BroadwayWorld reports writer, producer, and illustrator William F. Brown passed away on Sunday, June 23. He was 91. Brown was best known for writing the text for 1974’s The Wiz, the musical take on The Wizard of Oz composed by Charlie Smalls (among others), but he was also a cartoonist, collaborating with Mel Casson on the syndicated ’70s strip “Boomers.”
Brown was born in Jersey City on April 16, 1928. He attended Princeton University, where he was chairman of the undergraduate humor magazine The Tiger. leading to his first book, 1950’s Tiger, Tiger! Princeton in Caricature. After a stint at LOOK magazine and the US Army, he began working as a producer in television advertising, as well as a freelance author, illustrator, cartoonist and writer. He scripted material for the likes of Ed Sullivan, Dean Martin, Jackie Gleason, Johnny Carson, Joan Rivers, and many more, and contributed comedy sketches and lyrics for cabaret producer Julius Monk’s revues in Manhattan and Chicago throughout the 1950s and ’60s. His first Broadway play, The Girl in the Freudian Slip, opened in 1967.
His various cartoons focusing on the generational divide were collected in 1959’s Beat, Beat, Beat, which, as its name suggested, was “a hip collection of cool cartoons about life and love among the beatniks.” He also illustrated books for other authors. In 1972, Brown and Casson began the comic strip “Mixed Singles,” about a group of young, single people sharing an apartment together. The comic was eventually renamed “Boomer” after the breakout character, and lasted until 1981. Brown and Casson worked together on two other projects, “Face the Music” and “Warp Wilson,” neither of which gained syndication.
Brown died at his home in Westport, Connecticut. He is survived by his wife and longtime collaborator, Tina Tippit. They had eight grandchildren.