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Friday, June 21, 2024

David Robb Remembered As Great Reporter At Memorial

Colleagues and friends gathered today at the Motion Picture & Television Fund to celebrate the life of venerable Deadline labor reporter David Robb who died in December at age 74.

There were many stories, “Dave-isms” and great impersonations of the gravelly-voiced journalist in speeches from people who had worked with him or spent countless Friday poker nights together.

Robb’s passion for poker was front and center at the event, put together by Robb’s widow Kelly Robb, where the round tables were decorated as poker tables. They also were adorned with books from David Robb’s personal library for attendees to take home. (The ones left, as well as the flower centerpieces are being donated to the MPTF.)

One of the “Dave-ism” coined at the Friday poker nights was literally called “The Dave,” which the gang called the nine in a deck of cards, with the hearts one called “The Dave of Love.”

The terminology found its way into popular culture via Aaron Sorkin, who used it on both The West Wing and Sports Night, as one of his longtime poker friends, Reese Thomas, noted.

“He was irreplaceable and we will miss him but his legacy will live on as the Dave of Love,” he said.

The event’s emcee, author and former journalist Bill Knoedelseder, as well as former Hollywood Reporter editor Alex Ben Block knew Robb both as a colleague and poker buddy.

“Dave was a fierce poker player but he had no peer as a reporter,” Knoedelseder said. “His brain was constantly afire, and he lived to find sh*t out. He was my idol.”

Ben Block reminisced how Robb was the only reporter he never had to assign a story to as he always had great pieces he dug up and executed himself.

He also pointed out that many take a job at the trades as a stepping stone to get a Hollywood gig.

“Not Dave. Dave was there for the little guy,” Ben Block said. “Dave was there for the downtrodden. Dave was there for the guy who was getting kicked around. Dave was there for the people who were treated badly and were cheated.”

Former THR editor and longtime friend of Robb’s, Anita Busch, who tuned in via Zoom, echoed that sentiment.

“He cared about the underdog, protecting children, not only from long hours on set but from pedophiles, protecting the rights of blacklisted writers,” she said. “He shined a light on those living with disabilities, protecting the rights of unpaid interns who had been taken advantage in Hollywood, of union workers, stuntmen.”

Busch, who is sponsoring a $5,000 civil justice award that will be given to investigative reporters by the LA Press Club, recalled how Robb was the only person brave enough to get behind the wheel of her car after it was found with a smashed windshield, a dead fish and a threatening note, so it could be loaded on the tow truck.

“He was many people’s rock, he was many people’s sounding board, he was many people’s rational approach to solving a problem, and he was many people’s wisdom,” she said.

Another former THR editor — and Robb’s first boss, Martin Kent, spoke of “Dave’s beautiful heart” under the “bravado or the gruff exterior,” which was a recurring theme, with many poking fun at Robb’s public image as a curmudgeon.

Deadline’s Executive Editor Dominic Patten also touched upon Robb’s “crusty” exterior before speaking of his legacy.

“There are very few people — especially in Hollywood — who can say that they helped change the world and make it a better place. Dave Robb did. He wrote stories that saw laws change,” Patten said, adding, “He taught me a lot about journalism and that speaking truth to power should be the baseline of what we do as journalists.”

The current IATSE talks are the first major labor talks in decades that are not being covered by Robb, long considered the dean of Hollywood labor reporters.

Veteran studio teacher Linda Stone, who said that, if she had to describe Robb in one word, “it would have to be ‘integrity,’” spoke in her speech about the big void he has left.

“This past week, with the current IATSE negotiations, I mentioned to someone on the negotiating committee how much we missed Dave’s now, dealing with issues I know would’ve been of enormous interest to him,” she said.

Also speaking at the memorial were Karen Kramer, who shared how Robb stepped in to help protect the reputation of her husband, director-producer Stanley Kramer, and (through a provided statement), pioneer stuntwoman-tuned-whistle-blower Julie Ann Johnson, who was the subject of one of Robb’s several books that had major impact in Hollywood as well as politics. Johnson was in attendance as was writer-director Rod Lurie and a number of others who came to pay their respects.

Above, you can watch a video remembrance of Robb put together by his widow, Kelly, and the Deadline video team. Like “The Dave,” its length is 9 (minutes).

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