More than a thousand mourners gather in a Woodland Hills Thursday morning to pay tribute to the former studio exec and Academy president
They came by the hundreds, more than a thousand Hollywood insiders crowding into pews at a synagogue in Woodland Hills before a simple, cream-colored casket. The walls were unadorned, the music a simple guitar.
They sat in silence, wiping tears. Not a BlackBerry was opened. Not an iPhone was seen. It was a rare, silent display of utter respect, admiration and love.
They came to celebrate a man, not a mogul. Tom Sherak was not a powerbroker because he’d been a big executive at Fox and Revolution, or because he ran the Motion Picture Academy. He was powerful because he was beloved.
Everyone in that room had a moment when Tom Sherak gave them a break, offered a tip, made an introduction, put in a good word, forgave a mistake or shared the blame.
“He called me into his office on my first day at Fox,” recalled David Dinerstein, milling in the parking lot after the service. Was it to warn him against using Sherak’s parking spot? “Not at all,” said Dinerstein. “He gave me a big hug and welcomed me to the studio.”
Among the people I saw there included executives high and low, current and former from Fox, of course, but also CBS Films chief Terry Press, Imagine co-chairman Michael Rosenberg, producer David Friendly, Summit chief Robbie Friedman. Also agents, managers, rabbis, fellow philanthropists. And Sherak’s warm, extended family of children, grandchildren and beyond.
We learned that Sherak was told by doctors a mere five days ago that his cancer had spread to his liver, that a last-ditch chemotherapy might buy him another five months, if it worked. And that otherwise he had four to six weeks.
Neither came to pass. A mere three weeks ago Sherak attended one of his grandchildren’s bar mitzvahs. Hence the palpable sense of shock in the speeches by the members of his family– his daughters, his daughter-in-law, his wife Madeleine.
They used words like “angel,” “hero.”
“I’m trying not to drown,” said daughter Barbara. “You had the happy gene,” said daughter Melissa.
Tom’s wife Madeleine brought the house down, describing a rare kind of love in a 46-year marriage where they told one another “I love you” every single day after meeting on a blind date and marrying six months later. “It was a fairy-tale love affair,” she said, and it sure sounded like it. (In Hollywood, no less.)
Also read: Ryan Kavanaugh's Tribute to Tom Sherak
Madeleine described spending the past few days at his side, pleading with her husband to share his feelings, say what he was thinking. He refused. She described him instead as having a “quiet, calm resolve…. He was at peace.”
After a life of accomplishment and love like that, Tom Sherak had every reason to be.