By Tony Friscia

For 15 uninterrupted years, a group of entertainment industry colleagues — self-described as “veterans” — have gathered together in Los Angeles during the L.A. Screenings to lunch with old friends, make new ones, and informally chitchat about family, life, business triumphs, and very rarely, business failures. The lunch has been memorialized by a year-by-year photoplay report on VideoAge‘s dedicated webpage.

The annual lunch began in 2005 with just three attendees and had grown to include 26 individuals in 2019. Unfortunately, as the years rolled on, some of our old friends and colleagues left us.

As the unthinkable became reality, it became the tradition of the group to commence each lunch with a toast to those who were no longer with us.

Regrettably, in 2020, the world was hit with a catastrophic event that upended life as we knew it for all of us.

However, even a pandemic wouldn’t deter the Veterans from paying homage to their friends. They decided to “raise a glass” to their fallen colleagues via a virtual toast.  And as evidenced by the above photo, the responses were overwhelming.

The numerous written remembrances and nostalgic recollections submitted by fellow Veterans ran the gamut from simply proposing a toast to our dearly departed comrades to traditional religious and spiritual prayers to jousting over licensing terms. Some inspired us to do good deeds in their name and some taught us how to emulate their good deeds. Some recollecting elicited hearty laughs and some made us long to hear just one more story. Some Veterans reminisced about giving a first job to one, about receiving his first job from another, and having a long-standing friendship with a third. Some read poems by naval war heroes, while others spoke of meeting at a club in the Elysian Fields, sipping a well-chilled rosé. Some spoke of keeping their memories alive, and others insisted that we keep their memories as a blessing.

One Veteran raised a glass and described one former Veteran as a good guy, another as an old friend known for his kindness, and yet another as an inspirational coach. All were good, solid people. Another Veteran recalled the high-brow culinary tastes of those we honor — one delighted in consuming a French roast chicken paired with a 1921 Chateau Margaux; another appreciated a bagel and lox with a shmear accompanied by an ice cold Dr. Brown’s; and a third savored corned beef and cabbage washed down with a hearty Guinness Stout. One gave an Alla salute! in a foreign language, while another gave a simple “thank you.” And finally, one fellow Veteran rightfully hoped that we will be all be together again soon, gathered around a lunch table celebrating those who left us a wee bit too early.

Although they were all legends in our industry, they were most importantly our friends. A kind and gentle Irishman, a tall basketball player, and a young lad at a religious Jewish school: Jim Marrinan, Larry Gershman, and Russ Kagan. With much love, affection and friendship, rest in Eternal Peace. We will never forget you, but we will always miss you.

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