Composer Richard Adler, co-creator of the classic musicals The Pajama Game and Damn Yankees, died last night at his home in Southampton, N.Y. He was 90 and among the last of Broadway’s Golden Age writers. When I created The Dramatist magazine for the Dramatists Guild, I set out to interview as many of my theatrical heroes as I could. Adler was one of the first.
I arrived at his East Side duplex for what was supposed to be a 30-minute session. His apartment was not decorated with theater memorabilia, as I had expected, but with personal mementos (photos on the grand piano of him and Marilyn Monroe at the famed birthday party he produced for President Kennedy, an autographed picture of him and Jackie O at the dedication of the Kennedy Center) and a stunning collection of art, including a wall of Picasso pottery and a Gauguin fan that the Metropolitan Museum borrowed for a 2002 exhibit on the artist.
I left two hours later, only after I had run out of audiotape. Despite the half century between us, it was like the easy conversation between longtime friends. After the article appeared in print, I was pleasantly surprised to receive an inscribed copy of his autobiography, You Gotta Have Heart, and an invitation for another meal, this time just to chat. Every other month thereafter, we met for lunch and talked shop.
I will always be grateful for his friendship and for his advice as I began my journey as a lyricist in the BMI workshop.