Lord Broadway: Variety's Sime
By WILFRED FUNK, $3,00
HERE iS not so much a connected biography of Sime Silverman (1873-1933) as a series of animated portraits of the man, together with no less animated ones of his intimates and his more important enemies. The volume might almost be called a biography of Variety, the weekly that Sime started on a shoestring in 1905 and presently built up into the loose-leaf Bible of show business, incidentally making it famous for its immense contribution to American slanguage. (It will be a surprise to many readers, though, to learn that Sime’s native woodnotes were not so wild. In 1905 he was writing in this vein: ‘Were the artists in this country properly organized an indignation meeting would have been held ere this,’ and decorously putting even the mildest slang into the quotation marks of humble apology. Variety’s characteristic coinages were few and far between until after the World War.) Mr. Stoddart, whose lively chapter of Broadway history is written in a lingo closely akin to Variety’s own, gives a pretty good idea of how the paper made its owner some $3,000,000 and a very circumstantial idea indeed of how Sime blew it all in — a large fraction of it on the alcoholic entertainment of all and sundry and in handouts to the daily ‘bite brigade’ of acquaintances temporarily or chronically down on their luck. Included are striking glimpses of Broadway notabilities of forty years — e.g., Elkeles of Maxim’s (said to have been the originator of the floor show), Diamond Jim Brady, Jimmy Durante, and Jimmy Walker, who summed up the social history of an era in the remark that Times Square ought to be renamed Sime’s Square.