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Guy Livingston; was theatrical press agent for celebrities; 92

A lot of kids dream about running away to join the circus. Guy Livingston did it.

"He joined May Worth's Circus of Australia when he was 18," Al Livingston of Brighton said of his father, who died Wednesday in Boston at the age of 92.

But Mr. Livingston did not become a trapeze artist or a high wire walker. He became a press agent and newsman who operated in the blurry border between show business and journalism.

"He was one of the early theatrical press agents, when they were respected and honored," Boston-based publicity consultant Nance Movsesian said yesterday. "He was a colorful character and always had a lot of stories to tell."

For 30 years, Mr. Livingston was a part-time theater critic for Variety, reviewing Broadway shows during their out of town tryouts in Boston.

"He was quoted in Walter Winchell's column all the time," said his son.

Mr. Livingston operated out of a third-floor office decorated with autographed photographs of Ray Charles, Judy Garland, and other clients, in the Little Building near the Hotel Touraine.

You never knew who might drop by.

"I once walked in and Jimmy Durante was in there," his son said. "Barbra Streisand's mother hung around there when she was in town."

Don Rickles was a regular, too. "He gave my father a steak knife set," said his son.

"Though celebrities could be difficult at times -- Danny Kaye, another client, was notorious -- he got along with everybody," said his son.

When Mr. Livingston wasn't working the phones at the office, he was making the rounds of the newspapers speaking to reporters, dropping off press releases or chatting up the latest exploits of his latest clients.

Mr. Livingston was born in Tilton, N.H., and grew up in Derry, N.H., where his father, a Russian immigrant, owned a shoe store. But the shoe business was not for Mr. Livingston. After his stint with the circus -- writing press releases and other public relations work -- he wrote for several newspapers including the Manchester (N.H.) Union leader and the Worcester Telegram.

Among the celebrities he interviewed during the 1930s was Robert Goddard, the Worcester rocket scientist. Goddard told him that one day, man would walk on the moon.

"He thought he was nuts," the son said of his father's opinion of Goddard.

During World War II, Mr. Livingston was an official with the Office of War Information and other government groups.

Like many theater aficionados, Mr. Livingston lived for opening night, when he donned his tuxedo and rubbed shoulders with the local glitterati.

"He was invited to everything," said his son. "He got more invitations than the president."

Mr. Livingston arranged many publicity stunts. He had airplanes fly over Boston dragging signs advertising "No No Nanette" with Carol Channing, the last show he publicized.

He once held a press conference for The Three Stooges at the Ritz Carlton Hotel. One of the Stooges grabbed Mr. Livingston by the tie and flashbulbs popped. The photograph was published the following day, making Mr. Livingston the stooge of a Stooge in his publicity campaign.

Besides his son, he leaves a daughter, Susan Emre of Lexington; five grandchildren; and 11 great-grandchildren.

A graveside service will be held today at 11 a.m. in B'nai B'rith Cemetery in Worcester.

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