Radie Harris; Wrote About Broadway for the Hollywood Reporter

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Radie Harris, who covered the Broadway theater scene in her New York-based column in the Hollywood Reporter for nearly 50 years, has died.

Harris died Thursday at the Actors Fund Nursing Home in Englewood, N.J., said Frank Liberman, a longtime publicist who was Harris' brother-in-law. She was 96.

One of the legendary breed of show-business scribes that included Walter Winchell, Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons, Harris wrote the "Broadway Ballyhoo" column, which last appeared in the Reporter about 10 years ago.

She also reported on show business for CBS radio, broadcasting from the famous Sardi's restaurant in New York or the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.

She did not mince words when discussing her competitors. "Louella couldn't spell. And Hedda--she wore a large hat and was a Republican," Harris, a Democrat, once told Back Stage magazine.

Born in New York City, Harris was a memorable figure who used a wooden leg because of a childhood accident. Her disability did not seem to impede her career, which led to close friendships with Sir Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh, but it did inspire some invective.

Australian-born actress Coral Browne once saw Harris surrounded by a group of sycophants and commented: "Look at poor Radie Harris, with the whole world at her foot."

At the Actors Fund Nursing Home, Harris slept under a picture of Leigh as "Gone With the Wind" heroine Scarlett O'Hara. She considered Leigh her best friend and was one of several narrators of a 1990 documentary about Leigh that aired on the TNT cable channel.

Harris was honored in 1982 by the Publicists Guild of America. She served on the executive board of the American Theatre Wing and the Hall of Fame and belonged to The Drama Desk, the New York press organization. She served on the nominating committee of the Tony Awards for many years.

Asked in a 1999 interview with Back Stage magazine how the relationship between celebrities and the entertainment press has changed, she said: "There was both more intermingling and more reverence for stars--not that I was ever gaga. I was nev-ah, nev-ah worshipful. Today's press is more independent and that's good, including the invasion of privacy."

Harris is survived by two nieces, Meg and Kay Liberman of Los Angeles.

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