Black, Ivan, -1979

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Ivan Black (1903-1979) was a publicity agent in New York, from the early 1940s until his retirement in the mid-1970s, representing mainly nightclubs, theatrical productions, and entertainers.

After receiving a bachelor's degree from Harvard in 1924, Black worked as an architect in New Jersey and Florida, and then as a journalist in Boston and Philadelphia. After moving to New York in 1932, he was a supervisor in the Works Progress Administration's Federal Writers' Project and Federal Theatre Project, before being promoted to head of the Division of Information and Publicity of the F.T.P.'s Radio Division. When the division was dissolved in 1939, Black opened his own publicity office. His first clients were the Café Society nightclub, the radio writer and director Arch Oboler (Lights Out), and The Adventures of the Thin Man radio series. After the Café Society closed in 1948, Black worked for corporate clients such as the Philco Corporation, music publisher Edward B. Marks, Inc., and the magazine True. In the late 1950s, he returned to representing nightclubs, notably the Five Spot, the Village Gate, and Gregory's. In the course of working for the clubs, he publicized appearances by many important musicians and comedians. Black and the Café Society discovered comedian Sam Mostel and gave him his stage name, Zero. Others included the musicians Ernesto Lecuona, Thelonious Monk, Nina Simone, and Josh White, singer-actor Wilbur Evans, and comedian Jimmy Savo. Black occasionally worked directly for entertainers, events, political and social justice organizations, and visual artists, including singer Miriam Makeba, pianists Errol Garner, Brooks Kerr, and Hazel Scott, composer William Russo, pianist and vibraphonist Dardanelle, the New York Jazz Loft Celebration, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, and painter Lumen Martin Winter. He also did publicity for many Broadway and Off-Broadway productions, most notably the revue Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, as well as lesser-known shows such as Philip Yordan's Anna Lucasta.

From the description of Ivan Black papers, 1887-1979 (bulk 1937-1978) (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 163934464

Ivan Black (b. Philadelphia, 14 May 1903, d. New York, 25 March 1979) was a publicity agent for nightclubs, Broadway and Off-Broadway productions, musicians and visual artists in New York City from the early 1940s until his retirement in the mid-1970s.

Black grew up in Trenton, New Jersey and received a Bachelors degree in Renaissance arts and literature from Harvard in 1924. He worked as an architect in New Jersey and Florida before moving to Boston to work as a reporter for the Boston Transcript in 1928. After a brief return to Philadelphia, where he was an art critic for the Philadelphia Record and International Studio, and wrote for The Theatre Guild, he moved to New York in 1932, where he began working for the Works Progress Administration. Black formed and supervised a WPA project for unemployed writers that produced the American Guidebook series, among others, then was made manager of the Federal Theatre Project before being promoted to head of the Division of Information and Publicity for the Federal Theatre Radio Division. That division was dissolved in 1939, by which time Black had so many radio industry contacts that he was able to open his own publicity office.

His first clients were the Café Society (whose proprietor, Barney Josephson, was a childhood friend of Black’s), the writer-director-producer Arch Oboler and The Adventures Of The Thin Man radio series. After the Café Society closed, Black did some work for corporate clients in the early 50s, such as the Philco Corporation, and the magazines Argosy and True, before returning to nightclub work in the late 50s with two major Greenwich Village venues, the Five Spot and the Village Gate. He continued working for both clubs into the 1960s, as well as for Basin Street East, Slug’s, and, in the early 70s, Gregory’s, Stryker’s, Bar None and Larson’s. Black occasionally worked directly for entertainers or events, including Hazel Scott, Miriam Makeba, the pianists Erroll Garner and Brooks Kerr, the singer Dardanelle and the New York Jazz Loft Celebration in 1976 and 1977. He also retained an interest in visual artists, such as Lumen Martin Winter and Jo Anne Schneider, and occasionally promoted their work.

Black publicized many important performing artists during his career. He discovered the comedian Sam Mostel at a party and launched his career at the Café Society, anointing him with the stage name “Zero” because his career had nowhere to go but up. Other major figures associated with the Café Society whom Black promoted included the musicians John Kirby, Teddy Wilson, Josh White, Edmond Hall, Albert Ammons, Pete Johnson, Benny Morton, Nellie Lutcher, Dorothy Donegan and the Golden Gate Quartet; the singer Lena Horne; and the comedians Jimmy Savo, Imogen Coca and the Revuers (Judy Holliday, Adolph Green and Betty Comden). Major jazz musicians associated with the Five Spot whom Black promoted included Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins, Ornette Coleman, Rahsaan Roland Kirk and Charles Mingus. The Village Gate featured jazz musicians as well, such as Miles Davis, Herbie Mann, Stan Getz and Art Blakey, but Black also promoted folk singers such as Odetta and Harry Belafonte, the South African musicians Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela and the comedian Dick Gregory, all of whom were featured regularly at the Gate in the 1960s.

Black did publicity for many Broadway and Off-Broadway productions, most notably Jacques Brel Is Alive And Well And Living In Paris at the Village Gate, but also lesser-known productions such as Anna Lucasta, Devil’s Galore and Stalag 17. He also promoted political and social justice causes, including benefit events for John Lindsay and for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee.

Source: “Ivan Black, 75, a Publicity Agent.” The New York Times, Mar. 27, 1979, B14.

From the guide to the Ivan Black papers, 1887-1979, 1937-1978, (The New York Public Library. Music Division.)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Black, Ivan, d. 1979. Ivan Black papers, 1887-1979 (bulk 1937-1978) New York Public Library System, NYPL
creatorOf Ivan Black papers, 1887-1979, 1937-1978 The New York Public Library. Music Division.
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith American Music Collection corporateBody
associatedWith Brel, Jacques person
associatedWith Brel, Jacques person
associatedWith Café Society (Nightclub) corporateBody
associatedWith Evans, Wilbur, 1905-1987. person
associatedWith Evans, Wilbur, 1908-1987 person
associatedWith Five Spot (Nightclub) corporateBody
associatedWith Gregory's (Nightclub) corporateBody
associatedWith Lecuona, Ernesto, 1896-1963. person
associatedWith Makeba, Miriam. person
associatedWith Monk, Thelonious person
associatedWith Monk, Thelonious. person
associatedWith Mostel, Zero, 1915-1977. person
associatedWith Oboler, Arch, 1909-1987. person
associatedWith Russo, William person
associatedWith Russo, William. person
associatedWith Savo, Jimmy. person
associatedWith Scott, Hazel person
associatedWith Scott, Hazel. person
associatedWith Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (U.S.) corporateBody
associatedWith Village Gate (Nightclub) corporateBody
associatedWith Yordan, Philip person
Place Name Admin Code Country
New York (State)--New York
Subject
Press agents
Musical theater--History--20th century
Nightclubs--New York (State)--New York
Theater--New York (State)--New York--History--20th century
Off--Broadway theater--History--20th century
Nightclubs
Musical theater--New York (State)--New York--History--20th century
Press agents--New York (State)--New York
Theater--History--20th century
Occupation
Function

Person

Death 1979-03-25

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