Lee Goldsmith, 92, sat in front of a full auditorium at East Ridge at Cutler Bay on Saturday and told the story of how he started his career in the comic book industry.
The East Ridge staff put together the event to honor Goldsmith — who lives at the retirement home — for his accomplishments.
“He is one of the few remaining writers in this country that breathed the first gust of air into the fantasy life of some of the most amazing superheroes that we’ve ever known, and we’ll ever know,” said Rick Drew, who works at East Ridge, as he gave the introduction speech at the event. ”Superheroes lived between the covers of inexpensive paper in comic books. Writers like our guest of honor had to be a superhero himself to write about them.”
Goldsmith is a former writer for DC Comics and lyricist for Broadway musicals. He is known as the force behind stories of fictional characters such as the Green Lantern, The Flash and Wonder Woman, which is his favorite. He was also one of the journalists behind Girls’ Love Stories, a line of comics that was very popular with teenagers and young women until the 1970s. Goldsmith also helped write War Stories and The Westerns comics.
“I never thought of it [as something special] when I did it,” said Goldsmith, on his talent for writing comics.
With the rising popularity of comic books throughout the 1940s, Goldsmith earned $200 per week writing two scripts weekly. After 30 years, the comic book industry moved to Los Angeles. Goldsmith decided to stay in his hometown, New York City.
He left comics aside and shifted towards an art he describes as his true love: musical theater.
“Warner Bros., the movie studio in California, bought the comic books and they moved everything to California. We were all invited to go out to California and work there, but I did not want to leave New York,” Goldsmith said. “So I turned that down and gave up the comics, and I have not regretted a moment ever since.”
Goldsmith wrote lyrics for musicals including Abe, The Lincoln Musical; Chaplin, a story about the life of film star Charlie Chaplin; and the Broadway show Sextet starring Dixie Carter.
Musical theater was one of the pillars that bonded Goldsmith and his partner, Jeff Haller, when they met in 1997.
“We met at the opera one day, at the restaurant next door to the opera house, Miami Dade County Auditorium, and we knew within like three seconds of meeting each other that this was it,” said Haller, 57. “Lee is a diva and this is what a diva wants. A diva wants all the attention, and look at him up there. He’s 92 going on 19.”
The event at East Ridge paid full homage to comic book characters, and especially to Goldsmith.
East Ridge residents and other neighbors were invited to celebrate him, and to remember the impact of comic book characters. Some wore costumes. Others had posters. All ages attended, from children to seniors.
After Goldsmith’s speech, visitors and fans stood in line for autographs and pictures.
Cotton candy, ice cones, face painting, hotdogs, burgers, a cookie buffet and countless beverages were also offered at the party. There were also raffles and a costume contest, where those who wore superhero costumes had a chance to win prizes.
“It’s lovely, but I keep thinking I’m faking it,” said Goldsmith, laughing. “I haven’t read a comic book in 45 years.”
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