Harvey Sabinson, a veteran Broadway press agent who served as executive director of The Broadway League for nearly two decades, died of natural causes April 19, at his home in Sarasota, Florida. He was 94.
Sabinson’s theatrical career spanned 50 years of Broadway history, encapsulating some of the most successful productions of the “Golden Age” through its commercial resurgence in the 1980s and ’90s.
Sabinson began his career as a theatrical press agent, representing the original Broadway productions of Finian's Rainbow; Guys and Dolls; Gypsy; Hello, Dolly!; 1776; Oliver!; Promises, Promises; Carnival; Marat/Sade; Luther; and a string of Neil Simon’s biggest hits, from Barefoot in the Park through The Sunshine Boys. He also represented the original production of the long-running Off-Broadway musical The Fantasticks, and major American theatrical institutions including the Tony-honored Guthrie Theatre.
A co-founder of the PR firm Solters and Sabinson, his clientele as a publicist included major stars such as Carol Channing, Barbra Streisand, Hume Cronyn, Jessica Tandy, and Jason Robards. He worked closely with such producers as David Merrick, Robert Whitehead, Saint Subber, Stuart Ostrow, Cheryl Crawford, Emanuel Azenberg, Roger L. Stevens, Alexander H. Cohen, Frederick Brisson, and Gilbert Cates.
He captured his 30-year career as a Broadway publicist in his 1977 memoir, Darling, You Were Wonderful.
In 1976 Sabinson signed on as Director of Special Projects for the League of New York Theatres and Producers, the national trade organization known today as The Broadway League. He became executive director in 1982 and spent 15 years with the organization before stepping down in 1995.
That year he was honored with a Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement.
Sabinson helped establish the theatre administration department at the Yale School of Drama in 1965, and served as vice president of the Board of Trustees of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. His dedication to the theatre industry included roles as board member and vice president of the Association of Theatrical Press Agents and Managers and as a trustee of the Actors Fund and chair of its human services committee.
In 1998 he was inducted into the College of Fellows of the American Theatre in ceremonies at the Kennedy Center in Washington, and was a recipient of the Founders' Award of the Theatre Hall of Fame.
Born October 24, 1924, in Queens, Sabinson attended Townsend Harris High School and later entered Queens College in Flushing, New York, but his education was interrupted by World War II. The Army awarded him The Purple Heart for his service.
Sabinson is survived by his wife, Sarah S. Sabinson, whom he met during his days at Queens College, as well as his two sons, Eric and Allen. He is also survived by three grandchildren, Lia, Elena Beth, and Juliliana.