Shirley Herz, the legendary theatrical press agent whose sixty-plus-year career in the theater industry earned her a special Tony Award in 2009, died Sunday, August 11, at the age of 87. She had suffered a stroke on July 18.
Over the course of her prolific career, Herz served as a press representative for nearly 100 plays, revivals, and musicals on Broadway, including the original productions of La Cage aux Folles, Burn This, Dancing at Lughnasa, On Golden Pond, Oh! Calcutta!, and The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?; as well as revivals of Gypsy (with Tyne Daly), Fiddler on the Roof (starring Topol), and Threepenny Opera (featuring Sting), among many others. Her list of clients included a host of theater greats including Rosalind Russell, Colleen Dewhurst, Arthur Laurents, June Havoc, Tallulah Bankhead, Angela Lansbury, and Tyne Daly.
Born on December 30, 1925, in Philadelphia, Herz dropped out of the University of Pennsylvania to pursue a career in the theater. After six months of living in New York City, she found a job in theatrical publicity and never strayed from that line of work. She launched her own firm, Shirley Herz Associates, in 1971, and later served on the Board of Governors of the Association of Theatrical Press Agents and Managers.
In 2008, Manhattan Theatre Club named the lobby of its Samuel J. Friedman Theatre after Herz and her longtime colleague, Bob Ullman. A year later, she received a special Tony Award for "Excellence in Theatre," given to "individuals that have demonstrated extraordinary achievement in theater but are not eligible in any of the established Tony categories."
A fixture at Broadway opening nights and cocktail parties, Herz could often be seen eagerly greeting critics and theater journalists on press nights at the organizations she currently represented, including the Irish Repertory Theatre and the Abingdon Theatre Company. She had recently returned from a three-week trip to Australia where she had visited with Lansbury, who was performing in Driving Miss Daisy.
Shirley Herz is survived by Herbert Boley, whom she married in 1948, as well as Beth and Jeff Alper and a number of cousins from Philadelphia.