Post Theater Critic Recalls His Friendship With David Brown

It started with an angry letter.

RazzleDazzleCoverMichael Riedel is currently promoting his critically acclaimed new book Razzle Dazzle: The Battle for Broadway. Kevin Spacey calls the Oct. 6 release a ‘must-read,’ while Hugh Jackman deems the 464 pages of New York history a ‘wonderful account of how art gets made.’

Back in the spring of 2002, Riedel was among the critics trashing The Sweet Smell of Success, a musical version of the 1957 movie, featuring John Lithgow in the lead role. After the critic received a scathing letter from one of the show’s producers, the legendary film and theater vet David Brown, he picked up the phone and to the surprise of the answering assistant, asked to speak with Brown. From Riedel’s interview with Playbill:

I said, ‘Mr. Brown, Michael Riedel. I received your letter, which I think is extremely well written and very entertaining, and I would like to run it as my column on Friday, but I just wanted to confirm that you really are David Brown and it really is a letter from you.’ He said, ‘It is, and you want to run it?’ I said, ‘Yes. I’ve been making fun of your show; I think it’s only fair that I let you have a chance to make fun of me.’

“So I ran it that Friday. First thing in the morning he calls me: ‘Michael, everyone’s calling me. They love my letter! This is great! Let’s have lunch!’ And then we became friends.” Riedel laughs. “He was thrilled, and then we were friends ever since. He’s dead now, sadly, but that’s how we became friends. That was the most fun that I had.”

Brown passed away in 2010. Riedel also explains to Playbill how another article, published that same year, 2010, proved to be the spark for his new book.

[Jacket cover courtesy: Simon & Schuster]