Ira Gasman, 76

0
170

The lyricist Ira Gasman, who lived for many years on Partridge Drive in Sag Harbor and contributed columns to The Sag Harbor Express, died October 6 of heart failure. At age 76, he had lived his dream to write for Broadway.

With Mr. Gasman’s original story and lyrics about pre-Disney 42nd Street set to music by the late Cy Coleman, a fellow resident of the South Fork, “The Life” was nominated for 12 Tony awards and won two awards for Best Featured Actor and Actress, as well as the “1997 Best Musical” Drama Desk Award, Outer Critics Circle Award, and Drama League Award, plus praise from Stephen Sondheim, which friends and family said Mr. Gasman treasured, and a 2017 London revival.

In the 1960s, with New York University fraternity brother Cary Hoffman, Mr. Gasman began by doing comedy in the Catskills. They later teamed to write “What’s a Nice Country Like You Doing in a State Like This?” — which Mr. Gasman called “a typically topical, Nixon-era, musical, political, satirical revue” that featured future stars including Betty Buckley. 

It led to his lyrics drawing the attention of Mr. Coleman and Mr. Sondheim, and helped shift Mr. Gasman away from work as an ad agency vice president, though he never forgot his still-lingering line: “Bounty, The Quicker Picker Upper.” 

It took more than 10 years of revision and refinement with Mr. Coleman and screenwriter David Newman (author of “Superman,” “Superman II” and “Bonnie and Clyde”) to get “The Life” to Broadway, Mr. Gasman recalled in a letter to the company of the London revival, printed in the show’s program. 

“I would work for days just to get two words right, and sometimes weeks on a full lyric,” he wrote. “I’d then bring it to Cy who would put it up on his piano and immediately start creating the perfect melody for it. Some might find that maddening. To me it was magical.”

Mr. Gasman’s 2003 Public Theater show “Radiant Baby,” about the artist and activist Keith Haring, with music by Debra Barsha, earned a Lucille Lortel Award nomination. 

Ever jovial as well as inventive, Mr. Gasman also worked with distinguished composers such as Burton Lane, Jule Styne, Steve Allen, and Galt MacDermot, more recently with musical director Alex Rybeck — for musical theater, cabaret, television and motion pictures, including two songs with Mr. Hoffman for Zero Mostel in the film “The Front.” 

But it was working with Mr. Coleman for which Mr. Gasman was most grateful. “Cy was the man who gave me my dream and who changed my life,” he wrote in the London program. “And although I thanked Cy a thousand times, I never thanked him enough.”

As a Sag Harborite, Mr. Gasman loved tennis in the park, meals at The American Hotel (where “Radiant Baby” had a run-through) and songs on the piano at the old Bobby Van’s in Bridgehampton. 

As a long-ensconced resident of Manhattan’s iconic Gramercy Park Hotel, he loved his access to the private gardens outside, and shouting “Good Morning” from his window to strollers in the street. 

In later years Mr. Gasman lived in various care facilities in Virginia near his sister, Linda Dadon, and her husband, Bart.

Also surviving are his niece Allyson Pimentel (Pedro Noguera), nephew Theodore Yeschin (Kate Roughen-Yeschin), and longtime partner Sallie Quirk, the East End artist. A memorial service in Manhattan is to be announced. 

Comments