Chuck Panama, a journalist-turned-publicist who worked with the likes of Elizabeth Taylor and Henry Fonda, died Sunday at the Motion Picture and Television Fund home in Woodland Hills, CA. He was 93.
After serving in the Army Air Corps as a radio man on a B-24 bomber, Panama moved to Los Angeles to attend UCLA. He became sports editor of The Daily Bruin and would go on to work with the press on the school’s football and basketball programs for more than a half-century.
He launched his career with the L.A. bureau of International News Service before moving to the PR department at 20th Century Fox. There, Panama worked with such celebrities as Elvis Presley and Jane Mansfield and became a voting member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Television Academy.
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After a dozen years in the motion picture division at Fox, he moved to independent PR — where he worked with the likes of Taylor, Fonda and Faye Dunaway — but returned to Fox in 1976. Now working in its TV division, he was publicist for LA Law, The Simpsons and the last seven years of M*A*S*H.
Panama retired from Fox in 1991 and became the personal publicist for Fyvush Finkel, shepherding him through the press gauntlet after his 1994 Emmy win for Best Supporting Actor in Picket Fences.
He was honored by the Publicists Guild during the course of his career — named Outstanding Agency Publicist in 1976 and receiving the Les Mason Award in 1990 and then the Bob Yeager Award for community service in 1993.
Panama also volunteered at the Museum of Flying in Santa Monica and later at the Getty Museum and in retirement was an active member of the Entertainment Publicists Professional Society and the Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters.
Panama is survived by his wife of 64 years, Gerry; their children Craig, Cindy and Carrie; and seven grandchildren. A memorial service will be held at 2 PM May 20 at the Saban Center at the MPTF Wasserman Campus in Woodland Hills, CA. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be sent to MPTF or UCLA.
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