I spent about fifteen minutes trying to come up with the right title for this blog.
But how could I sum up what James M. Nederlander meant to this industry and to the people in it in a quippy 150 character blog title?
There aren’t 15,000 characters that can sum up Jimmy Sr., the patriarch of the Nederlander family, who passed away on Monday evening, at the somehow-it-seems-too-young age of 94.
The man built the Broadway that we know today.
He’s one of the last of a generation who was instrumental in drawing up the blueprints of modern Broadway. And without him, well, there’d probably be a bunch more office buildings and condos in Times Square, instead of his beautiful theaters.
Known for no-nonsense quips of his own about how to make it in this business (one of my favorites is . . . “They shouldn’t landmark the buildings, they should landmark the Producers.”), Jimmy Sr. was like The Godfather of the industry. Wherever he went, there was a line out the door of people waiting to pay their respects, ask for a favor, or just shake the hand of the man who had the foresight, the business acumen, and, more importantly, the passion for this crazy business to build it into what it is today.
I had the pleasure of being on that line on several occasions, including most recently to thank him for giving me the keys to the Brooks Atkinson Theatre for my production of Spring Awakening last fall.
And before I could even finish expressing my gratitude, he said, “No, no, no. Thank you.”
It doesn’t seem like much, but in a day when getting a Broadway theater is like winning the lottery . . . on your birthday . . . he didn’t need to be grateful. But he was.
And that kind of gratitude, despite his ginormous success, is a lesson that I will never forget, and I hope to share with the next generation someday myself.
To say he’ll be missed is like saying the sky is blue. It’s just too obvious.
One of our founding fathers is gone. The only solace I can take is that I just know that high above us, he’s negotiating to build a few more theaters.
Farewell, Jimmy. And even though you didn’t want to hear it . . . thank you.
My thoughts and prayers go out to the entire Nederlander family . . . because while even though he was a titan of our industry, more importantly he was a husband, father and a grandfather.
To learn more about Mr. Nederlander’s life and history, click here.
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