Army Archerd, whose breezy column for the entertainment trade publication Daily Variety kept tabs on various Hollywood doings for more than a half-century, has died. He was 87.
Archerd’s spokeswoman said he died Tuesday at UCLA Medical Center of mesothelioma, a cancer of the lungs strongly tied to asbestos exposure.
Over the years, Archerd won praise from the Hollywood establishment for always checking the accuracy of his news tips before printing them. He had an extensive phone directory of much-guarded private numbers that he would use to call movie stars and studio bosses directly to ferret out which rumors were true and which were not.
His biggest scoop came in 1985 when he was first to report that veteran leading man Rock Hudson had AIDS. It was the first time a major Hollywood star was disclosed to be an AIDS victim, and it helped break down some of the secrecy surrounding the disease.
Archerd — born Armand Archerd in New York in 1922 — also broke the story that Julia Roberts had jilted fiance Keifer Sutherland in 1991 and that longtime bachelor Warren Beatty had married Annette Bening in 1992. His source for the Beatty-Bening story was Beatty himself.
For more than 50 years he also served as the greeter-interviewer at the Academy Awards. Actor nominees and other celebrities were conducted to a platform alongside the red carpet for a brief chat with Archerd that was heard by the thousands of fans gathered outside the theater.
“I try to give the nominees a little moment in the sun, maybe their last,” he explained in 2002.
Archerd’s columns were generally mild-mannered, although he could lash out at what he considered wrongdoing. After he excoriated Michael Jackson for including anti-Semitic remarks in his “HIStory” album, the entertainer apologized and took them out.
Archerd’s first brush with the studios came in the early 1940s when he worked in the Paramount mailroom while a student at the University of California, Los Angeles.
After wartime service in the Navy, he returned to Los Angeles and began his news career working with this reporter on a daily Hollywood column for The Associated Press.
Three years later he became an aide to Harrison Carroll, the gossip columnist for the now-defunct Los Angeles Herald-Examiner.
In 1953 he was chosen to write Daily Variety’s “Just for Variety” column, which was required morning reading for Hollywood’s movers and shakers. He later went on to become one of the first journalists to be honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
His marriage to Joan Archerd, which produced two children, Amanda and Evan, ended in divorce in 1969 after 25 years. He married his second wife, Selma, in 1970.
Archerd is survived by his wife, his son and two stepsons.