Larry Levy Shares His Memories
Larry Levy’s proudest Baruch moment and happiest collegiate memory is of winning a leading role in Theatron’s Fall 1954 production of Finian’s Rainbow.
His headlining the annual musical on the stage of 17 Lex’s Pauline Edwards Theatre (now Mason Hall) almost never happened though. Levy, who earned a BBA in advertising in 1955, started his undergraduate career at City College uptown as an engineering student.
Why engineering? Levy came from a long line of engineers in the forefront of the film developing industry. His father and uncles worked for Deluxe Laboratories, which was owned by Twentieth Century Fox; the engineering clan called famed studio executive Darryl Zanuck boss. But after one semester in the uptown engineering program, Levy decided he wanted to make advertising his career and transferred downtown, to Baruch.
Unlike his behind-the-scenes family, the young Levy’s entertainment-oriented DNA took another form, on stage as a singer-performer. After playing supporting roles in Mister Roberts and Kiss Me, Kate, he decided to go out for a leading role. “I prepped for my audition for Finian’s Rainbow by going across the street to the Gramercy Theatre on 23rd to see the film version of the musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. I was inspired by Howard Keel [the lead in Seven Brides] and tried to sing like he did.” Levy’s homework paid off.
Levy was inspired by fellow Theatronites as well. He especially praises Fred Harrison (’55), a tech wizard and head of set design and stage production (also an editor of the student newspaper The Ticker during his Baruch years); Charlotte Mednick (’55), “the big star”; and Phil Gittelman (’54), another great talent during that period. Louis Levy of the Department of Public Speaking and Theatron’s longtime faculty advisor was Larry Levy’s favorite Baruch professor. “No relation,” jokes alumnus Levy of Professor Levy. “I was immensely fond of Lou. He was Theatron’s spiritual leader.”
“Theatron really got me into theater,” says Levy, whose stage life continued after his time with Theatron, including work as a singer at Grossinger’s Catskill Resort Hotel. “A night of entertainment in the Catskills usually consisted of three or so acts,” he explains. “There was one main act, which was paid about $1,000 a night; the other acts were paid about $50.” Levy, a supporting player, saw early performances by such rising stars as Steve Lawrence and Red Buttons. Harry Belafonte came to and sang at Levy’s 21st birthday party in the Grossinger staff bungalows. Belafonte was one of his favorite entertainers.
“Good singers are a dime a dozen,” says Levy of his singing student days. “So I decided my future would be in advertising, not entertaining.” Uncle Sam and the draft halted Levy’s show business sideline, but not before he had a chance to perform off-Broadway with the group Originals Only.
When Levy returned from his military service (which included singing in the 3rd Armored Division Soldier Chorus in Germany), he began a long and satisfying career in advertising. For 20 years, he worked on the agency side at such well-known firms as McCann Erickson, J. Walter Thompson, and Grey. He then moved to the client side, working at JPMorgan Chase for 15 years as vice president and advertising director. Now retired, Levy still works part time as a marketing consultant, serves as treasurer of the International Advertising Association, and is actively involved in Executives On Campus (EOC) at Baruch.
Also, once or twice a year, Levy tunes his guitar and his vocal chords with his Theatron pals from the 1950s at a gathering inspired by the Class of ’55’s Jubilee Reunion at Baruch in 2005. This Theatron Reunion group also includes Fred Harrison, Charlotte (Mednick) Davidson, Joan (Leff) Zeitlin, and Eileen (Libidinsky) Wechsler. Charlotte’s husband, Herb, plays keyboards and piano and holds the distinction of honorary Theatron alumnus.
The group of friends stays young, fun, and connected as they wine, dine, and share their memories in Broadway show-tune sing-alongs.
Says Levy, “Our involvement in Theatron transformed Baruch from a ‘college-in-a-box’ extension of high school into a true college experience. Our campus was the Pauline Edwards Theatre, where we rehearsed and rehearsed and built and painted sets for many months each semester, culminating in the show that would run only two days—we opened on Friday and closed Saturday! But thanks to our semiannual reunions, for us, the curtain is still going up twice a year.”
Coming Fall 2012: Theatron fans, don’t miss “Enter Stage Lex,” by Fred Harrison (’55), who shares his Theatron memories with magazine readers in the upcoming Fall 2012/Winter 2013 issue.
Theatron is an important part of Baruch College’s history. Hoping to enhance the College’s archive of this long-enduring student club, we are asking all alumni who participated in Theatron to contact the College’s Office of Alumni Relations at 646-660-6097 or email@example.com. And, yes, you passed the audition!