How Did the Tony Awards Get Their Name?

Tony Awards
Tony Awards

If you’re a fan of Broadway, you’ve probably wondered: Who is the Tony guy these awards are named after, anyway?

The Tony is question is actually a woman, and at first, she spelled it Toni. Antoinette Perry was born in Colorado in 1888, and got her start as an actress; she would go on to become a director and a producer—roles that, in her time, were usually held by men. She was also the co-founder and chairwoman of the American Theatre Wing, which puts on the Tonys with the Broadway League.

"When I was six," Perry once wrote, "I didn't say I'd become an actress. I felt I was one. No one could have convinced me I wasn't." She joined her uncle’s touring company when she was 15, and remained with it until 1905, when she came to New York and got a part in The Music Master and, later, A Grand Army Man. But despite her success, she left acting after she married an old beau, Denver businessman Frank Frueauff, in 1909. "Mother's literary and bohemian set clashed with father's conservative lifestyle," their daughter, Margaret, recalled to Playbill in 1998. "When she became pregnant with me, father persuaded her to quit theatre to raise a family." They settled in New York, and Perry became a full-time wife and mother.

But Perry just couldn't quit the theater. In 1920, she was approached by producer Brock Pemberton to become an investor in his production of Miss Lulu Bett, which won the Pulitzer Prize. Soon after, she became Pemberton’s silent partner, eventually getting her husband's blessing to continue investing in stage productions.

After Frueauff died in 1922, Perry returned to the stage, acting until 1927 when, according to her biography on the Tonys website, she suffered a stroke that paralyzed the left side of her face. In 1928, she took up directing, putting on 17 productions in 13 years. Eventually, she struck up a romantic relationship with the married Pemberton; they even shared an office. At night, “she came home, ate as she read scripts and saw we did our school work,” Margaret told Playbill. “Promptly at nine, Brock would phone and they'd talk for hours. They remained devoted friends until Mother’s death."

In addition to acting, directing and producing, Perry was also a philanthropist: She backed new playwrights, underwrote auditions for aspiring actors and actresses, and helped to open a national school for actors, where now-famous names like George Burns, Bob Fosse, Angela Lansbury, Charlton Heston, and Christopher Plummer studied. During World War II, Perry co-founded the Theatre Wing of Allied Relief, which would become the American Theatre Wing. The Wing sponsored 54 programs in New York and around the world during WWII, and established the Stage Door Canteen, where stars worked as waiters, dishwashers, and entertainers for servicemen.

When Perry passed away from a heart attack in June 1946, Warner Bros. story editor Jacob Wilk suggested that an award honoring achievement in theater be created in Perry’s name, and the Antoinette Perry Award for Excellence in Theatre was born. “The thing he wanted to do the most for her was to make a yearly show that would keep her name alive in the American theatre,” Wilk’s son, Max, recalled in 2006. “He was darn good at doing it, too. [The Tonys] do keep her name alive, and they are important [for the theatre]. If my father were here, he'd feel good about that.”

The Tony came by its common name at the very first event, held at the Waldorf Astoria on Easter Sunday, April 6, 1947. When he was presenting an award (then a scroll; the medallion was first given out in 1949), Pemberton called it a Tony.

10 Amazing Facts About Stan Lee

BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images
BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images

Comic book legend Stan Lee’s life was always an open book. The co-creator of some of the greatest superheroes and most beloved stories of all time, Lee—who passed away on November 12 at the age of 95—became just as mythical and larger-than-life as the characters in the panels. In 2015, around the time of Marvel’s 75th anniversary, Lee had the idea to reflect on his own life, as he said, “in the one form it has never been depicted, as a comic book … or if you prefer, a graphic memoir.”

The result, published by the Touchstone imprint of Simon & Schuster in 2015, was Amazing Fantastic Incredible: A Marvelous Memoir—which was written by Lee with Peter David and features artwork by cartoonist and illustrator Colleen Doran. Here are 10 things we learned about Lee.

1. HIS WIFE WAS ALSO HIS BARBER.

As a bit of a throwaway fact, Stanley Martin Lieber (Stan Lee) revealed the secret of his slicked back mane on the second page of his memoir. “My whole adult life, I’ve never been to a barber,” he wrote. “Joanie always cuts my hair.”

2. HIS CONFIDENCE CAME FROM HIS MOTHER.

Lee wrote that as a child he loved to read books by Mark Twain, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, and others, and his mother often watched him read: “I probably got my self-confidence from the fact that my mother thought everything I did was brilliant.”

3. YOUNG STAN LEE WROTE OBITUARIES.

Before writing about the fantastic lives of fictional characters, Lee wrote antemortem obituaries for celebrities at an undisclosed news office in New York. He said that he eventually quit that job because it was too “depressing.”

4. CAPTAIN AMERICA WAS HIS FIRST BIG BREAK.

A week into his job at Timely Comics, Lee got the opportunity to write a two-page Captain America comic. He wrote it under the pen name Stan Lee (which became his legal name) and titled it "Captain America Foils the Traitor’s Revenge." His first full comic script would come in Captain America Issue 5, published August 1, 1941.

5. HE WROTE TRAINING FILMS FOR THE ARMY WITH DR. SEUSS.

After being transferred from the army’s Signal Corps in New Jersey, Lee worked as a playwright in the Training Film Division in Queens with eight other men, including a few who went on to be very famous: Pulitzer Prize-winning author William Saroyan, cartoonist Charles Addams (creator of The Addams Family), director Frank Capra (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington [1939] and It’s a Wonderful Life [1946]) and Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss.

6. HE DEFIED THE COMICS CODE AUTHORITY WITH AN ANTI-DRUG COMIC.

In 1971, Lee received a letter from the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare asking him to put an anti-drug message in one of his books. He came up with a Spider-Man story that involved his best friend Harry abusing pills because of a break-up. The CCA would not approve the story with their seal because of the mention of drugs, but Lee convinced his publisher, Martin Goodman, to run the comic anyway.

7. AN ISSUE AT THE PRINTERS TURNED THE HULK GREEN.

The character was supposed to be gray, but according to Lee, the printer had a hard time keeping the color consistent. “So as of issue #2,” Lee wrote, “with no explanation, he turned green.”

8. HIS WIFE DESTROYED HIS PRIZED TYPEWRITER.

According to Lee, during an argument, Joanie destroyed the typewriter he used to write the first issues for characters including Spider-Man and The Fantastic Four. “This happened before eBay," he wrote. "Too bad. I could’ve auctioned the parts and made a mint.”

9. A FIRE DESTROYED HIS INTERVIEWS AND LECTURES.

When Lee moved his family to Los Angeles, he set up a studio in Van Nuys where he stored videotapes of his talks and interviews, along with a commissioned bust of his wife. The building was lost to a blaze that the fire department believed was arson, but no one was ever charged with the crime.

10. HIS FAVORITE MARVEL FILM CAMEO WAS BASED ON ONE FROM THE COMICS.

Beginning with the first Spider-Man film in 2002, Stan Lee has made quick cameos in Marvel films as a service to the fans. He said that his appearance in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007) was inspired by the story of Reed and Sue Richards’ wedding in Fantastic Four Annual Volume 1 #3, in which he and artist/writer Jack Kirby attempt to crash the ceremony but are thwarted.

A version of this story ran in 2015.

JK Rowling Reveals the Sweet Reason Why She Wrote Fantastic Beasts

Angela Weiss, AFP/Getty Images
Angela Weiss, AFP/Getty Images

With the release of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald just a week away, ​JK Rowling is reflecting on her time writing the book that inspired the first film, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and why she decided to expand on the Wizarding World she had created with the Harry Potter series.

While on the red carpet for the premiere of ​The Crimes of Grindelwald in Paris last week, Rowling spoke about how appreciative she is of the Harry Potter fandom that allows her to keep writing books and films. She also revealed the reason why she wanted to continue past the original series and write these movies: Potterheads!

"This fandom is the most remarkable in the world, for me, obviously," Rowling said. "Their loyalty and their passion for these stories really is the reason that I went back, because, without that, I don’t think I would have written these movies."

So there you have it, Potterheads: you really have yourselves to thank for the ​Potter universe's continued expansion. Keep it up and maybe Rowling will keep giving us more. In the meantime, Fantastic Beasts 2 hits theaters on November 16.

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