Outside of California's Hollywood elite, no one knew who the fuck Army Archerd was. Let's be real. They might've recognized the name or maybe even remarkably recalled that he spent 100 years as the last journalist all superstars spoke to on their last stop before entering the Academy Awards ceremony. But, in terms of what every state outside of California grew to learn about the inner workings of Hollywood, no one had a clue who he was or what he stood for. You only knew him if you were fortunate enough to be employed in a business that the make-believe magazine Variety covered.
I had the pleasure to know and work with Army on a TV show for a few years over at the E! Channel's "Gossip Show," the much more in-depth and on-the-money celebrity news show that ran a good eight years before TMZ hit the airwaves. Now, don't get me wrong: I love me some "TMZ," I just dont think a paparazzi chasing down celebrities on Roxbury Ave. after a colonoscopy always makes for cunning television.
But I digress.
What I really should say is what a great man and stand-up journalist Army was. How Hollywood's A-list gave him scoops because they knew they would be safe with him. And that they knew they were dropping their stories - sometimes back-stabbing tales - into the hands of the gatekeeper of Hollywood's bygone era. And he would always keep their names a thousand miles away from the story. Happens all the time in the business. Don't think Army was any different.
There is no doubt that Army counted some of the industry's greats as his very personal friends. And there is no doubt that he most likely turned up his nose at the rise of all the glossy tabloids and that multi-haired frig-face Perez Hilton. I can actually imagine Army's hatred at the side of the business, only because I found myself at the bad end of the Almighty's anger and confusion.
When the execs at E! moved me from the ranks of the "Gossip Show" and gave me a shot at hosting "Mysteries & Scandals," I confidentially found out that Army was furious and wanted me fired from my position so that he could take over. He even threatened that he would quit doing remotes for the "Gossip Show" if I continued on as host of "Mysteries & Scandals." The way he saw it, it was he who should be the guy in the $2,000 suits, in the dark alleys of Hollywood, shooting straight about the sordid lives and deaths of most of the movie stars he had covered over the years.
I remember watching my "M&S" producer fielding a call from an incensed Archerd - calling from his Variety office in the same building. He couldn't accept that a guy like me would be able to carry the episode on Judy Garland's death.
"I should be hosting that show, damnit," Army said. "I knew all these people you're covering. What does that kid Benza know?"
I know that I hosted 172 episodes without Army's help to great success. And, as you read all the slurpy accolades upon his death, know that he wasn't all sugar and spice and everything nice.
He was a reporter. And, at one point or another, all reporters act like cocksuckers.