Veteran writer-producer Joel Rogosin, who was nominated for three Primetime Emmys in a TV career that spanned more than 30 years, has died. He becomes the the fifth resident at the MPTF’s Motion Picture Home in Woodland Hills to succumb to the coronavirus. He was 87.
Rogosin’s first job in the industry in 1957 was as a messenger at Columbia Pictures. By 1961, he was producing the No. 1 show on TV, 77 Sunset Strip. He shared with friends at the Motion Picture & Television Fund retirement home that beyond the 23 primetime series he had produced, the TV movies and specials, the highlights of his career were the two Jerry Lewis telethons he produced. He said never felt more alive than when he was doing something good for others.
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Bob Mirisch, one of Rogosin’s friends on campus, said, “I will always remember, with joy, his love of family, his love of life, his warmth and comradeship, and his many, many kindnesses to me.”
In his remembrance, MPTF president and CEO Bob Beitcher said: “If you’re a Baby Boomer like me, maybe even from the Greatest Generation, and watched a lot of TV in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, you’d hear this name and think to yourself, ‘Gee, that sounds familiar? Where do I know it from?’ That’s what happened to me when I first met Joel Rogosin on the Motion Picture campus right around this time in 2013.
“Well, you might have known his name from The Virginian and 77 Sunset Strip in the 60s, or Ironsides and The Blue Knight in the 70s, or Magnum, P.I. and Knight Rider in the 80s, where you would have seen a writer and producer credit for Joel Rogosin at the end of an episode. They didn’t call them showrunners back then, but back in the days of three networks and nothing else they were the backbone of the TV industry.
“There weren’t writers rooms and long conversations with multiple creatives and a laundry list of producers; there were actual producers like Joel responsible for making it work every day, overseeing the development and writing of all the scripts, hiring and prepping the directors, casting each episode, overseeing all the editing and scoring, and approving the final cut and color correction.”
TV producer Peter Dunne, had this to say about his friend Rogosin: “Joel’s era demanded a man knew how to work with every person in the process, and by doing so, became partner in the endeavor with them rather than simply their boss. One of the great benefits of hiring Joel… his crews loved him, would follow him, and bust their asses to get it done right for him. Bottom line: Joel was more than a writer and producer. He was a mentor, a big brother, and the ultimate filmmaker.”
TV producers Renee and Harry Longstreet, who worked with Rogosin early in their career, said that “Joel taught us how to ‘break a story,’ introduced us to sushi, film editing, film budgeting, standing up for our creative work, and how to be a mentor just as he was.”
In a 2010 sit-down with the TV Academy for its “The Interviews” series, the late director Jeffrey Hayden called Rogosin “one of the best producers I ever worked with in my career in television.”
TV writer-producer Sandor Stern, who first worked with Joel on Ironsides, said “his sense of story, his ability to turn script liabilities into assets, his knowledge of writing and producing, impressed me as no collaborator ever had before or since.”
At MPTF, Rogosin was a pioneer member of the Grey Quill Society, a group of residents who meet every week in a workshop setting to share memoir, poetry, fiction and drama. Shirley Cohen, one of the Grey Quillers and Rogosin’s immediate neighbor on the campus, observed “what a lovely, modest, warm, humorous gentleman he will always be remembered as being and what great talent he possessed.”
Rogosin was married to his wife Deborah for over 67 years. They have three daughters, five grandchildren and two great grandchildren. Deborah said that “the only time I got really mad at him is when he threw me into the pool, dressed with high heels, in front of our 50 guests on a warm spring day. The pool was freezing.” At their 65th anniversary party on the Motion Picture campus, he sang “I’ll Be Loving You Always” to her. More recently, they met at the gazebo on the campus, and keeping a physical distance, he sang “The Last Dance” to her.
“No remembrance of Joel is complete without acknowledging his influence on getting the name changed for MPTF’s long-term care unit,” Beitcher said. “Among Joel’s many endearing qualities was his ability and willingness to instigate for positive change. I would get the unfailingly polite call from Joel, reminding me that I was a wonderful and benevolent dictator at Motion Picture and thanking me for that, and then…. here’s what you could do to really make a difference. There’s a long list, but when Joel, his health declining, landed in long-term care, he felt strongly that the home for 40 of our industry’s most frail and vulnerable needed a better name, a dignified name, one that made the residents proud and reminded them of their important place on our campus. And so it became the Mary Pickford House, with a wonderful opening ceremony with representatives of the Mary Pickford Foundation and special recognition for our wonderful and benevolent instigator, Joel. He leaves behind a loving family, loyal friends with great memories together, and a body of work any one of us would be proud to have as our own.”
Beitcher shared a poem Rogosin wrote for the first edition of The Grey Quill Society Review, titled “Stardust.”
“Someday we’ll be a speck of stardust, maybe in a far-off galaxy millions of years old, and a child will awaken, maybe in the cold, and reaching for a rumpled blanket or a tattered bear, look out a window at the sky and see us sparkle there, and wonder why so many specks of stardust.”
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