From Tootsie Rolls to TV Shows

From his humble beginnings in New Jersey, raised by a widowed mother, Alfred Masini, began working at the age of 10 in a Tootsie Roll factory to help his family financially after the death of his father. Born on January 5, 1930, Masini graduated from Xavier High School in 1948 and Fordham University in 1952, both via scholarships.

After serving as an Air Force officer in the Korean War, Masini decided to enter the broadcast business and mailed out 800 letters to prospective employers. He went to 250 interviews before landing a job in the CBS News department. His tenacious spirit became his hallmark and the driving force behind his success. After a year, he moved to CBS Network Station Relations and then into television sales.

Throughout his career, Masini was an innovator and responsible for many “firsts.” While at the Edward Petry Company, as the spot sales rep, Masini developed the first sophisticated sales systems and procedures — a forerunner to the present rep computer. Masini established the first programming department as a rep to aid client stations with program research and program scheduling. He also created Individual Spot Pricing with “the P card.” Instead of pricing by broad categories, i.e., Monday through Friday, 8 pm-11 pm, where all spots in that category had the same price (which had been the custom on TV, the same as radio), now each individual spot was priced based on actual audience delivery. This method became the standard of the industry and is still used today. Starting as one of the original stockholders, Masini left Petry in 1968 as vice president and director of sales administration.

"Entertainment Tonight" Mary Hart

Another first was the creation of “Entertainment Tonight,” the first day and date Monday-Friday show in syndication. Masini coordinated 125 satellite Earth stations that had to be financed and given to the stations in order to launch “Entertainment Tonight,” making it possible for stations to receive satellite delivery of programs for the first time.

Masini also founded TeleRep, the juggernaut national select-list television sales representing firm. Masini served as TeleRep’s president and chief executive officer from its inception in 1968 to 1994. Masini launched TeleRep out of a New York City apartment with just three people and three client stations. Under Masini’s leadership, TeleRep enjoyed unprecedented growth to hundreds of stations and employees, eventually billing more than 100 times the spot revenue of the original three. By the 1990’s, TeleRep and its subsidiaries employed more than 1,700 people. Today, TeleRep is part of CoxReps, the country’s largest national spot television sales company.

Masini’s innovations also included programming for independent TV stations with the creation of first-run mini-series under the banner of Operation Prime Time (OPT). Masini founded OPT, a consortium of stations designed to develop network quality prime time programming for local, independent stations. At the time it was the equivalent of the fourth Network — a spot that FOX later filled. Under Masini’s direction and creativity, Television Program Enterprises (TPE), an offshoot of OPT, became one of the top syndicators of first-run programming. Over 12 years, OPT scheduled and ran 32 outstanding specials, amounting to 112 hours of the finest prime time fare, most specials “out-rating” competing regular network programs. OPT specials have included many Emmy Award nominees and several Emmy and Golden Globe winners such as Ingrid Bergman in “A Woman Called Golda,” Alec Guinness in “Smiley’s People,” Louis Gossett Jr. in “Sadat,” Robert Blake in “Blood Feud,” and Barbara Taylor Bradford’s “A Woman of Substance.” His made-for-TV movies and syndicated series have garnered more than 35 Emmy Awards.

Masini created numerous hit syndicated television serials. His formula for success was simple: “analyze the market, find a need, fill the need, and make it happen.” His first landmark music show was “Solid Gold,” a show that became one of syndication’s highest-rated programs for a remarkable ten years. Next followed “Entertainment Tonight,” “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,” “Runaway with the Rich and Famous” and “Star Search,” which helped launch the careers of Ray Romano, Brad Garrett, Christina Aguilera, Rosie O’Donnell, LeAnn Rimes, Beyoncé, Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Sharon Stone, Usher, Chris Rock, Drew Carey, Alanis Morissette, Sinbad, Tiffany, and Brandy, just to name a few. “Star Search” discovered more talent than any other talent show in TV history.

Other syndicated series included “The Start of Something Big,” “Triple Threat,” “You Write the Songs,” “Preview” and “Fame, Fortune and Romance” for the ABC Network. In addition to television series, Masini also developed and produced many specials. The following annual specials ran for 12 years: “Supermodel of the World,” “The Rich and Famous World’s Best,” “Star Search International,” as well as the “United States Air Show” and the “International Auto Show.”

In 1976, the Television Bureau of Advertising acknowledged Masini “… for the wisdom, energy and patience that he committed to the establishment of a single voice for spot television. As a founding father of the National Sales Advisory Committee of the Television Bureau of Advertising, and its first chairman, he gave freely of his time and efforts. The Spot Television Industry is indebted to him for helping to set the three-legged stool on a more even keel… ” In 2003, he received the Broadcast Pioneer Award from the National Association of Broadcasters for his countless contributions to the industry.

When Masini moved to Hawaii in 1994, he thrust his tireless energy, on a totally volunteer basis, into those initiatives and projects that would benefit Hawaii and its residents well into the future. His vision was three-pronged: to attract TV and film productions that would act as catalysts to showcase Hawaii, to create marketing materials that would highlight Hawaii’s diversity and aloha, and to promote and market Hawaii by incorporating the messages directly into television and film programming and not just in television commercials.

Masini played an active role in crafting and getting key legislation passed in 1996 to lure movie and television productions to Hawaii, and Hawaii continues to benefit from his efforts. In 1998, he was instrumental in bringing the Miss Universe Pageant to Hawaii. For the two weeks of events, he produced all of the Hawaii video and print materials for the pageant and the on-air video components of this globally broadcast show. Masini created video marketing collateral, valued in excess of $2M, that showcased Hawaii and has been continually used for Hawaii’s global marketing. An important element was two 75-second videos showcasing the beauty, diversity and aloha of Hawaii titled “These Islands,” sung by Danny Couch.

Former Hawaii Governor Ben Cayetano shares, “Al Masini played a big role in volunteering to help the state put on the Miss Universe Pageant in Hawaii and later in bringing ‘Baywatch’ to Hawaii. Notwithstanding Al’s highly successful career as a producer and creator of big hit television programs such as ‘Solid Gold,’ ‘Entertainment Tonight’ and ‘Lives of the Rich and Famous,’ what endeared Al most to my wife Vicky and I was that Al remained solidly grounded; he was kind, generous, compassionate and respectful of others. Al was a very dear friend and we will miss him.”

Charlyn Honda Masini

Through this creative process, Masini received his ultimate reward for his tireless volunteerism — he met Charlyn Honda, the consummate video editor that matched his pursuit of excellence and love for Hawaii. She was Al’s true soulmate, whom he would marry in 2001.

Masini was key to the landing “Baywatch Hawaii,” “Pacific Blue,” “Wheel of Fortune” and other productions for Hawaii. He also created and produced “Destination Stardom.”Longtime friend and Hawaii entertainer Cha Thompson adds, “Al was a Hawaiian at heart. The people of Hawaii loved him and he loved them in return. He was the most generous man I know.”

Legendary entertainment promoter Tom Moffatt says, “Al Masini was an innovator in television. He created programs that were the precursors to shows like ‘American Idol.’ But more than that, in this tough business we’re in, he was truly a gentleman. I’ve never heard anyone speak anything but the best of Al Masini and I truly respected him, not only for his business sense, but more importantly as a genuine human being.”

Masini was unique in his ability to always see the big picture yet execute the minutest of details. “No” was not in his vocabulary. There were no limits and nothing was impossible. “Make it happen! There are opportunities everywhere. You just need to recognize them.” was one of the mottos that he lived by. His passion, enthusiasm and perseverance drove him in everything he pursued.

Masini was known for his generosity of time and spirit in mentoring, not only those in the television industry, but anyone who may have been fortunate to cross his path. He had a reputation for tenacity, honesty, humility and integrity in all areas of his life. It was these core values, his leadership, vision and innovative spirit that garnered him respect from his industry colleagues, government leaders, employees and friends.

And above all, he was known as the consummate nice guy, the good guy, gracious gentleman and a simple man who was so beloved by many.

Byron Allen, Masini protégé and Entertainment Studios president, said, “He was an American treasure and a very special human being.”Masini’s life read like a well-crafted screenplay. From his humble beginnings in New Jersey, he became one of the greatest television creators and executive producers of all time. He traveled the world in his retirement with his wife Charlyn, generating life-long friendships around the globe. He truly did live a life of “champagne wishes and caviar dreams.”

Masini’s advice to living life was simple, “Always remember, it’s never too early or too late to make your dreams come true!”