ACID-TONGUED CRITIC: John Simon known for his lacerating reviews and often withering assessment of performers’ physical appearance.
LOWER THE CURTAIN: John Simon died Sunday night, November 24,2019 at Westchester Medical Center.
John Simon served as the chief theater critic at “New York” magazine for nearly 40 years before being dismissed in 2005.
He then worked at “Bloomberg” for five years before being fired in 2010.
Later his tart and curmudgeonly were featured in Westchester publications; the Yonkers Tribune and the Westchester Guardian.
He also reviewed for New York’s WNET Channel 13, but was forced out, because the station considered his notices misanthropic.
”Time” magazine called Simon “the most poisonous pen on Broadway.”
He once compared Kathleen Turner to “a braying mantis.”
One actress fought back, Sylvia Miles dumped a plate of pasta on his head when she encountered him in a restaurant.
In 1981, an ad in Variety appeared accusing John Simon of being “racist, anti-Semitic, misogynist, vicious, and derisive.” It was signed by 300 artists.
Brent Spiner on Twitter recalled being described by the critic “like a good high school actor in a bad college production.”
John Simon defended his sharp elbows, arguing that the theater was becoming dumbed down.
In 1969, the New York Drama Critics Circle voted to refuse him membership.
The following fall, the body relented and allowed him in.
The circle also voted to keep him in the group in 2010 when he technically was no longer working for a publication published in New York City, part of the group’s bylaws.
From 1950-1955, Simon taught at Harvard, the University of Washington and M.I.T.
He also taught at Bard College and the University of Pittsburgh in the 1960s.
His articles appeared in everything from ”Town and Country” to ”Esquire” and the ”Weekly Standard”.
He was the author or editor of over a dozen books, including “Uneasy Stages,” a collection of his reviews from 1963 through 1973, and “John Simon on Theatre,” which included the next three decades.
Other books include “John Simon on Music” and “John Simon on Film.”
Simon was born in Yugoslavia in 1925 and received his B.A. in English, as well as his master’s and Ph.D. in comparative literature from Harvard University. He was a George Polk Award winner and was a Fulbright Fellow.
On his blog, he also continued to annoy.
In one of his blog posts in 2013, he defended his toughness because he cared.
“A critical sting is not like a slight flesh wound, treatable with ointment. If intentionally negative, it has to sting. This is the only way it is noticeable, the only way it could make a difference. That is to say if any criticism makes a difference.”
In his last post just before Halloween, he wrote: “One person’s critic is another person’s crackpot.”
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Brian Harrod is the publisher and editor of the RoundupNewswires.com news website, which powers the hyper local Yonkers Newswire news and social media pages. You can learn more about Mr. Harrod at BrianHarrod.com