On the 20th anniversary of Brandan Tartikoff death, the visionary NBC and Paramount executive was fondly remembered by several of this year’s Brandon Tartikoff Legacy Award honorees.
“The first time I worked with Tartikoff was at the very beginning of my carrier,” said YouTube content chief Susanne Daniels who started as an assistant to Saturday Night Live boss Lorne Michaels. “I was on the 8th floor of the Rockefeller center well after midnight, watching SNL, when the last sketch of the night started. It was called Wayne’s World. I still remember saying to myself there is no way that Lorne will bring that stupid sketch back next week. I was astounded when Brendon called Lorne, my boss, to discuss the notion of making Wayne’s World into a movie for Paramount. Brandon’s creative energy and enthusiasm were contagious. Soon enough even I was convinced that the sketch worth to be on the big screen.” Wayne’s World went on to become a cult SNL classic and a hit Paramount movie.
The Internet age was in its infancy when Tartikoff died in 1997 but Daniels believes he “would’ve loved YouTube. He would have been inspired by the possibility to reach one million views a day across the globe, he would have been inspired by a platform that allows everyone to have a voice, inspired both by the people who upload and the fans that make videos go viral.”
Fox TV Group chairman and CEO Gary Newman, honored alongside fellow chairman and CEO Dana Walden, spoke of his first meeting with Tartikoff in 1984 at a company party. He was young and new and didn’t know anyone. “In the middle of the party Brandon introduced himself and chatted with me for about 15 minutes. I was on the top of the world,” Newman said.
Five years later, “Brandon challenged a few of us younger executives to a doubles tennis match. The three of us were so intimidated playing with him that we couldn’t hit the ball. He finally got so frustrated that he has threatened us to play better,” Newman added.
Honoree Eva Longoria talked about inclusion and diversity in Hollywood, cracking a few jokes along the way. She was introduced by Endemol Shine North America CEO Cris Abrego. “He is the only person standing on way to become the most powerful Mexican in Hollywood because there are only two of us,” she quipped.
“Watching television was a huge event in our house. We will all get together, around the TV, not because we were a close family but because we had only one TV,” Longoria said.
On a more serious note, “When I moved to Los Angeles, I realized that there were not a lot of people who life like me on TV, not many characters that I could identify myself with,” she said. “I was not reaching my full potential as an actor and I wanted stories from my community to be showed and told on TV. I knew back then that I want to be a producer and director.”
Longoria was followed by Modern Family creator Steve Levitan who introduced Newman and Walden. “Related to what Eva said, as a young boy I became a producer as there were not enough Jews in Hollywood,” he quipped.
Also recognized with a Brandon Tartikoff Legacy Award were AMC Networks CEO Josh Sapan and Univision CEO Randy Falco.
Ralitsa Trifonova contributed to this report.