Who knew that Tom Sherak touched this many people? Here is a note that was penned by Harvey Weinstein for Deadline, describing what the former Fox exec and Academy president meant to him, his brother Bob Weinstein, and COO David Glasser and distribution chief Erik Lomis. Weinstein was moved to write in reaction to Bill Mechanic’s words.
“Tommy We Hardly Knew Ye:
When I was a boy I read a beautiful memoir called Johnny We Hardly Knew Ye about JFK which his long term buddy Kenneth O’Donnell wrote. This is the best way to describe my, my brother, Erik Lomis and David Glasser’s feelings about a man named Tom Sherak. The first time Bob and I met Tom was over 30 years ago – we were just two rock promoters born in New York City hating every minute of the Rock n Roll existence. Fancying ourselves as movie producers, we came up with the novel idea of booking two movies, one called White Rock The Olympic Experience and the other, The Genesis Concert Movie and coming up with a marketing handle called Sensasia, the movie experience. Who the hell were we kidding and how the hell were we going to get theaters to play these two movies we put together and decided we would start distributing with no distributing background whatsoever? So we tried it out in our backyard and lo and behold it worked but there was an entire country to play and at that time the general cinema ruled the waves and ocean and the man in charge of booking theatres in general cinema was a warmhearted ebullient soul named Tom Sherak. He must have looked at us with complete and utter bafflement- just two shaggy guys with afros. We looked like we got off the Grateful Dead road bus and there we were with our dream of conquering the US distribution system with two 45 minute movies. Theater by theater, state by state, city by city, Tom Sherak took these 2 knuckle heads and helped them form a company called Miramax. That’s how it started: rock n’ roll movies with Sherak renting us theaters, booking us theaters, and guiding us. We knew nothing except we had an instinct and a flair for promotion and the movies weren’t half bad. Through the course of our lives he would always be there whether he was mentoring or mediating and trust me, David and Erik would testify we needed a mediator or two, but more importantly a mentor.
When we would visit the Fox lot it was like an adventure, we would have to pinch ourselves. We were on the 21st Century Fox lot and the only person we knew was, you guessed it, Tom Sherak. He welcomed us and when we sat on his couch you felt like you were on the Merv Griffin Show or the Johnny Carson Show. Tom would ask questions, his kids might drop by, or the studio heads might drop by. There would be regular drop-by’s with great banter with guys like Norman Levy and a dear friend and other mentor Arthur Manson. They would show us and tell us about how many theaters to take on and all about grosses. Bob and I sat there like students at Harvard soaking up this seminar. The electric feeling of being in the class when wisdom was being handed out and lying all around you was what it was like to sit on that couch with Tom. All of sudden the guy who booked the theaters became the man and yet always the doors were open. We were always welcomed in the pinnacle of his success.
Tom Sherak made friends in a town where friends are temporary. Regardless of your success or failure, he was always there and even more so when you were failing. When you succeeded he was a cheerleader, a good sport, or a great coach who knew all the moves and knew how to get you out of the funk. We participated in his benefits and we watched him roll up his sleeves for a good cause. He was a role model who reached an epiphany when he became the Academy’s President. Here was our so called playing field now administrated by somebody who grew us up in this business. We moved and grooved and respected his wishes out of pure respect. We didn’t look for shades of grey, we just wanted to do the black and white and trusted Tom to tell us what was right. In a town where people sometimes accuse you of everything there was Tom Sherak, the judge, the mediator, and the pronouncer of all things that are right saying “hey, these guys are tough but they play fair.”
When Erik Lomis called me today, he was in tears. Tom and Erik go back forty years to their days in Philadelphia when both of them were just kids. Erik was the guy who drove Tom from Calabasas to UCLA where Tom had his first chemo treatments twelve years ago. Erik was the guy who was by his bedside today.
For David, Tom was a friend, mentor and rabbi to him, guiding him through some of the toughest times and decisions in the company’s recent history – all of which was normally done from a baseball field, soccer field, or other kids event – not missing a beat. Each call would start with a laugh from Tom and the phrase “what happened now.” After that, words of wisdom and experience would be laid upon him. As David would say “Tom would never give me all the answers, but just enough so that I would go and figure it out on my own”.
Tom wouldn’t have wanted any of us to stop – even when my brother said “If this doesn’t affect you then nothing will.” Tom’s family will never have anything to want for because we know, as his friends along with the hundreds of other friends Tom had, we will make it our business for them not to, and that’s the least we can do because they gave us the privilege of sharing time with their husband, their father, and their grandfather – the man who had a smile for everyone and a kind word too. I think of Will Rogers who understood the politics of this country. He had a wit that was as quick as a snake bite and as lethal but had humanity first and foremost. Tom Sherak had a rich and incredible career and a family that loved him. For us and so many others like us he made us better, not just better at what we did, but better as people and that was the greatest gift he gave to our community. It’s times like this that I wish I were Irish because we would celebrate him like one of those wakes in a John Ford movie but to hell with it, we’re going to be Irish anyhow.
Tommy we hardly knew ye but for what you gave us, we can never thank you enough.
Harvey and Bob