Friday, November 21, 2014

Spencer D. Bettelheim -- Not Having a Wonderful Time

Lyceum Theatre
"Spence," as he was widely known among theatre folk, was the treasurer of Sam H. Harris Productions, the lessee of the Lyceum Theatre, and president of the Lyco Realty Corporation, whose offices were located on the second floor above the Lyceum at 149 W. Forty-fifth Street in New York City.  The Lyceum's production of Having a Wonderful Time had concluded on November 5, 1937, when Bettelheim's nephew found his uncle's body on the floor of the theatre man's office.  A .38-caliber revolver still clutched in his right hand, Bettelheim, 43, had evidently fired two practice rounds into the floor before firing a bullet into his right temple.  A decorated veteran of World War I, Bettelheim was gassed during the conflict and still suffered from a pulmonary infection.  Weeks prior to his death, he intimated to friends that the agonizing pains around his heart had become nearly unbearable.  In the absence of a suicide note, death was attributed to ill health combined with a heavy tax penalty levied against him by the IRS for accepting gratuities from ticket agencies.  Accorded a military funeral with full honors, the Bettelheim burial cortege was routed past the Lyceum Theatre out of respect for his memory.

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