UPDATED WITH NEW INFORMATION: Arthur Gelb, a visionary critic, reporter and editor at The New York Times for more than four decades, died Tuesday evening at his home in Manhattan. He was 90. His death was confirmed by his son, Peter Gelb, general manager of the Metropolitan Opera. The elder Gelb’s passion for the culture and vibrancy of New York City defined him, and he requited that passion by endowing the Times with a proprietary interest in vigorously covering the artistic life of the city and making the culture report as important to the paper as its storied foreign coverage.
Beginning in 1944 as a reporter and later as assistant drama critic, head of the Metropolitan desk and through his final assignment as Managing Editor under his colleague and mentor A.M. Rosenthal, Gelb was chiefly responsible for shaping and directing the Times‘ cultural coverage. Early on, as assistant to the Times‘ legendary drama critic Brooks Atkinson, Gelb set his keen eye and ear to the discovery of fresh talent. Among those who caught his eye and received early and ongoing encouragement from the paper’s reporters and critics were an intellectual stand-up comic named Woody Allen; a Broadway ingenue named Barbra Streisand; an acerbic, potty-mouthed comic named Lenny Bruce; and a street-fighting, Shakespeare-quoting young producer named Joseph Papp. (more…)