Bob Holiday, Broadway's First Superman
Bob Holiday's Publicity Portfolio

The SPANISH Interview
Javier Olivares Tolosa

How a Bilingual Interviewer Brought Bob into the World of Spanish-speaking Superman Fans

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In 2012, Superman fan and blogger Javier Olivares Tolosa contacted me to arrange an interview with Bob Holiday. Javier's request was unique, because his Superman tributes are all done in Spanish. We discussed the best way to approach this, since Bob spoke no Spanish and mine was incredibly rusty. In the end, Javier submitted his questions in English, Bob answered in English, and Javier translated everything into Spanish upon publication. (Unfortunately, the online, Spanish version of the interview no longer exists.)

When Bob passed away in 2017, Javier wrote to offer his condolences. He also posted a tribute, reproduced here (click image for original) with a bit of translation back to English.

Interview with Javier Olivares Tolosa
English Version

Hi, Bob. First of all, thank you for sharing a little of your time with us.
       Javier, it’s an honor to talk to you. It’s great to learn that you’re in touch with so many Superman fans.

Maybe most of our readers don't know exactly what "It's a Bird It's a Plane It's Superman©" was about. Why don't you explain it yourself to put them in the picture?
      Here in the States, our biggest theater productions take place on Broadway in New York City. In 1966, composer Charles Strouse and lyricist Lee Adams wrote a musical about Superman. The script was written by David Newman and Robert Benton who eventually wrote the script for Superman: The Movie. They teamed up with Hal Prince, who has become a huge Broadway producer, and Broadway star Jack Cassidy to stage "It's a Bird It's a Plane It's Superman©".

What was the plot of the play?
      The show opened with Superman stopping a bank robbery. He starts singing, “Every man has a job to do, and my job is doing good.” The song talks the pride Superman takes in ridding the world of crime. There was great staging, with Clark Kent’s clothes flying down to me and a phone booth following me around the stage while I changed from Superman into Clark Kent, singing “Every night when the job is through, I fold my tights proud to know I’ve done all I could.” You can hear this song in English on my web site.
      The play continues with the usual Lois Lane/Clark Kent/Superman love triangle, but it had some unique plot twists, too. There’s a reporter [Jack Cassidy's Max Mencken] who falls in love with Lois and teams up with a mad scientist who wants to destroy Superman to take his revenge on the world. This scientist actually convinces Superman that he is worthless, and Superman basically loses his powers because he is psychologically destroyed. In the end, of course, Superman saves the day and rescues Lois. The reporter, by the way, becomes Superman’s biggest cheerleader.

Please, tell us how did you achieve the role of Superman/Clark Kent?
      I’d been involved with musical theater for a long time. My first role on Broadway was in Hal Prince’s show Fiorello! I played an idealistic young lawyer who sang things like, “All these people look to us for justice” and “We’re incorruptible, battling with evil, fighting till we drop,” and “Scoundrels, beware!” So I guess I had already shown I could play the type. And when they published the physical requirements for Superman (6 foot 4, 190 pounds, black hair, blue eyes) I fit the description perfectly. About 50 other guys auditioned, but I kept getting called back. I read the Jules Fieffer book The Great Comic Book Heroes and just kept believing in Superman. Over and over, I kept trying my best and finally it was down to one other guy and me. They let him go home and told me I had the part. I was determined to do right by Superman and live up to the part.

How did you feel when you saw yourself in the Superman suit for the first time?
      I felt great. I still remember that feeling from almost 50 years ago. I was only 31 at the time, but that excitement has never gone away.

How did you prepare to play such an iconic and physical role as the Man of Steel?
      I started working out even before I got the role. I wanted to look good during those auditions! And I made sure I was eating a good diet, drinking protein drinks and other healthy stuff.

We all know there are parts in the play where Superman used his powers. How did you do it on the stage? Things like flying, for example.
      The producers did a great job with those special effects. At one point, Superman crouches down and then lifts a whole platform full of people. Backstage there was a forklift raising the platform, but it looked like it was Superman doing all the work. We had props designed for me to bend and break. But, of course, the greatest achievement was flying. They hired the Peter Pan folks to make Superman fly. Of course, at 6 foot 4 and 190 pounds, it was a little tougher to make me fly than tiny little Peter Pan. I wore a leather harness and was attached to a wire. Backstage, a big burly guy would be attached to the other end of that wire. When it was time for Superman to fly, that guy would jump off a platform and another guy would swing him forward. That made me rise up in the air and move in the other direction.
      Keep in mind, when Superman flies in the movies, they can film it as many times as they like. On the Broadway stage we had to get it exactly right every time—for 129 performances! We only had a couple of mishaps. One time the stagehand lost control of the wire and it went swinging out into the middle of the stage—without me! I walked onto the stage, grabbed the wire, turned to the audience and said, “Excuse me.” They loved it, absolutely loved it. One other time, the wooden shackle that attached me to the wire broke. I fell about six feet down onto the stage. Man, I was glad to be in such great shape. I leaped up and said, “That would have hurt any mortal man!” The audience cheered and gave me a standing ovation.

Were you a Superman fan before being Superman in the theater?
      Yes! I loved him! My mother was sure I’d get the part because I was such a big Superman fan. I read the comics as a kid, and I watched all of the Kirk Alyn serials. I’d watched some of the George Reeves TV shows, but I was usually working when they aired. I went back to watch as many of those as I could once I was cast as Superman.

What about your relationship with the rest of the cast, like Patricia Marand (Lois Lane) or Jack Cassidy (Max Mencken)?
      Oh, we all got along great. Patricia Marand and I became very, very good friends. There was no romance, but we really became the best of friends. Forty-one years later, we saw each other at a revival of the play in New York. It was like no time had passed at all, we were still great friends. We kept in touch after that, especially when she was diagnosed with cancer. She passed away only two years later, and her husband called me immediately to let me know.
      I had great respect for Jack Cassidy. We had a good time together, always trying to upstage each other. When Jack would have a scene at the Daily Planet, the director told me, as Clark Kent, to sit at my desk with milk and cookies and steal the scene back from him. And he got me pretty good, too. During the curtain call one night, Jack held up a white envelope and said, “Hey, Supes, would you mail this for me” as I flew past him. Believe it or not, I was actually able to grab that envelope!
      And Michael O’Sullivan, who played the evil Dr. Sedgwick, was a fun guy. He was great actor, really wild, with a lot of schtick. He brought that mad scientist to life, and you really felt how he wanted to take revenge on the world by destroying the great symbol of goodness, Superman. He could hoot and sing, be crazy and mad, all at the same time. What a guy.
      The other two principals in the cast, Linda Lavin and Don Chastain, were also terrific. We really had one of the best casts ever.

What aspects of your portrayal did you enjoy most in the play?
      I loved being Superman. I got to open and close the play with great songs, best the bad guys, and be comforted by Lois Lane. Things don’t get much better than that. We had a terrific fight scene at the end, with lots of theatrical acrobatics. We had special effects, flying, everything was, well, super. And I loved meeting kids after the show. All in all, my time as Superman was marvelous.

What were the differences between your Superman/Clark Kent and the previous one, played by George Reeves for the TV show?
      Well, I was only the third live-action Superman, so there was a lot more flexibility in how you portrayed Superman than there would be today. I guess the biggest difference was that I sang; George Reeves didn’t. His show was serious, mine had a lighthearted feel. I think that both of us took the role of Superman seriously. Neither of us ever made fun of Superman or played him in a campy way. We both played Superman with respect. But our Clark Kents were very different. Reeves’s Clark Kent was strong; he was a serious investigative reporter. My Clark Kent was bumbling and milquetoast; he was only a shipping reporter at the Daily Planet. Discovering Superman’s secret identity was a pivotal part of the play, so I had to play Clark Kent and Superman as very different characters. No one on stage could suspect that they were the same person.
      The other big difference between was that we were playing in front of a live audience. That’s really different from television. I always had a little secret between me and the audience: We all know that Clark Kent is Superman, but no one on the stage does. There’s a lot of fun secretly communicating with the audience that way. It was fun.

It’s said that you stayed a lot of time after the plays to sign autographs, especially to the kids. How did you feel about it? Were you an idol to the kids of your time?
      Absolutely! No question about it, the best part of being Superman was meeting kids after the show. I would sign autographs and give advice to them. What’s even better is that I still hear from some of these kids today, four decades later. It means so much to me. One of those fans, Toni Collins, even runs my web site for me now.

Despite the play being a success in critic and public, it was cancelled after 129 performances. How was that possible??
      Well, it sure was a disappointment. You know, I still listen to the album and think about it. We had been really happy with the reviews we got. We were sure that we had a hit on our hands. But over that summer, our audiences kept getting smaller and smaller. There were a lot of great Broadway shows going on at the same time as our show, and the Batman TV show was really popular. One of my friends today tells me that he keeps kicking himself for not coming to see the show when he was a kid. He lived only 45 minutes from the theater. He tells me that he thought our show would be just like the Batman TV show, so he didn’t need to come see ours. I guess a lot of folks might have felt that way.

Did you ever think to do the audition for the Superman role in Superman: The Movie? It’s said that all the actors wanted that role, and you already had the experience.
      No, I was too old by then. And about that time I was moving into Real Estate. I started my own company, Bob Holiday Custom Homes, and had a successful 30-year career as a home builder.

Unfortunately, it seems that there are not recorded video copies of the full "It's a Bird It's a Plane It's Superman©" play that you starred, which is frustrating for the people of my generation because we’re not able to see your Man of Steel portrayal. But, do you have some souvenirs of that time? I mean some atrezzo, or even a Superman suit in your wardrobe (he, he, he)?
      Well, I don’t have a Superman suit in my closet, but I do have a Superman BBQ apron hanging on my wall. A fan made the apron for me when she read that Broadway wouldn’t let me keep my Superman costume. Broadway has some pretty strict rules about archiving everything for historical purposes. I wasn’t able to keep anything that was actually in the show. Mostly I have albums full of photos and lots of memories. Your readers might be interested to know that there are a few videos of me as Superman on my web site,

How was the life of the first Broadway Superman after that experience? What more things have you done since then?
      The very next year, 1967, two different municipal opera companies in Missouri revived the show, and I was cast as Superman in both those productions. I then went to Hollywood where I was briefly cast as the dad in The Brady Bunch. I was pretty disappointed when the studio decided to override the producer and gave the role to someone else. But I continued on in musical theater, touring in Promises, Promises. Eventually I decided that I wanted to settle down in one place. As I mentioned, I started my own company, building houses here in Pennsylvania. I’ve been a lucky man, with two different, terrific careers. I just retired in 2009, and I’m enjoying the beautiful area I live in. Life is good, and I’m happy.

Do you believe in the “Superman curse”? Have you been somehow affected by it?
      No, my life has been great. Being Superman has always been a good thing in my life. I’m still here, I’m happy, and you know what? I’m going to be 80 years old next week, and I still have brown hair. As far as I’m concerned, there is no such thing as a Superman curse.

Well, Bob, we’re ending, and now I’d like you to tell me in a few words what does Superman mean to you.
      It’s me! I love everything that Superman stands for: Being an inspiration, the goodness, doing the right thing. I’ve always said that it was an honor to play Superman, and those are the reasons why.

What do you think about the other versions of Superman in TV-shows, movies…? And about the other actors who have played the role?
      I don’t think that there’s ever been a bad actor cast as Superman. I especially admire Christopher Reeve and the courage he showed with all his hardships. And I’ve enjoyed the Superman shows that have been produced over the years. In fact, I’m really looking forward to the new movie coming out this summer.

Just to finish, can you send your regards to all the Spanish-speaking Superman fans?
      Buenos dias para todos!

Thank you very much, it was an honor to meet you.
      Thank you for your interest. It was a pleasure to talk with you. And it’s an honor to know that you and your readers are interested in my time as Superman.

Text © 2012, 2023 Javier Olivares Tolosa, Bob Holiday, and Toni Collins
Photos courtesy the Estate of Bob Holiday and personal collection of Toni Collins
SUPERMAN and all related elements are the property of DC Comics. TM & © 2022
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