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John Simon, 94, Serbian-born taskmaster NYC theatre critic (The New Yorker)
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That Derek
2019-11-25 15:37:27 UTC
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No obit yet. He's still alive yet per Wikipedia and IMdb. I heard about it via "The Len Berman/Michael Riedel" radio show this morning on NYC's WOR/710 AM.

Riedel is a top theatre writer here in NYC and seemed to have pre-obit intel

For non-New Yorkers, Simon appeared in an "Odd Couple episode "Two on the Aisle." Sportswriter Oscar Madison (Jack Klugman) is assigned to double up as theatre critic; and enlists Felix Ungar (Tony RTandall) to attends the shows and ghost-writes Oscar's theatre column.

The Couple later appear on a theatrical discussion programme which enpanels actual theatre critics, including John Simon. It's a complicated back story to qualify why Felix was able to horn in on the panel.

Riedel mentioned that it was Simon who originated the put-down about actress Sylvia Miles (died 2019) that "She'll show up at the opening of an envelope."
Diner
2019-11-25 15:46:54 UTC
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https://www.facebook.com/patricia.hoagsimon/posts/3036278403052472
Patricia Hoag Simon
11/25/19, 7:12 AM
My husband John Simon died last evening at Westchester Medical Center. We were having lunch at the local dinner theatre when he was stricken. He was 94 years old and had an extraordinary life. May 12, 1925 - November 24, 2019.

Go see a play or read a great book or poem or watch some tennis in his honor—he loved all those things. RIP hubby mine.

Here is his blog.
https://uncensoredsimon.blogspot.com/2019/10/critics-and-uncriticized.html?m=1
Post by That Derek
No obit yet. He's still alive yet per Wikipedia and IMdb. I heard about it via "The Len Berman/Michael Riedel" radio show this morning on NYC's WOR/710 AM.
Riedel is a top theatre writer here in NYC and seemed to have pre-obit intel
For non-New Yorkers, Simon appeared in an "Odd Couple episode "Two on the Aisle." Sportswriter Oscar Madison (Jack Klugman) is assigned to double up as theatre critic; and enlists Felix Ungar (Tony RTandall) to attends the shows and ghost-writes Oscar's theatre column.
The Couple later appear on a theatrical discussion programme which enpanels actual theatre critics, including John Simon. It's a complicated back story to qualify why Felix was able to horn in on the panel.
Riedel mentioned that it was Simon who originated the put-down about actress Sylvia Miles (died 2019) that "She'll show up at the opening of an envelope."
Diner
2019-11-25 15:50:20 UTC
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Also, a small correction to your header - he wrote for New York Magazine, not The New Yorker.
(I used the Edit Header button on Google Groups, though that never seems to work.)
That Derek
2019-11-25 16:50:08 UTC
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https://www.broadwayworld.com/article/Theatre-Critic-John-Simon-Has-Passed-Away-at-94-20191125

Theatre Critic John Simon Has Passed Away at 94
by BWW News Desk
Nov. 25, 2019

BroadwayWorld is saddened to report that theatre critic John Simon has passed away at the age of 94.

His wife, Patricia Hoag Simon, shared the sad news on Facebook.

"We were having lunch at a local dinner theatre when he was stricken," she writes. He died at Westchester Medical Center on Sunday, November 24.

Simon was a writer for over 50 years, writing about theatre, film, literature, music and fine arts.

Simon was the theater critic at New York for 36 years from October 1968 until May 2005. He wrote theater reviews for Bloomberg News from June 2005 through November 2010. He most recently reviewed theater for The Westchester Guardian.

He also contributed to the Hudson Review, New Leader, New Criterion, National Review, Opera News, Weekly Standard, Bloomberg News, and the Yonkers Tribune website.

He received the George Jean Nathan Award (1970) and the George Polk Award for Film Criticism (1968).

He has a PhD from Harvard University in Comparative Literature.
J.D. Baldwin
2019-11-25 16:51:26 UTC
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He was the long-time film critic for National Review, where he wrote
that is probably my all-time favorite film review, from October 23,
1995:

How wrong I was to believe I had plumbed the depths of terminal
cuteness in a number of slobberingly sentimental films Hollywood
has churned out lately along with its more violent fare. What I
mistook for the bottom proves merely the diving board from which
How to Make an American Quilt hurtles into yet more deeply
depraved emotional slatternliness that piles soggy platitude on
platitude for nearly two mind-dissolving hours.

The framework here is a quilting bee during which a handful of old
and middle-aged quilters take turns spilling out to the young
heroine (Winona Ryder, and insufferable) their mostly miserable
pasts and presents, ostensibly to help her choose wisely between a
solid fiance and a reckless lover. Stereotypical feuds,
infidelities, self-sacrifices are banally heaped one upon another,
often in duplicate as we hear the stories first from the now older
women, then see them re-enacted by their younger selves. With
ever-increasing histrionics, plot, character, and diction vie with
one another in dimestore bathos. Jocelyn Moorhouse's disgusting
direction wallows in this seemingly endless concatenation of
attitudinizing cliches, dragging even the able cinematographer
Janusz Kaminski (Schindler's List) down into flagrant picture-
postcardiness, condignly matched by Thomas Newman's treacly score.

A huge cast, quite a few of them famous, make fools of themselves
in actions and dialogue by Jane Anderson, one of America's worst
playwrights, from a novel by Whitney Otto that makes Harlequin
Romances look like Henry James. I allow for critical disagreement
in most matters, but must declare anyone with the slightest use
for this abomination beyond the pale of civilized discourse.
--
_+_ From the catapult of |If anyone objects to any statement I make, I am
_|70|___:)=}- J.D. Baldwin |quite prepared not only to retract it, but also
\ / ***@panix.com|to deny under oath that I ever made it.-T. Lehrer
***~~~~----------------------------------------------------------------------
Diner
2019-11-26 01:10:03 UTC
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Here's New York Magazine's obituary.

https://www.vulture.com/2019/11/obituary-critic-john-simon-1925-2019.html
OBITUARY 4:33 P.M.
On John Simon
By Christopher Bonanos
@heybonanos

If you were a reader of New York magazine at any point before 2005, you had an opinion about John Simon. John — who died yesterday at 94, after a stroke — was New York’s drama critic for 36 years, from late 1968 to 2005, apart from a brief period when he moved over to covering film. (He also reviewed movies for many years at the National Review, and music and books for other outlets.) John was, in his prime, probably the most notorious critic alive. If the Times’s Frank Rich was the Butcher of Broadway, John Simon was its Hannibal Lecter. When he saw something he hated, he eviscerated it and ate its liver, and those meals were not infrequent.

Any of a thousand quotes from his reviews will give you the general flavor. “Don’t assume you have seen the worst before experiencing the latest revival of Jesus Christ Superstar, a production so stillborn I defy God himself to resurrect it.” Or his calling Anjelica Huston “supremely inept.” Or “When, some years ago, I saw Nilo Cruz’s Dancing on Her Knees at the Public, it felt like the worst play ever. Cruz’s latest, Two Sisters and a Piano, again at the Public, is a step forward; it feels like the second-worst play ever.”

The responses to his reviews were almost as legendary as the articles themselves. After he panned a Sylvia Miles performance, she saw him in a restaurant and dumped a plate of steak tartare over his head. Peter Bogdanovich, in the script for What’s Up, Doc?, named a pompous character “Hugh Simon.” The comedy duo Bob and Ray, after John panned their Broadway revue, added a character to their radio show whose name was John Simon, a.k.a. the Worst Person in the World, and he was always heard eating an enormous, sloppy sandwich. Most memorable, Simon played himself on an episode of The Odd Couple in which Felix and Oscar begin writing theater criticism and end up on a talk show alongside him. Predictably, John thinks their column is terrible; judging by the fragments that are read onscreen, I’m with him.

And he so enjoyed those fights. In the office, John used to do dramatic readings of his hate mail. His villainous reputation was almost surely enhanced by his Serbian accent, which gave him a certain vampire quality. Virtually everyone who ever wrote about John referred to him as “acerbic,” and he joked that “a Serb” had been turned into an adjective. He took special pleasure in an essay by the critic Robert Brustein that compared him with a book editor of the same name and categorized them as Good John Simon and Bad John Simon. This John enjoyed being the Bad One.

He was not, in doing so, merely expressing the benign grumpiness of the charming curmudgeon. John Simon wrote things that would be unpublishable today and not because we have become oversensitive. They are unacceptable because, for example, nobody should ever call a show “faggot nonsense,” or say of Barbra Streisand that she is “the sort of thing that starts pogroms,” or say, at intermission during an Off Broadway show in 1985, “Gays in the theater! I can’t wait till AIDS gets all of them!” (That last one was the rare remark for which he issued a public apology.) He once dismissed a Tony nomination for a musical’s book by Melvin Van Peebles by saying, “Clearly, if it hadn’t been a little black book, it wouldn’t have had a Chinaman’s chance.”

Long after the argument about nontraditional casting had been settled, John continued to argue his position, saying that casting (for example) black actors in roles originally written for white people was distracting and inappropriate. When pressed on this subject, John often deployed a straw-man argument along the lines of, Well, appearances and beauty matter onstage, especially in women. Would you cast James Coco as Romeo? He was inarguably, misogynistically extra-hard on actresses, dwelling on their looks. The roll call of insults in his reviews (to Streisand, to Elizabeth Taylor, to Liza Minnelli) is well known.

Those views are not defensible, and I do not intend to defend them. The pungency of his opinions, though, could have some value, in part because when he liked something, it was usually pretty great. When he did not — and when he could see past the worldviews described above — he often still fulfilled the primary function of the critic: getting you to consider why you responded to something the way you did. That was true even in inadvertent ways. The critic Joseph Epstein said that agreeing with one of John’s reviews was cause to “instantly want to reconsider one’s own position.”

Bogdanovich once called John “pseudo-intellectual,” but the “pseudo” part of that is wrong. John was extremely learned, comfortable in half a dozen languages, better read than almost anyone I’ve met. He grew up in Subotica before the Second World War and came here as a child, then pursued three degrees — B.A., M.A., Ph.D. — at Harvard. Perhaps because English was not his first language, he was relentless about correct grammar and usage, and his book Paradigms Lost is about his view of the declining standards thereof. I was John’s final day-to-day editor at New York, although I was not expected to edit John in any traditional sense; I mostly kept an eye out for his worst instincts and tried to coax him into a less offensive line of thinking. After he was fired in 2005, I’d see him at the theater regularly, and he was cordial.

His opinions could also be surprising. In 1982, John went surprisingly easy on Cats, which is to say he didn’t exactly like the show but took it on its own terms and found it amiable. He flat-out shocked several of us — and, judging by the tone of the review, himself — when he loved Yoko Ono’s memoir-musical New York Rock. He had a soft spot for a certain kind of romanticism — European art songs, for example. He could be funny, too. His very first piece for New York was a bravura defense of booing.

And let’s be fair: A lot of readers loved reading Bad John Simon because a brutal pan, when it’s not about you or your show or your spouse, can be delicious. Today — and don’t misunderstand me; I think this is a good thing — we tend to reserve the big takedowns for big targets. In a time of fewer outlets for criticism, especially for books and theater and classical music, there’s a feeling that we should concentrate on examining stuff that’s hyped or overrated or causing harm in the world and leave the rest to fade into obscurity. In John’s prime, the world of criticism was considerably larger than it is now, diluting any one opinion. An editor friend once suggested to me that he was better employed as a film critic because the larger pool meant that he “could do less damage.” Perhaps proving the point, when he briefly stepped over to the film beat for us, he memorably panned Star Wars in 1977, and the movie did okay without his approval. (We reposted that review in 2015, appending new annotations by the man himself.)

One other thing is worth noting about John: his relentless tenacity. After he was fired from New York in 2005, he briefly settled at Bloomberg News, then at the weekly Westchester Guardian, and finally on his own blog. Even after reaching the point where he had no paying outlet, he kept at it, continually trying to express himself interestingly and forcefully. That is the part of John Simon’s career worth emulating. I don’t think it’s cruel to say this, because John himself would undoubtedly have turned it into a gleeful anecdote: When he had the stroke that killed him, he was at a local dinner theater. Hell of a review.

VULTURE IS A VOX MEDIA NETWORK. © 2019 VOX MEDIA, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Adam H. Kerman
2019-11-26 06:12:08 UTC
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Post by Diner
Here's New York Magazine's obituary.
https://www.vulture.com/2019/11/obituary-critic-john-simon-1925-2019.html
That obituary was marvelous, but as a theater script, it stank.

I'd always envisioned John Simon dying after being stabbed in the back,
or some horrible death along the lines of Theater of Blood.
J.D. Baldwin
2019-11-26 14:24:24 UTC
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Post by Adam H. Kerman
I'd always envisioned John Simon dying after being stabbed in the back,
That's exactly what happened. It just took 14 years.
--
_+_ From the catapult of |If anyone objects to any statement I make, I am
_|70|___:)=}- J.D. Baldwin |quite prepared not only to retract it, but also
\ / ***@panix.com|to deny under oath that I ever made it.-T. Lehrer
***~~~~----------------------------------------------------------------------
J.D. Baldwin
2019-11-26 15:25:59 UTC
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Bogdanovich once called John "pseudo-intellectual," [...]
Wow, that's the richest irony I expect to encounter for some time to
come.
--
_+_ From the catapult of |If anyone objects to any statement I make, I am
_|70|___:)=}- J.D. Baldwin |quite prepared not only to retract it, but also
\ / ***@panix.com|to deny under oath that I ever made it.-T. Lehrer
***~~~~----------------------------------------------------------------------
Louis Epstein
2019-11-26 03:10:01 UTC
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Post by That Derek
No obit yet. He's still alive yet per Wikipedia and IMdb.
He has now died there.
Post by That Derek
I heard about it via "The Len Berman/Michael Riedel" radio show this morning
on NYC's WOR/710 AM.
Riedel is a top theatre writer here in NYC and seemed to have pre-obit intel
For non-New Yorkers, Simon appeared in an "Odd Couple episode "Two on the Aisle." Sportswriter Oscar Madison (Jack Klugman) is assigned to double up as theatre critic; and enlists Felix Ungar (Tony RTandall) to attends the shows and ghost-writes Oscar's theatre column.
The Couple later appear on a theatrical discussion programme which enpanels actual theatre critics, including John Simon. It's a complicated back story to qualify why Felix was able to horn in on the panel.
Riedel mentioned that it was Simon who originated the put-down about actress Sylvia Miles (died 2019) that "She'll show up at the opening of an envelope."
Which prompted her,as stated in another quoted post here,
to dump a plate of steak tartare on his head when she
spotted him in a restaurant.

-=-=-
The World Trade Center towers MUST rise again,
at least as tall as before...or terror has triumphed.
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