions are inaudible): Edward Albee isn't the great hope. Theater going as status symbol. Technological advances for the theater (simulcast?). Ticket prices. His new play, The Devisl
Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection
WNYC archives id: 70547
Municipal archives id: T1239
This is a machine-generated transcript. Text is unformatted and may contain errors.
It's working and you hear me. It's working. My name is Monica Logan I AM THE CLUB PRESIDENT I'd like to welcome you all here today in behalf of the Overseas Press Club to hear Mr Crow on and to help enrich our club coffers. As I guess today as you know as Mr Alexander H. call on questions to be called Alex Cohen. Showman and innovators as you know are few and far between but Mr Cowen is indeed a showman and innovator creator to take note up on Broadway he has brought to us recently Richard Burton and John deal goods production and let Italian the spectacle ruin Teano complete with the innovation of English language subtitles and the all star revival of School for Scandal as you are also doubtless aware they missed your call I mean he is. Probably creatively responsible for Baker Street Allen joining a long successful one already run on Broadway over the years he's presented to us plays with Charles boy a well pretty high white vein civil Thorndyke and many other great actors and actresses. Although you use a very young man he began his the Africa career in December nine hundred thirty one as co-producer of Angel Street which ran for three years I'm on here is productions he has sponsored over the years the US Cal her the late Louis Gallagher and King Lare Walters last act and pyro Guthrie's production of the first gentleman the revival of John the all good status of man reach of obviates one man show and I could go on and on and on a minute as many conceptions where the ideas for the so-called nine o'clock theater with which many of us are acquainted beginning in one nine hundred fifty nine with a very famous An Englishman Michael Flanders and Donald Swan And at the drop of a hat. It was followed by the brilliant comedy comedy team of Mike Nichols and Elaine May The swab Gallic charm of E.'s montage and many many others. And now Mr call would like to chat with us for some minutes and then will be very receptive to your very pointed questions gives us great pleasure at the Overseas Press Club to present Mr Alex Cohen. Thank you. I was listening to the list of credits. Reprinted from the program. Sounded something like a bitchy wary. Because of some of my some of the most of those two things and of course about the federal failures and not successes and I find that when you're introduced to a professional you always know one of the professional because you have a microphone so that when you're introduced to a professional audience. It's much more interesting to say the children. There are dozens of shows in a lot of them flops. Because out of the flops comes what you learn that has something to do with hopefully some of it hits you in. Prison I like to call up. A story which I've been telling recently because. Because I can tell it now because it's a lovely story and I hope that when dogs me I'm a son and there's one story which has to do curiously with the number of shows I presented because it's the ambition of every producer at some point in his wife to have four heads running simultaneously on Broadway. Now while we specifically have to relate to four sellers running simultaneously I don't exactly know that the figure for I don't know why anybody would would think that four was if you know why you wouldn't be happy with just darling M L with everything else. But. The one time two years ago when ratings sixty three didn't back four shows running simultaneously. On Broadway. There's only lasted until we got the point but during those two weeks I had a very interesting experience actually three of the shows were where I had some one was a factor. I had at the time the School for Scandal at the Majestic and I had missed a show by the way here in Venice has excelled. At the gold and I had a very. English import beyond the French and up the street of the Plymouth I had a show called Alfred Drake in the Wrens arm in the show it's called the Rams I went out for break was on it. And that one was the one that was a little shaky shaky was going. Sad but I have what it shows. And I got a call at your post one morning. From a man named Hill. And Mr Hill said that Mrs Tenet was in New York. And what that might be very pleased to see the School of the stamp of course we got very excited by so I did and so everybody else connected with our office so we made the. Preparation for the visit of the first lady as it was explained to us by Mr help. I should tell you that Mr Hall is the same Mr hoping. Some time later from stop on the back of that car to ours. So that you'll be able to identify it but of course we had not been faced with a national tragedy at the time that he was calling it early night in sixty three when made preparation and I got back to the apartment I keep a small company here in New York and I changed when I put on a tuxedo I think it was the first lady was going to come to see my play I could be there on the sidewalk to open the door greeter and welcome to what I thought was certain of the strike a deal and such an important occasion. I got to the theater early about a quarter of a my way to where. We put aside the course leads that we were instructed to put aside on the island to behind those four and to one front of the door. So that you actually had three hours for say two for themselves. And the presidential party is always surrounded by Secret Service and adequate security then I didn't double the problem for the closer except for just a scanner. And I waited till about five minutes after eleven. And. She didn't come. And I went back to the bomb and I was a little boy I mean I was distraught but them I was a little a little confused and disappointed and I turned on the. Q X R A midnight and I heard that and by Mrs Kennedy and her party just got to the theater that night. They saw a funny thing happened on the way to the forum. Which I didn't put in the same category as the school for Samurai. But I was a little now I was a little messed up I went to bed and I managed to sleep. And the next morning I got a call from Sister Helen. Well there I said I get it wrong I said I bet that there's a tonight or did I do something that was. He said Well in fact Mr countering that data in the first candidate discovered that our guests. Had seen the school discount or that that one of the C. A Funny Thing Happened on the way the forum is that you just what's the point of what I do. He said was the very last minute we had a lot of difficulties I'm terribly sorry that I didn't call the servants where I stand. So however he said the Mrs Kennedy was very much like a spammer we should balance performance this evening at the end so we. Went through this whole thing again. And we were ready and I went back and I put on my tuxedo over the back to the theater and I'm stood out on the sidewalk in front of the was expelled and. We had a nine o'clock curtain up there with the Shabak a way that the I could get used to this by the never disappoint me or whether to the clock I decided to go home and I said Well. Still like it was not for real the all day but America has been courting the young the experiment some are facing forward on one with the bat the next morning I get a call very apologetic call from them this term euro works playing to maybe that she was Mrs Kennedy secretary and the first lady getting back at a very severe cold and careful plans to go to the last minute. Boys said I was too bad and I hoped that she would be better so. The next day Thursday I got a call from a pal of mine that got to leave us on the home some of the you know and he's with Columbia Records is the president from Iraq and he said that. He said listen they survive I want to ask a big favor. I need. Eight seats for me on the fringe for Saturday Night. So I said what God. It's for be on the fringe I might be able to get you up here I mean how seats are very difficult to share with Brad and I would have been open about two or three months. And it was a Saturday night the demands of the press one thing and of my colleagues and associates from a. Friend so I told him so. He said what you get. And there was something in the tone in which he said well you better get. And the fact that it was a treat. That I said ever so let me ask you a question I said the guy said Who are these four and they said well I'm not allowed to as I said I'm not perfectly ridiculous I said of the power I'M NOT GOING ON THE PRESIDENT The are. Where he said well he said in fact it is not only for her once that the president is coming to New York on Saturday afternoon. To be at the Carlisle just overnight he has a breakfast that Sunday morning and he has asked Mrs Kennedy not to see friends tonight but to wait for him until Saturday night I said I didn't know she isn't going to come tonight at least I avoided that the so he said well he said the president wants to see it and if I were you I would get cracking same so we did and we got eight seats for the on the fringe and in the meantime Hill had call again the and he confirmed that they were in fact coming. I knew they were coming in reality when they started to put these special telephones in the box office you may have heard about this ladies and gentlemen probably write a great deal about and cover presidential affairs but they do in fact come along and put telephones in each location where the president is going to spend any time away from the White House and that evening from the Carlisle hotels which boy they had to install the telephone of a restaurant that because we called the Carousel which is very good and also the Adams Dalton phones one red and one black in the box office of the gold was in the. So I knew he was coming. In and out of based on that I had my touch to go from the all right and the hell beat my wife and I my wife was an actress named Jose parks and we had a commitment that night to go to the opening of a play called Aunt Dora. Which was going up at seven thirty and we figured it all out that we would go there and we would get out about a quarter of ten and we hotfoot it down to the golden in time for the at a mission to be on the French and we would be able to grip the president in the first ten or so. And two. Cut short everything that happened. We did that we went to the opening left we arrived at the forty first Street at about ten minutes or ten million my tuxedo. Down from the opening in the block was just last year with police barriers with more action than I've ever seen in forty first Street on a Saturday night and of course obviously the president was there. Inside and I got through the police lines and I got through very easily nobody said a word to me because I was all dressed up and I guess they figured I belong there when I walked into the theater. And nobody stopped me and as I stood and backed up with it was a dreadful performance because you're very patient with the story it was a dreadful performance because instead of listening to be on the fringe everybody was relating only to whether Mr Kennedy was going to laugh or. Quite seriously because if you recall the review had an enormous political connotations and social frame of reference point of view and everybody was just looking directly down to the fourth row on the aisle to see if he laughed and if he did that was fine and everybody else laughed and it was like you're in an echo chamber because everything was like six seconds delay this performance but there he was you say and a man came over to me introduced himself as Clint Hill who later turned out to be one hell of a guy. And I said what why do we said well he said. So I understand your managers have put on champagne back there he said why don't you ask them the president if he and Mrs Kennedy would like to go back and meet the members of the company during the mission. Comes down at the end of Act one which if you remember French goal was the first world war called aftermath of war and the audience applauded very politely but rather tepidly because they were very busy. I would be just that busy if I had been able to there that night so I didn't go down to the president who said well what like to get outside and Mrs Kennedy one of the cigarettes and they passed in the aisle as they were going to the side door and the president stuck his hand out. And he said I'm Jack Kennedy. Was almost bowled over he said you know Mr Slater where you work much I've seen with pictures and he said I just want to tell you given me many poor slaves at war most dissolved there. And I went out and I then asked the president whether he would care to come upstairs and meet the boys and he said yes and we took President and Mrs Kennedy and Prince and Princess rads and well who were with them that evening upstairs to dress and. Spent her time talking with the president and the prince and I was talking with Mrs Kennedy and the princess and sister. And finally I got around to what I said you know. Mrs Kennedy I said you really gave me. This week. I said she said. She talks that way like on the record that's you know. I don't mean that disrespectfully but I'm interested in the context of are saying to me comes. We couldn't get to School for Scandal on Monday night because the people that we were with Wanted To See A Funny Thing Happened on the way home anyway she said I'm coming to the opening in Washington with my next Freidman. Though I had only recently decided to play the shell in Washington and I had no idea who Max Friedman was I mean I know that makes me sounds fairly accurate but I honestly did not know next Ritalin was. So I said oh the school well I just bought and I said Now what about should I get the next night because I was going to stop now the station so I didn't have a cold she said but I would very much like to come and see Chabad yet another to. So we took them back to their seats and we waited a little four months was over and we said goodnight to them and nobody had had a very interesting conversation with the president and I had a very interesting conversation with Mrs Kennedy Hildy had told the president that we were going to go to Puerto Rico. And when we got to Puerto Rico I might tell you that there were flowers at the grass to her kind of mind this man had for the small things in the world. And. But later on I. Just couldn't stand there was not a triumph by all who Max Freedman launches am and whether in fact they work really got to come to the opening of scaling Washington with Mexico. So I told Washington I call the National Theater I talked to Scott Parker prickles a manager of a theater and I said Listen who's Max Friedman is that you're joking I said No sounds like he said Max Friedman is the White House correspondent for the Manchester Guardian. And I somehow because I didn't know I had no idea that I really did not know. And I said well how could he have what