Michael Goldstein, Publicist Who Started SoHo Weekly News, Dies at 79
Posted May 25, 2018 5:35 p.m. EDT
Michael Goldstein, a music publicist who made a fortune turning vinyl records into gold before starting The SoHo Weekly News, a spirited newspaper that over a nine-year run was bent on silencing its rival The Village Voice, died on May 19 at his home in Manhattan. He was 79.
His daughter Jocelyn Goldstein said the cause was pancreatic cancer.
Born outside Cleveland, Michael Goldstein studied opera at Boston University before moving to New York in 1959 and landing a series of public relations jobs, none bigger than one in which he was tasked to get news media coverage of the 1964-65 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens.
“I got more press for the World’s Fair than Robert Moses,” Goldstein said with a chuckle, referring to the power behind the fair. “He didn’t like that very much.”
With a love for rock ′n’ roll and a simple desire “to meet girls,” Goldstein soon went into business for himself, sharing office space in midtown Manhattan with syndicated gossip columnist Earl Wilson.
He eventually represented a long roster of marquee clients that included Jimi Hendrix, Sly and the Family Stone, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead. He boasted that he represented 10 different acts at the Woodstock festival in 1969, and that across the years 17 of his clients were voted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
“The key essence to being in public relations in those days was to be as close as you could to the tip and the sharpest point of the knife, and that’s where I was,” Goldstein said in an interview with The New York Times two weeks before his death. “I was associated with all the top talent in the music world that came through New York.”
But by the early 1970s, Goldstein said, he “was completely burned out by the business.”
“I helped so many musicians with the promotion of their concerts and was instrumental in making so many of their albums go gold,” he said. “But the job basically became a 24-hour-a-day operation, and in the end I came to find out that with most rock ′n’ roll artists, the word ‘friendship’ is a meaningless thing.”
Goldstein was soon driving his 1951 Rolls-Royce around the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan, wondering where he might turn next.
“All of a sudden,” he said, “I begin noticing all of these little pieces of paper in the area — tiny advertisements for different things posted everywhere.”
Staring at what he saw as potentially money-making classified ads, he got the idea to start his own newspaper, and he did just that in 1973, creating The SoHo Weekly News, initially setting up shop in his Broome Street apartment before moving to loft space in SoHo. (“Thank you for picking up our first issue,” Goldstein wrote on Oct. 11, 1973. “We are planning to report what’s going on down here honestly and fairly.”)
“At a time when The Village Voice seemed to have a monopoly on coverage of Downtown news and arts, Michael offered an alternative,” Peter Occhiogrosso, music editor and associate editor at The SoHo Weekly News from 1975 to 1982, said in a telephone interview. “Maybe because of his background in the rock ′n’ roll world, Michael was especially attuned to the developing music and associated night life scene south of 14th Street, but especially in the semi-industrial zone between Houston Street and the business district.”
Goldstein was also attuned to “taking out The Village Voice,” as he put it, as the papers became fierce rivals.
“When I started The SoHo Weekly News,” he said, “I had to explain an entire neighborhood in New York to a lot of advertisers so that I could get enough money to publish comfortably.”
When Macy’s and Atlantic Records came aboard, the newspaper took off. “Within a year or two we were really pushing The Voice,” he said. “We had grown from eight pages to over 100 pages.”
Goldstein said that in the ensuing years he “had not done a good enough job bringing in the amount of classified ads needed to keep the paper running.”
“What we needed to knock out The Village Voice was a great classified, and we simply didn’t have one,” he said.
The SoHo Weekly News ceased publishing in 1982, just nine years after it was founded. (The Voice ended its print publication last summer but continues to operate online.) Though The Voice emerged victorious in the struggle with the SoHo paper, Goldstein’s entrepreneurial spirit was still alive.
He tried starting another newspaper, The Wall Street Final, which quickly folded. But throughout the 1980s and ′90s, he found great success investing in a variety of consumer items and then selling them at a profit on the Home Shopping Network. In one instance he bought about 8,000 automobile covers for $3 apiece from racing driver Mario Andretti and then sold them for $8 apiece.
Goldstein said he had sold everything from T-shirts to automobiles.
For a time in the 1980s he was a reporter for CBS News and also played one briefly in Woody Allen’s 1980 film, “Stardust Memories.”
In the years he was running The SoHo Weekly News, “Michael was a real character,” said Carol Klenfner, who worked with Goldstein in public relations and later at the newspaper. “He’s one of the city’s originals, for sure.”
Goldstein was born on June 7, 1938, in Shaker Heights, Ohio, one of three sons of Saul and Dorothy Goldstein.
Besides his daughter Jocelyn, he is survived by his wife, Nancy (Arnold) Goldstein; two other daughters, Marissa and Gillian Goldstein; a granddaughter, Roxanne; and two brothers, Gerald and Dr. J. Richard Goldstein. One of his many interests as a New Yorker was an abundant rooftop garden he kept for years at 450 Broome St., where he moved in 1972 and lived for the rest of his life. (The Times featured it in article about rooftop gardens in 2011.)
Singer and producer Lenny Kravitz used to live in the building one floor below Goldstein’s ninth-floor apartment, and the two became friends. Kravitz liked to hold his news media interviews on the roof sitting under Goldstein’s peach trees.