Stage & screen icon Neil Simon dead at age 91

Fists raising (as dark silhouettes) over a rainbow LGBT flag. Symbols of protests and pride.
Photo: Shutterstock

Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Neil Simon, beloved by the LGBTQ community for hits like The Odd CoupleSweet Charity, Biloxi Blues, and Barefoot in the Park died today at the age of 91.

Simon had suffered with complications from pneumonia and was surrounded by close family as he laid dying at New York Presbyterian Hospital in New York. The news of his death was confirmed by his longtime friend Bill Evans, director of media relations for the Shubert Organization.

In a stroke of irony, actor Tony Randall, who played The Odd Couple‘s ambiguously gay character of Felix Unger, also died of pneumonia and complications of heart surgery in 2004 New York at the age of 84. The ABC series ran from 1970 through 1975.

Dubbed the “American people’s playwright” for many years, Simon wrote the scripts that made every day people feel a little less neurotic.

He once said, “When its 100 degrees in New York, it’s 72 in Los Angeles. When its 30 degrees in New York, in Los Angeles it’s still 72. However, there are 6 million interesting people in New York, and only 72 in Los Angeles.”

Audiences could see themselves reflected on television screens and in theatres with productions of The Sunshine Boys, They’re Playing Our Song and Promises, Promises.

Simon once said, “For a man who wants to be his own master, to depend on no one else, to make life conform to his own visions rather than to follow the blueprints of others, playwriting is the perfect occupation.”

Indeed it was the perfect occupation for Simon. He won a Golden Globe for The Goodbye Girl in 1978 and a Pulitzer Prize in 1991 for the coming-of-age tale Lost in Yonkers. He was nominated for 17 Tonys, winning three of them, in addition to four Academy Award nominations.

Simon leaves behind a wife, Elaine Joyce, and three children.

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