Losing Neil Simon, a Writer From a Lost Time

A prolific and beloved playwright, screenwriter and jokesmith, Simon had some 30 Broadway hits spanning four decades - including "Barefoot in the Park" (1963), "The Odd Couple" (1965), "The Prisoner of Second Avenue" (1971), "Brighton Beach Memoirs" (1983) and "Laughter on the 23rd Floor" (1993).

Neil Simon, the prolific and Pulitzer Prize-winning USA playwright celebrated as the king of comedy who won more Oscar and Tony nominations combined than any other showbiz writer, died on Sunday.

He'll go down in history as perhaps one of the most important playwrights in American history due to his innumerable contributions to theatre, writing, comedy, and film. For a while it was all Neil Simon all the time - remarkably so given that his mainstream branch of domestic comedy was in conflict with a culture, in theater and movies alike, that was moving fast in the opposite direction.

It's been reported that Simon passed away on Sunday morning at New York Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan, after being on life support. He's survived by his wife, Elaine Joyce Simon, three daughters, three grandchildren and one great-grandson.

According to Broadway World, Neil Simon "has received more combined Oscar and Tony nominations than any other writer", some 17 Tony nominations with three wins.

Simon attended New York University and the University of Colorado.

For seven months in 1967, he had four productions running at the same time on Broadway: "Barefoot in the Park"; "The Odd Couple"; "Sweet Charity", and "The Star-Spangled Girl". "It was wonderful to be in his life and for him to be in my life", he said, calling Simon a major figure in American culture. He was a Depression-era child, his father, Irving, a garment-industry salesman.

Simon began his writing career working with his brother, providing scripts for radio and TV shows, scoring an early job with Sid Caesar's legendary series Your Show Of Shows, which also launched the careers of Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner and others.

The Neil Simon Theatre in NY was named in his honor in 1983.

Simon's plays were usually set in NY with characters whose problems were similar to those experienced by Simon.

Simon was married five times, twice to the same woman. His previous wives were named Diane Lander, Marsha Mason and Joan Baim. "The fact is, I probably never would have been a writer if it were not for Danny", he wrote. "I hope I will keep my equilibrium and sense of humour when I'm told I haven't achieved it", Simon once said about his voluminous output of work.

  • Kyle Peterson