Lawrence (Larry) Eugene Gershman, one of the most innovative TV executives in the world, passed away on Friday, September 13 following a battle with cancer. His daughter, Leslie Wandmacher, reported the sad news to VideoAge. He is also survived by a son, Gerry. In addition, for the last 12 years, Larry shared his life with a companion, Barbara Weinger, and her children and grandchildren.
Gershman was the founder and chairman of WIN, the former president of MGM/UA TV Group, a Viacom vp, and a former station manager for WNBC-TV. But most of all he was a great friend, a great mentor, and a great supporter of VideoAge from the very beginning. He never asked for anything, but was always ready to give. The worldwide TV industry will miss him tremendously.
At WIN, he introduced an innovative way to produce TV movies by pre-selling them to those who pre-subscribed to the productions. At MGM/UA, he pioneered a way to sell library theatrical movies in syndication, and also created an original structure to continue the production and syndication of Fame when the series was canceled by NBC after a few episodes.
Larry was born in Brooklyn, New York, and went on became a lawyer to fulfill the wishes of his dying father, but his true love was always television. So after college, while attending law school at night, he also began working for National Telefilm Associates.
In 2015, Larry published his autobiography, A Kid From Brooklyn: Lessons Learned (which is available on Amazon), and in 2016, he was featured in VideoAge’s “International TV Distribution Hall of Fame*,” which reported several comments from his friends and colleagues.
Recalled Joseph C. Tirinato, who served as Gershman’s second-in-command at MGM/UA: “Larry is a larger-than-life character who always commands attention in any given situation be it personal or professional. One such time was during one of his ‘several wedding receptions,’ this one at the Friars club in New York City, where someone pointed out that, given Larry’s love of sun-worshipping (silver reflector et al.), he was now darker than his guest, [African-American] fight promoter Don King, who was standing next to him!”
Added Dennis F. Holt, chairman/CEO, U.S. International Media: “Larry and I have been great friends since the ’60s. We were both young salesmen for RKO, then the largest independent broadcast company in America. Besides making our calls and visits to the media buyers throughout Manhattan, we also found time to party. It was Mad Men on steroids. We all called Larry ‘Super Jew’ because he was movie star good-looking. When Larry and I were in a bar, girls would come over to him, and more than once they would slip their phone number into his pocket.”
When Gershman was asked about the reasons behind his business success for the “Hall of Fame” feature, he credited his hard work: “My book doesn’t have a chapter that reads ‘easy,’” he said, “Or at least I haven’t gotten to it yet.”
In the above photo, one of his favorites, he hid his sense of humor by wearing
Fila track pants under the desk.