Marvin Klapper, who retired in 1992 after a 45-year career with Fairchild Publications and WWD, died Sunday at the age of 91.
His daughter, Sherry, said Klapper succumbed to a multitude of ailments at Grandelle Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Long Beach, N.Y.
Klapper was a fixture in the WWD newsroom, a mentor to many young reporters, liked by all and affectionately called “The Great One” by some for his vivacious and amiable personality, his booming voice and his resemblance to Jackie Gleason, with whom he shared the nickname.
When he retired, Klapper was an associate editor and senior textile editor for WWD.
Born in New York City on Sept. 5, 1922, Klapper served with the U.S. Army artillery in World War II before graduating from New York University with a bachelor of science degree in biology in 1946. He started at Fairchild on Jan. 2, 1947, as a member of the research department. He moved to the editorial staff in 1951 as a reporter and a year later found his true calling when he moved to the textile department.
In 1996, Klapper was named editor of HFD, or Home Furnishings Daily, guiding that newspaper until he returned to WWD three years later to direct coverage of the textile industry. Klapper embraced this position with grace and aplomb, and his writing was prolific and informative. Klapper wrote “Fabric Almanac,” a glossary of the industry’s language and a guide to its intricacies, and several other industry books.
“As an editor, Marvin was among Fairchild’s best,” said Edward Nardoza, editor in chief of WWD. “Aside from his journalistic talents, his colleagues loved him. We remember his wonderfully boisterous personality and those famous Klapper business lunches — typically at Nicola Paone — of multiple courses and wide-ranging conversation, always incorporating some kind of fish story. His natural warmth and gravelly wit managed to take the tension right out of any pressured situation, inside or outside the newsroom.
“In addition to his insightful coverage of the tug-of-war between free trade and protectionism, or the high-stakes battle between man-made and natural fibers, Marvin’s instincts were uncanny. In fact, he was the first to seize upon the technological revolution that transformed not only the global supply chain but the entire industry,” added Nardoza.
Mort Sheinman, retired managing editor of WWD and a longtime colleague of Klapper’s, said, “Marvin Klapper was one of the main reasons I loved working at WWD. When I joined the paper in 1960, he was a one-man welcoming committee, a mentor to me and to many others who came after, and one of the great storytellers, an ebullient, joyous man who made everyone smile. I always looked forward to having lunch with him, and he always looked forward to having lunch.
“He knew the textile industry as few people did, he reported what he knew, and he didn’t worry about stubbing the toes of major advertisers as long as he got the story right. He once covered a luncheon where some big-shot textile executive made a speech railing against imports and saying how important it was to buy American. Everyone at the lunch got some cheap little tchotchke as a souvenir. Marvin looked at it closely and realized it was made in Japan, a fact that did not go unreported in his article.”
Klapper built a reputation in the industry for his wide expertise and large personality. He could often be heard across the newsroom as he discussed intricate textile issues with sources, or listened to their jokes.
“Marvin epitomized the industry during that era, which was all about interpersonal relationships and understanding and communicating the complexities that were going on,” said Nicholas Hahn, who now runs his own consulting company but knew Klapper as president and chief executive officer of Cotton Incorporated. “When you had a question or had an opinion that needed to be expressed, you called Marvin. He had a great sense of humor and could present complex issues in a light-hearted but meaningful way. He was a great guy and an institution for so many years at WWD.”
Bruce Roberts, former president of the Textile Distributors Association, said, “Marvin was a real people person. He was a guy you could trust — when you told him something was off the record, you knew that would be honored. He really knew the industry so well. He was also one of the great lunch people of all time.”
When he retired, Klapper said, “I am leaving the world of fashion for the world of fish.” He owned an 18-foot Sea Ox that was berthed in Freeport, N.Y., on Long Island, near his home. The name of the boat was Marvelous Marv.
After he retired, Klapper was the guiding spirit behind a memoir entitled “Fashion, Retailing and a Bygone Era: Inside WWD,” published in 2005 by Beard Books. It was a look back by Klapper and six other former editors: Isadore Barmash, Ed Gold, Sandy Parker, Sid Rutberg, Sheinman and Stanley Siegelman.
In addition to his daughter, Klapper is survived by a sister, Bertine Fields. He was predeceased by his wife, Blanche, who died in 2002. The family said a private, graveside service will be held on Tuesday.
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