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Al Massini: A True Genius

I worked for Al Massini many years ago at Telerep for about 4 years. I had an entry level job. I knew he was a genius and unlike one other here I did not find him to be a tough boss at all. I saw Marilyn Mccoo’s tribute and I was at Telerep when she came a gracious and beautiful lady. So nice of her to give a tribute.

Here is my strongest memory about him: an employee who worked in the mail room was brutally murdered. It was quite a gruesome story that shook me up. When Al Massini found out he paid for the funeral and limousines and everything. He didn’t have to do that! Many bosses are like, I’m the genius and you are the idiot. He wasn’t like that. He was obvious very compassionate. So sorry to hear of his passing.

Pinky Lew
former employee


Meeting a Legend

I had the wonderful opportunity of meeting Al in 2007. I was a graduate student, doing a PhD on the early years of Entertainment Tonight. After researching all I could about the program, I realized I needed to interview the man himself if I was going to provide a true story of the ‘most watched entertainment news program of all time.’ I wondered how I would find him, someone with his resume and celebrity certainly wouldn’t be easy to connect with … or so I thought, until I looked in the Honolulu White pages and found an Al Masini listed. I called the number and found myself talking with the person I hadn’t ever expected to reach.

Out of the generostiy of his heart, he allowed me to come to Hawaii and into his beautiful home, meeting his beautiful Charlyn in the process. There, he spent two days with me, recounting the story of his life and his time and experiences with Entertainment Tonight. It was one of the most interesting, intriguing and wonderful interviews I’ve ever done. I learned more about him in that time than I expected and to this day I can’t read over our interview without smiling or laughing at one of his (numerous) stories or memories.

He lived an extraordinary life — and I only got to experience a small part of it. But those two days I spent with Al are ones I’ll never forget. He made the day (and the dissertation) of an idealistic graduate student…who now has her PhD and is happily teaching others about the television business and industry. And a lot of what I talk about — I learned from Al. Thanks Al, you won’t be forgotten.
Sara Magee
Friend


Kickin’ Around the Mall, Waiting for Charlyn

I remember how happy Al was at his wedding to Charlyn. I also remember sitting around with him one night at an event, while we bitched to each other about how the reality TV business had changed and was over-run with snot-nose kids who had no business sense.

But my favorite story happened one night at the Kahala Theater. I was waiting for my husband, Brad, to emerge from the men’s room when I saw Al wandering around outside studying the posters. I ran out to ask what movie he was going to see. “No, I saw that already. It’s an awful movie,” I told him. “Join us instead.” Eventually, he decided to do just that and we sat around the theater for about 15 minutes before the movie started, shooting the breeze. It turned out that Charlyn was at a shower or some sort of girls-only event. And as we sat there talking, I realized that while most people would see a big deal, successful television producer and friend to the stars, I just saw a regular husband – relieved to see a couple of friendly faces while he kicked around the mall waiting for his wife.

In a sense, that was sort of Al in a nutshell: a combination of smart, big deal television producer and nice, normal guy anxious to get back to the wife he loved.

Kay Lorraine
Friend


Champagne Wishes from Robin Leach

Al Masini was the ultimate first-class act – a true gentleman who deeply cared for his show creations. Ironically he was almost unknown outside of the business but held in high regard, respected and beloved by everyone inside it.

In fact you might never have known – unless you slowed the ending credits- just how many shows he brought into the world and remained broadcasting over the years! We’ll never forgot Entertainment Tonight and Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous but from Operation Prime Time to Solid Gold to Star Search the list was long lasting – and almost endless.

Al was the power behind the scenes. He never craved the spotlight preferring that was left for others. All he wanted was perfection for the programs he created, produced and kept on the air. That gave him the satisfaction he sought.

It was a truly remarkable success story- one of the biggest and best in the television industry. His record of program hits was unbroken and never duplicated. He was the genius who launched first-run syndication programming and the first off-network day and date programs. Al was the maverick who made a beautiful marriage for the independent stations he represented and the original programs they needed to compete against the networks – plus he’d sell the commercials for both!

The secret to his success was simply a remarkable dedication and commitment to his program concepts. Once the format was boiled down to a short self-explanatory title he’d only insist it was rigidly adhered to and not veered off in a different direction. To this day I can hear him say what he always mandated : “Stay Focused”

Say the words “ Entertainment Tonight” and “Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous” and you’d immediately know in the tight two-line TV Guide mention exactly what the shows would be about. I’ve referenced those two because not only are they in the history books as two of television’s longest running success stories but also it’s where I got to know the man and his mastermind brilliance. ET is still on the air and celebrates its 31st anniversary this year while Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous ran an unbelievable 14-seasons in over 30 countries worldwide and still profitable when he retired, his company was sold and I moved onto help launch the Food Network

I think of Al as the ultimate guide and guru to modern-day magazine reality television programming. Not only was he its father but also a creative genius and an extraordinary editor with the ultimate understanding of how to package 80’s pop-culture for television. With my 25-years of celebrity print journalism we were destined to meet! The strange thing is that it didn’t happen sooner even though our offices were just caddy corner from each other for seven years on opposite sides of the same Manhattan street!

Having met and embarking together on two decades of TV you could not have asked for a better partner or work colleague. He was my mentor and older brother. We shook hands on our deals and never broke our promises. They simply don’t make them like that anymore.
Ours was a near 20-year long working relationship that led to an amazing 30-year friendship – and only one disagreement and one dispute between us all that time. For the record they were quickly resolved! It was too important for both of us to let them upset the goal and mission of continuing to make highly profitable great quality informative entertaining television.

People conjure up extraordinary images of producers- flashy, cigar smoking, hard drinking, over-weight, and loud-mouthed, dictatorial high-rolling spenders. Al was none of those- and infact totally the opposite. He didn’t smoke. He rarely drank more than a glass of good wine. He worked out in the gym to stay fit. He didn’t raise his voice. He only gambled on producing new shows! His one vice was ice-cream !

The only thing flashy about Al was his colorful ties – those bright almost blinding rainbows will never be forgotten! Plus he worked from behind the world’s largest office desk. It dwarfed everybody who sat across from him. Perhaps it was a psychological ploy but I don’t think so. I believe, like everything else about Al it was purely practical.

It had to be huge because he always wanted the latest information on everything to do with his shows in files at his fingertips. And because he had so many shows, so many advertising salesmen, so many production people, so many budgets and repped so many television stations there were files galore. – and back in those early days few computers- if any!

In fact I remember Al and I jumping with joy when we discovered the first Rapifax machine that could send a page of ET script from NY to LA in six minutes. Until that moment we’d been ferrying young students on round-trip overnight flights between the two cities with pouches of materials. Thank goodness that Fed-Ex came along as well later!

ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT:

I didn’t know Al – or had even heard of him- when he created ET and sold the idea to Paramount to execute it for him. However I did know Jack Haley Jr. who was charged by the studio to whip a pilot into shape to present it to stations.

Before that I’d worked on a project to bring the STAR weekly where I’d been showbiz editor for 10-years to television- but Rupert Murdoch shelved it after recoiling at the massive budgets. Weekly appearances with Regis Philbin to promote STAR stories had convinced me our kind of journalism would be a TV hit. I also wrote the first 11 cover and major showbiz stories for the brand new People Magazine so I felt all would translate over to television comfortably. My 18-months on CNN’s live People Tonight introductory show as the New York showbiz correspondent taught me everything I wanted to know about how a bare-bones budget could still produce good TV.

Haley called me with Al’s idea and asked if I could field produce the segments from my experience and relationships with showbiz stars around the world. I love challenges- and this was the ultimate one. From Roger Moore on location in his then new James Bond role to a live satellite interview with Suzanne Sommers on the day she was fired from Three’s Company we wound up with a presentation reel and a pilot.

Little did I know then but Al was the puppet–master approving what could be shot and what wouldn’t. He was at every meeting, remained silent and I was never really introduced to him. Only afterwards would he determine the final show decisions privately with the studio heads. Then he took the ultimate gamble to get the show on the air at non-network independent stations across the country giving away more than $20-million of satellite dishes so they could receive the show once he “put it up on the bird”. ( He did make the investment back in the first year but that’s just one example of his determination and belief in backing up his own ideas)

I was invited to stay on with ET as its roving correspondent based from New York traveling anywhere I wanted to go around the globe for exclusive showbiz stories, film locations and international festivals. Our office and edit bays were set up in the basement of a Manhattan skyscraper- 19 floors below where Al Masini commandeered his TeleRep empire.

It was where I would formally meet him for the first time- even though I recognized him immediately from the Los Angeles meetings he’d sat in on silently listening to progress and hiccups. Al would always be impeccably dressed in a business suit and one of his eye-blinding ties. I never talked to him about it but he or I would always be first to work and last to leave at night.

He thrived on the creative process. He wanted to know all the shoots and stories we were working on, He’d sit in on editing and recording sessions and always offer “right on target ” suggestions. He never raised his voice. He didn’t have to because you knew instantly he was right with his observations.

I never thought of Al as a workaholic despite the long hours around the clock all year long -weekends included. He loved his shows coming to life. He loved his craft. He was passionate about the work beyond any man I’ve ever met. To him it wasn’t a job or duty- it was pure pleasure. He’d roundtrip on red-eyes between NY and LA so he didn’t lose time traveling- even if it was just to re-choreograph a Solid Gold dance lineup he didn’t like.

Early morning and late night he’d play editor and producer and during the day he’d be enmeshed in the big business of TeleRep station negotiations, Television Program Enterprise advertising sales- at the height of it all with offices across the country he must have had over 2,000 people working with him and for him in various capacities.

His idea of a vacation was to come on location with our film crews to watch us work in the field and yes- he’d even help schlep the lighting gear and camera tripods with us! He loved we didn’t waste money on the frivolities and vanities normally wasted in our business. Al simply wasn’t a stretch limo kind of guy! But he was always more than fair and generous!

Al was unique because it was never about him- it was always about those who worked with him so he could see his dreams and ideas come true!
He took pride and responsibility of them all. He wouldn’t leave a millimeter of anything to chance – or change. Some might have called it nit-picking the detail but it was his obsessions to perfection that kept them all on the air.

LIFESTYLES OF THE RICH & FAMOUS

One day, that obsession cost him $8-million over a lunch before the soup even arrived – and that’s how Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous came to be. I’d grown restless at ET and fighting to get certain of my stories on air at the right length instead of two-sound bite segments on unrelated issues. I thought I could tell longer at-home stories with the stars and show their intimate lifestyles. Out of that frustration Al agreed to listen to my pitch over lunch.

I didn’t know then that millionaires and billionaires aren’t listed in the Yellow Pages but confidently said I’d find them and get them to throw open the doors of their mega mansions. Al said if I could do that then instead of calling the show “Lifestyles”, he said the show should be called, “Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous”.
Even before the waiter returned to the table at P.J. Clarke’s with our soup he said, “You’ve got your $8-million- go to it.”

We shook hands on making four two-hour TV specials back in 1983- and I went off to Monte Carlo to film the Monaco Royal Family at home. Al went to work selling stations and advertising- and by the time we had the 2nd special on the air with giant 20+ share ratings he told me we had to go weekly immediately. Less than 13-weeks later we started Year 1 turning out 26 weeks of original programs- plus the 2 remaining specials!

It continued onwards for 14 mind-boggling incredible seasons- and spawned our “Runaway with the Rich and Famous” travel series and “Worlds Best” annual awards specials. Our relationship grew and we produced the Fame Fortune & Romance daily series for ABC TV’s morning timeslot pre- The View! Then followed more simultaneous weekly series: Home Videos of the Stars, The Start of Something Big with Steve Allen and even the Supermodel of the World annual pageant contest.

It’s totally unbelievable that we were producing so many hit shows firing on four cylinders all at once: My good friend and TPE colleague Sam Riddle has written elsewhere on this tribute site to Al about the stunning success of their Star Search program hosted by Ed McMahon – the genesis of what became recreated as American Idol! Somehow Al juggled that program out in Los Angeles and my West Coast production facilities while our factory of TV hits was headquartered back East.

Looking back at it all now while writing this I marvel at how we did it- always on or below budget and in most cases on a handshake. It was an absolutely extraordinary team effort by cameramen, sound guys, field producers, directors, writers and musicians. All of us were inspired beyond description by our leader- Al Masini, the man who never sought the very fame and fortune we produced.

He’d watch the ratings and smile contentedly that he’d won!

-o-o-o-

In summary there will never be another Al Masini. He was one of a kind- and the mold was broken, thrown away once he started out on his extraordinary journey through life. I was proud and honored to be his partner and friend. We remained close to the end.

I am so happy he moved to Hawaii, fell in love with the islands -far from his keeping pace with New York’s non-stop frantic frenzied big-business whirl and Hollywood’s oft insanities

Most important of all and the highlight of his life was finding true love with Charlyn. He couldn’t have wished to find a better wife and life partner. They were the co-stars of his ultimate program. I couldn’t have written that script any better than the way Al directed all of his productions.

I’m certain when we get up to the great television set high in the sky we’ll find Al waiting for us to watch his latest network of top-rated heavenly creations.

Written fondly with Love – and of course, champagne wishes! Al, you will always be remembered and will never be forgotten

~ Robin Leach

Robin Leach
Writer, “Entertainment Tonight” & Writer & Host of “Lifestyles of the RIch and Famous”
http://www.lasvegasweekly.com/blogs/luxe-life/
http://www.vegasdeluxe.com/blogs/luxe-life/


The First Time I Met Al

I was working as a production assistant on “Destination Stardom” in Los Angeles and I was sent to pick up Al. I thought I would have to drive a limo or black Lincoln Town Car to pick him up at LAX. I ended up picking him up in my 1997 Jeep Wrangler where the radio did not work.

I was very nervous being the TV mogul he is and thought he would complain about the transportation. I immediately recognized him and introduced myself to him. He could not have been more of a gentlemen. I said, “Mr. Masini I am Marcos and I am here to pick you up.”

He extended his hand and with a firm handshake the first thing he said was “Call me Al”. He made me feel more at ease. I guess he could see I was nervous. He actually complimented me on my Jeep. He told me how there are a lot of them in Hawaii and he likes his SUV.

He asked me more questions about myself than I did about him. He asked about my career, how I liked my Jeep, do I take the top down a lot and go to the beach, etc. After his visit I took him to the airport (back in my Jeep). He said I will see you soon, we have a new show to work on. He extended his hand with another firm handshake and said, “Thank for the ride Marcos.” A true gentlemen! I will never forget that.

There are not many men in the entertainment industry like him. Thanks Al! You taught me a great lesson on how to be a gentlemen.

Marcos PadillaLead Production Assistant/Casting director LA division


Like a Kid in a Candy Store

January 2005 - Al's Surprise Birthday Party

Al Masini was a gentleman who treated everyone as a special person. Despite all of his accomplishments, he was an unexpectedly humble man who simply enjoyed pleasing and helping others. We will miss his warm smile and the mischievous twinkle in his eyes.

Our best times with Al and Charlyn were in sharing a meal, a movie or traveling together. Al liked to plan trips in great detail and he delighted in finding the best sites to see and restaurants to eat at around the world.

Once in Paris, Hong Kong or New Zealand, he was like a kid in a candy store. It just seemed that he never had grown out of his youthful enthusiasm for all things great and small. Al Masini is an inspiration to live life to the fullest with joy and gratitude.

We are so glad to have known Al. He enriched our lives and all around him.

Pat & Cedric ChoiFriends


A Man I Always Remembered…

I met Al young in my real estate career in Beverly Hills. He ironically called me when we I was doing my mandatory, “Floor Time”. He had called my office and a man like him did not have a local real estate agent. I spoke with him for a long time that day and worked with him over phone and fax until his planned trip to LA. Wishing to buy in Beverly Hills and anticipating his one of a kind home to sell in Hawaii, we talked and I immediately was inspired as he was a humble man never bragging about what he accomplished.

When I met him with his former wife, he was so charming and casual. He not only respected this really young agent he took good care of me and made sure I ate as we hit the streets of Beverly Hills for endless hours per weekends trying to find what he was looking for (which did not exist). I then was given an opportunity to work with him on his Hawaii home from Los Angeles. I enjoyed working with him and after it was evident he was not going to buy at that time, he and I kept in touch. He always took my calls and never pushed off the phone. I made a mistake and did not take him on to work for him, but I will tell you he was always good for advice and he cared.

I am glad he moved on and found someone who cared for him. He was a very deserving man and always meant much to me in my life. I unfortunately did not travel to Hawaii to see him but I spoke to him a few years back and it was nice to catch up and hear how happy he was.

One day I watched television and of course I heard the news. I was so sad. I was hoping and waiting to hear of any local plans for memorial. I am glad you placed this site up as for awhile it was under construction. Mr. Masini alone has been in so many lives in and out of Hollywood and he is really a priceless human being who can’t be duplicated. He was an inspiration, respected, and cared for and I wish Charlyn great happiness and well wishes for you and the path Al has paved. May he always be watched over as I know he watches over us…

Jessica Russell, Los Angeles, CA, Real Estate Agent/producer, mentor, friend


Sam Riddle Remembers Al

Al & Sam at the 25th Aniversary Star Search Reunion 2008

As with all his successful concepts and series, Al Masini knew the timing was right to produce a new and innovative New Talent Show! But unlike the early amateur talent shows on radio and the beginning of television, this one had to be something totally unique and different. Thus, the beginning of STAR SEARCH.

This would also become the greatest opportunity and experience of my life and career as the Producer chosen by Al. How did he make Star Search different? First, it would not only be Singers, but Dancers, Comedians, Actors, Juniors, Teens, Groups and Models, all on the same show. And he also created a new word in the English language… ”Spokesmodel.”

The day after the first airing that new word made the front page of the Chicago Suns Times! And today, many of the top competition-entertainment series such as American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance, America’s Next Top Model and Last Comic Standing are each a category of Star Search.

The beginning did not happen overnight. Al was constantly thinking and re-structuring the competition format. I would receive calls at 6:30 AM many mornings, with Al asking “are you up?” He wanted to discuss timings, formats, wardrobe, hosts, music etc. Needless to say, his tenacity and goal of perfection was not only a learning experienced for me, but the beginning of a 13 year Ratings Success Story.

It was also the beginning of success for Sam Harris, Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Usher, Alanis Morissette, Rosie O’Donnell, Brad Garret, Ray Romano, Dennis Miller, Jenny Jones, Linda Eder and
hundreds more. Even though we had talent scouts throughout the nation, Al would always have the final approval before any performer was confirmed. He always respected and admired fine new talent.

As we said on Star Search, “Will it be the CHAMP…….OR THE CHALLENGER?” Al Masini always loved a Challenge, and he will always be my Champ!

Sam Riddle, Producer, Star Search


The Awareness & the Advice

Al was someone that I could always depend on for advice about producing for television and films. He was always interested in what I had going. He always asked me questions about my film projects, if it made money, do I intend to distribute them. Stuff like that. Though I am a small and struggling local filmmaker, he still treated me as I was an important person and cared about what my dream and career goals were. You can’t teach persistence and passion in film school or any other institution. It comes from within. Just go out there and make it happen. That’s what I’ve always learned from that man. Al left behind a legacy that inspires me. He was a humorous guy. I will always look at him as a mentor. God Bless you and thank you for being an influence in my life.

Jeff Katts, Filmmaker


Al was my Hero

I was so fortunate to have worked with Al Masini at TeleRep and then as Research Director for OPT and TPE. Al was a true creative thinker who was able to envision original concepts and see them through to fruition. He was always coming up with ideas or new ways to do things, and he would involve everyone, asking us all for feedback and insights to help him develop these ideas. No one worked harder than Al, but he thrived on it. He loved the business and was not interested in accolades or recompense.

Al was also a very good friend. There was never anyone more loyal than Al. He remembered all the people that worked closely with him. And he was always genuinely happy to hear from any of us when we called to say hello.
Not only did we lose one of television’s most creative minds, but I lost a very dear friend. He always made me laugh and feel good when we spoke on the phone, and I will truly miss that.

Cecilia Voccoli, Director of Research – CoxReps


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