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Hollywood Journalist & Writer Was 74 – Deadline

Longtime Deadline reporter Dave Robb has handed away at age 74. Thought-about the dean of the Hollywood labor beat, Robb was not too long ago recognized with inoperable most cancers of the mind stem.

This prognosis got here final month. Robb skilled what was initially recognized as a small stroke. He and spouse Kelly discovered in follow-up visits that it was way more critical. He entered into hospice care simply earlier than Thanksgiving, and died peacefully at Los Angeles dwelling late Friday night time, his spouse by his facet.

I at all times referred to as Dave Deadline’s cage fighter as a result of if there was a improper to be righted, he was the primary man within the ring. Alongside along with his unparalleled data of the Hollywood labor sport honed from 45 years writing about it from Los Angeles, Dave would typically shock us with investigative tales on myriad matters that we discovered about solely when he turned them in.

The themes ranged from rooting out convicted pedophiles who resided in a house that was generally used to accommodate baby actors on the town on productions, to his last bylined piece about an NRA-funded authorities program that teaches kids to shoot weapons, whilst our bodies pile up every year from mass shootings typically perpetrated by younger folks with emotional issues. These items had a standard theme: rooting out wrongdoing. Dave saved our attorneys busy, however I imagine we printed each a kind of that he investigated and filed.

An iconic reporter on Hollywood labor points, Dave’s digging in these different areas led to probably the most memorable work of his 45 yr profession. Previous to Deadline, Dave served 5 stints at The Hollywood Reporter – every interrupted by his resignation when the commerce wouldn’t publish one thing provocative he uncovered. He served a stint at Selection, wrote investigative books, and wrote for the New York Occasions, Related Press, LA Weekly, Los Angeles Every day Information, Spy journal and The Nation.

Dave Robb dead obituary

Dave Robb within the Selection workplaces

Courtesy of Richard Klein

He was an advocate for the under-represented and disenfranchised in Hollywood: African-American and Native American actors, baby actors, stunt performers, ladies. He uncovered Hollywood’s soiled little secret, of not crediting screenwriters for his or her contributions on main motion pictures as a result of they’d been blacklisted in that shameful communist with hunt. Robb helped writers residing and useless get their due on movies that included Lawrence of Arabia.

Even at 74, Dave was aggressive and tenacious. Deadline had a staff of terrific reporters overlaying the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes from boardrooms to picket traces. Initially prideful and protecting of his turf, Dave was additionally changeable. He finally warmed (kinda) to his teammates. Dave received his mini-stroke prognosis after the WGA strike ended and the SAG-AFTRA strike was winding down. I instructed Dave, we received this, and to throttle down and give attention to getting higher. Understanding which may not be sufficient, I instructed him he had a job right here for all times. I by no means imagined that might be so transient.   

Since his prognosis, Dave and I’ve been talking commonly and at size, as a result of he tasked me with writing his obit. I’ve performed these many occasions at Deadline. To work with a staffer, a pal and kindred spirit on his personal obit, that was a brand new one. I’ve struggled with the project for weeks.   

I spent hours with Dave at his dwelling. I used to be unprepared for what I discovered. Dave had sharp edges and a gruff exterior, however that was all gone. He was beaming, the happiest I’d ever seen him. Regardless of such an ominous terminal prognosis, Dave accepted it, and was grateful he felt no ache. He’d thought his chain smoking may be the factor that received him. This was a greater option to go, as a result of it allowed him to replicate on his life, to say correct goodbyes to buddies and people he cherished, to be at piece along with his pretty spouse Kelly. They had been inseparable, and he or she was on Dave’s arm for each Deadline occasion. This publication quietly does lots with fewer staffers than our tenured rival trades, and the important thing to our tradition is the devotion of a workers that can rise to the event as a result of they imagine within the model. No one waved the Deadline flag extra enthusiastically than Dave Robb.

“As unusual as it would sound, these weeks have been a few of the happiest and most significant of my life,” Dave instructed me. “There was no ache, and no worry. I’ve accepted it and I’m at peace. I’m crammed with gratitude on the love pouring in, and out of myself. It has been exceptional.”

He’d knowledgeable Deadline workers, and all of the journalists, publicists and labor officers who commonly took half in a Friday night time poker sport he and others held for 43 years. Dave may play a imply hand of playing cards, and actually his first crack at journalism got here when he was employed whereas on the poker desk. That’s how he began as a duplicate boy for the San Francisco Examiner in 1978. The next yr, he returned to L.A. and received a job as an editorial assistant at THR. The writer Cindy Wilkerson requested him, “What are you seeking to receives a commission?” He stated he wished $200 per week. She stated, “Would you are taking $185?” and he stated, “Certain,” he was quickly writing tales and was placed on the labor beat.

Cheryl Roden, former Officer for the WGA, as soon as stated, “Dave Robb doesn’t care whose ox is getting gored – so long as somebody’s ox is getting gored.”

That may be a standard feeling for anybody who discovered themselves on the enterprise finish of his craft, however it masks the empathy that was the locomotive for his investigative work. Normally, Dave would see issues that appeared improper or shady. He’d examine, and write tales that uncovered and sometimes mounted issues. That makes him a uncommon breed. Reporters like Dave may by no means get wealthy, however wow, they arrive away with nice conflict tales to inform.  

Just like the time Dave puzzled why Lew Wasserman’s MCA Common was the one firm allowed to concurrently rep expertise and run a studio. He used the Freedom of Info Act to push the FBI to fork over recordsdata from an investigation that targeted on Ronald Reagan, the previous SAG president who by then was searching for a second time period within the White Home. Robb puzzled: had there been a quid professional quo between Reagan and Wasserman? It appeared he’d be hard-pressed to show it as a result of when he requested the feds for Reagan’s grand jury testimony, they refused.   

“It was 1984, six months earlier than Reagan was operating for a second time period,” Dave instructed me. “I used to be at Selection, and I despatched away to the FBI for an FOIA for all of the Reagan stuff the FBI had investigated. Bobby Kennedy’s Justice Division had investigated MCA Common and the waiver that they received from SAG that allowed them to be the one firm that may very well be an company and a producer, in a position to rent their very own folks. They investigated this waiver. They suspected Reagan had taken a bribe from Wasserman. So the FBI despatched me the large field of recordsdata and a letter that stated, listed here are the paperwork requested.”

There was a shock in there Robb had not anticipated.

“I opened the field, and someone had slipped in Reagan’s grand jury testimony,” he stated. “Any person there risked their profession to do this, and now I had this federal grand jury testimony all about questioning him and his tax data. It was a treasure trove. I instructed Tom [Pryor, then Variety’s editor], that is what we received. I wrote it up, despite the fact that they’d by no means discovered a bribe. He went to his son, Pete, who was Selection‘s managing editor and Pete stated, ‘Let’s run it…however you bought to name Lew. He’s anticipating your name.’ ”


“I name his secretary, I inform her who I’m and what this was about, that the Justice Division suspected Mr. Wasserman of getting bribed Ronald Reagan. And she or he stated, oh my. So she put the decision proper by way of to Lew Wasserman.”

What was it like, asking probably the most highly effective and feared man in Hollywood if he had bribed the sitting U.S. President whereas Reagan ran SAG?

“He was like a stone,” Robb instructed me, noting it was probably the most troublesome name he’d ever make as a reporter. Robb’s story concerning the authorities’s investigation of MCA Common and Reagan was an enormous scoop. There have been many others.

Just like the time screenwriter Paul Jarrico got here to Selection and, instructed Dave was the investigative man, got here to him and stated, “Are you aware who the true author of Lawrence of Arabia was?” This triggered the primary of many tales Robb wrote that exposed the true identities of labor that blacklisted writers did on main motion pictures, and restore credit score. Robb discovered there have been dozens of them who had been determined for cash, and will solely earn it in the event that they wrote anonymously, due to the lingering stigma of being blackballed by Hollywood in the course of the witch hunt for communists.

Michael Wilson, who wrote the preliminary screenplay for Lawrence of Arabia for director David Lean, had by no means obtained credit score due to his refusal to testify about his alleged membership within the Communist Occasion. As a substitute, the British co-writer Robert Bolt obtained full credit score, till 1995, when the WGA declared that Wilson greater than deserved his identify within the credit. Between commerce gigs on the time, Dave broke it on the entrance web page of the New York Occasions, one among a number of tales he wrote for that paper that nudged Hollywood studios to proper a shameful improper.  

For his efforts, the WGA shocked Dave at a 1997 luncheon in Los Angeles he was there to cowl, awarding him a plaque proclaiming that he had “pricked the general public conscience along with his tales of the blacklist years and saved this subject alive.” Dave at all times believed the selection of the phrase “prick” was not coincidental; the writers felt that his potential to be thought to be one was the explanation modifications received made.

The plaque was signed by 24 blacklisted writers and others who had benefited from Dave’s reporting. One of many signers was Jarrico, the author of Salt of the Earth whose profession had been stunted by the blacklisting, and who received Robb began on exposing it. Jarrico was tragically killed, driving dwelling from that lunch. Robb stated, “That was the proudest day of my life and the saddest day of my life.”

Throughout one among his THR stints, Robb investigated THR society columnist George Christy, who wrote glowingly about Hollywood scene setters, and, rumor had it, would take bogus performing credit from them that certified him for SAG’s medical health insurance. I used to be at Every day Selection on the time, and when the entire controversy exploded, resulting in the resignations of Dave and the commerce’s terrific editor Anita Busch, I instructed him I didn’t see why this was necessary to stop his job over. In spite of everything, Christy was from one other period of Hollywood, and wrote glowingly about everybody. It made extra sense when he defined it to me.

“A few years earlier, I’d discovered he was doing this,” Robb stated. “I rented a bunch of the flicks that he stated he was in, and he wasn’t in any of them. I referred to as the SAG Pension and Well being and stated, ‘Hey, I discovered this.’ They requested me to carry off just a few months. They filed a federal go well with towards him and I received a pleasant unique, huge story. The Hollywood Reporter was glad we had it first, as a substitute of someone else.”

What creased Robb was that Christy didn’t cease, and Dave’s boss selected to miss it.

“Two years later, he did it once more,” Dave stated. “I completely nailed him. He wasn’t simply writing his columns about folks giving him credit. He had workplaces of their constructing, and from their workplaces, he was praising them. He was doing a lot shit, past taking dwelling swag, and he was doing all this after having already been sued. I wrote that story up, and Bob Dowling wouldn’t publish it. He believed that Christy was form of the outdated guard and that I used to be pushing too arduous. I actually preferred and revered Bob. He would come to me with editorials that he’d write, and I’d go over them with him.”

In hindsight, Robb stated he regretted not being extra versatile concerning the awkward inner scenario.

“Now, I actually do remorse having pushed so arduous,” he stated. “I may have stepped again and stated, the hell with it. However not again in these days. I used to be employed there 5 occasions and left 5 occasions. I used to be cussed. A part of that’s what made me a great reporter, however generally it makes me not such a great particular person.”

We mentioned the issue editors have in selecting the battles their publications will wage, and it isn’t straightforward, however it’s a part of the job. Dave was glad to be one not making these choices. The explanation he, and later Busch, left was as a result of he felt Dowling’s public characterization of the occasions made it appear that Dave was by some means within the improper.

“He stated one thing about me within the papers, that Dave Robb received too near this story and took it personally,” Dave stated. “Anita took offense and stop in protest and so did the movie editor. The factor is, George Christy ought to have been fired after the primary story, however Bob noticed him because the face of the paper. He wrote a society column all people learn. Bob simply guess on the improper horse. What Christy did that first time was a fire-able offense. I believe you’d have fired him.”

Dave stayed in shut contact with Busch as they went the freelance route. He was first on the scene when she endured her personal surreal disaster, discovering a useless fish with a rose in its mouth on her automobile windshield, with a be aware that instructed her, “Cease.” She took it to imply the investigative tales she was writing for the L.A. Occasions on shoppers repped by Anthony Pellicano, together with Steven Seagal and Michael Ovitz. It was actual “Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes” intimidation tactic stuff. Everyone knows about Pellicano and the authorized settlement with Ovitz (who admitted no wrongdoing). What caught with me was that when the worry was that Busch’s automobile might need been wired to blow up, it was Dave who received behind the wheel and began it up.  

“What occurred there was, she referred to as the police and he or she referred to as me and I lived on an Olympic so I received there earlier than the cops did,” he stated. “The police confirmed up they usually checked out it, after which the SWAT staff confirmed up, these huge guys, they usually checked it out. They stated, we don’t assume there’s a bomb right here, however no one wished to drive it up onto the tow truck. And so I stated, I’ll do it. They’d stated they thought there was no bomb, so I figured, what the hell?”

Defending children working in Hollywood was one other candy spot for Dave. For Deadline, he wrote tales about convicted pedophiles dwelling in a lodge the place productions housed children engaged on productions. They had been gone by the point Dave received performed, and I puzzled how he’d unearthed all this. Seems, he’d been overlaying the topic for years.

Guided by IATSE Native 884 enterprise supervisor Linda Stone, Dave’s eager curiosity within the plight of kid actors started with the 1982 accident on the set of Twilight Zone: The Film, by which two younger kids together with actor Vic Morrow had been killed when a helicopter crashed on high of them. Dave’s investigative reporting revealed that the producers deliberately prevented hiring studio lecturers, as required, as a result of they knew a studio instructor would take a dim view of a dangerous scene that changed into a horrific tragedy. Studio lecturers are required on set when actors underneath age 18 are employed, however not simply to face in for schoolteachers. “They’re explicitly tasked with defending their welfare,” Dave stated.

His curiosity in studio lecturers led to him to put in writing tales about studio instructor imposters, unlicensed people who had been passing themselves off as legit in an effort to get employed to oversee and orbit round baby actors. After being outed in a Dave Robb story, one fled to China.

“Hollywood is the one trade in America the place you may really make use of infants and toddlers, so I at all times felt that someone’s received to control this.

“In Hollywood, you may solely rent children who’re 16 days outdated, you may’t rent youthful,” Dave stated. “However what they had been doing is discovering untimely births. They’d get untimely infants and rent twins so they may swap ’em forwards and backwards to fulfill the hours. And so despite the fact that they met the age requirement, they had been nonetheless small. They prohibited that, after. They really had what they referred to as child wranglers. That was the job description.”

He additionally uncovered the exploitation of movie interns, who labored with out wages, in violation of labor legislation. “Now they receives a commission,” stated Dave.

Dave’s most important ardour was the Hollywood labor guilds. He was the son and grandson of union members. His father was a member of SAG. Each grandfathers had been union members, one an oil refinery employee and the opposite a ship’s carpenter. His grandmother was a unionized cannery employee. Dave was through the years a member of six completely different unions: Laborers (street crews and oil refinery), Janitors (elevator operator), Teamsters (airport parking cashier), Railway Staff (switchman), Electrical Staff (electrician’s assistant) and the Newspaper Guild.

He instructed me he believed that unions created the center class on this nation, saved employers in test, and he absolutely believed that the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes had been inevitable as a result of the shifting sands of the digital age put staff at a drawback within the age of buyouts and no residuals.

Dave additionally believed that union leaders needed to be trustworthy, and spent a lot of his time investigating and reporting about Locals across the nation which weren’t, and which had been rumored to have mafia involvement.

When Dave resigned 5 occasions from THR, it created time for him to put in writing books, and do freelance investigating. The books nonetheless maintain up.

“I had a good time writing books and I going broke doing it,” he stated. “However there should not too many individuals who received employed and left the identical paper 5 occasions. I wrote some actually good books, and it was a part of why journalism was such a terrific journey for me.”

One in all them, The Stuntwoman, instructed the true story of Hollywood heroine Julie Johnson. It’s being tailored to direct by Man Nattiv, who directed Golda, the very good movie about Golda Meir’s thwarting of a shock assault on Israel by Egypt and Syria in the course of the Yom Kippur vacation in 1973.

Dave’s different books included Operation Hollywood, about how the Pentagon formed and censored motion pictures; The Gumshoe and the Shrink, the true however little-known story concerning the 1962 presidential race between Nixon and JFK. Gumshoe additionally was optioned for motion pictures and Operation Hollywood was the topic of two documentaries. David additionally co-wrote Shtetl, the memoir of Dr. Rose Fromm, a Los Angeles psychiatrist who grew up in a small Polish village earlier than World Battle II.

He served as chief investigator for a gaggle of WGA members suing main networks and expertise companies for ageism. He labored for Dolly Gee, a lead legal professional within the case, now a federal district court docket decide. They received a settlement of $75 million.

This isn’t to say Dave solely wrote critically concerning the institution. He hailed the great works of the Actors’ Fund, the SAG-AFTRA Basis and the Will Rogers Movement Image Pioneers Basis. He explored how the guilds and unions labored in cooperation with the AMPTP to avoid wasting Hollywood in the course of the Covid pandemic.

He was the primary to interrupt the information that the Movement Image & Tv Fund was in monetary bother, which helped rally the trade to avoid wasting the venerable charitable establishment.

In our final name, Dave was clearly winding down, although he was pleased with his hanging robust in hospice. His last ask of me was to request that in lieu of flowers anybody may ship when he received laid to relaxation, his choice was for donations to the MPTF.

Hospice is an unpredictable factor, and a few folks go rapidly. Dave and I had a final chortle after I stated I used to be not shocked that he outlived expectations, as a result of he was the man who would exit swinging, and clinging to life. He lasted three weeks on hospice. Everybody right here at Deadline will miss him and his spirit will nonetheless loom massive right here.

This report was enormously helped by the contributions of Joe Bridgman, Dave’s finest pal who was finest man when he married Kelly in 2004.

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