(Michael Pollak’s article appeared in The New York Times, 10/17; via Pam Green.)

Q. Now that all the recent fuss has subsided over Broadway’s dimming (or not dimming) its lights for Joan Rivers, could you tell me who first received that honor?

A. The tradition began in the 1950s, and started slowly. According to a 2013 article in The New York Post, house lights in all Broadway theaters were first dimmed in honor of Gertrude Lawrence, who died of viral hepatitis at age 52 in September 1952 while she was starring in the Broadway musical “The King and I.” (She had gone to a hospital right after appearing in a matinee in August, The New York Times reported.) The second honoree, according to Time magazine, was Oscar Hammerstein II in 1960, for whom theater marquees briefly dimmed in a Broadway blackout the likes of which had not been seen since World War II. The third honoree, according to Playbill, was the actor Alfred Lunt in 1977.


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