Geoffrey Ammer Memorial Brings Out Top Hollywood Executives
A standing room crowd of more than 400 of Hollywood’s top executives – including Sony’s Amy Pascal and Jeff Blake, Universal’s Adam Fogelson, former Disney studio president Dick Cook and actor Adam Sandler – joined with family and friends Friday morning for a memorial to Geoffrey Ammer, the veteran film industry marketing executive who died unexpectedly five days earlier at age 62.
Ammer’s longtime friend and colleague Tom Sherak, who acted as the memorial’s emcee, looked at the crowd that filled the ballroom of the Four Seasons and overflowed into the adjacent anteroom and remarked, “Whoever said there was strength in numbers knew what they were talking about.”
They witnessed a touching, heartfelt memorial that began with Ammer’s wife Mia, who said the one remark she has heard over and over since his passing is, “They don’t make men like that any more.”
She talked about what a wonderful engaged father he was to their two children, Geoffrey Jr. and Annie, as well his close relationship with his family and his loyalty and love for his friends.
“If he was here today he would be running around managing the affair and asking if anyone needed anything,” said Mia Ammer, bringing tears to many eyes as she added: “The sweet and the salty, the tough and the tenderness, that was my husband, and that is how I will always remember him.”
The memorial began and ended with photo montages of Ammer with family and friends, at work and at play, for his childhood in Toledo, Ohio in the 1950s through loving, playful, family scenes with his wife., children and his beloved twin sisters Connie and Bonnie.
His sisters spoke about Ammer’s “Midwestern values and everyman qualities” and said that never changed, even when he went to Hollywood. “It didn’t matter whether you were the gardener, a big star or a studio boss,” said Bonnie, “He showed everyone courtesy.”
The only person from his show business life who spoke, aside from Sherak, was producer and studio exec Joe Roth, who worked with Ammer over a 25-year period at Twentieth Century Fox , Sony Pictures Entertainment, Revolution and elsewhere.
“He was a guy who stepped out of an episode of Mad Men,” said Roth, “completely out of his time.”
Roth called Ammer “a loyal, passionate friend who stood by me no matter what. I know it’s hard to imagine, but we had some films that didn’t work. But I never had to worry that he’d sell me out, and that’s saying something in this town.”
However, Roth said Ammer “had the political savvy of a mosquito. It didn’t matter what anybody else thought, he was going to do what he had to do.”
Roth said Ammer “would dive into his work, and if he thought something wasn’t working, he would never let it go….I’m gong to miss him.”
Ammer’s nephew and godson, Scot Ulmer, spoke about how his uncle was “the true rock and true pillar of out family” as well as, in his eyes, “the epitome of cool.”
Ulmer said Ammer was someone who remained unaffected by his Hollywood success. “Except for my childhood wardrobe being made up mainly of movie T-shirts,” said Ulmer, “you’d never know what a big shot he was.”
Ammer’s friend Claire Heath was choked up during most of her remarks. “One of the worst things about losing Geoff,” she said from her heart, “is not being able to call Geoff about it.”
“He was my friend,” said Heath. “He was my boss. He was my hero.”
When Sherak introduced Vinny Ricchiuti, he said, “How good was Geoff? He loved his father-in-law.”
Mia’s father immediately got a laugh when he told the story of learning his daughter was going to marry someone in the movie business. He said his first thought was: “I hope it’s not those movies I watch when my wife goes to bed.”
Ricchiuti recalled sharing a love for the game of golf with his son-in-law, who would almost always beat him, but always made it fun.
Ricchiuti surprised the crowd when he told the story of how “the Ammer Express went off the wheels” when Ammer began to have kidney problems and was facing dialysis. He then asked Margie Langenderfer, a family friend from Ohio, to stand up. She was the donor that allowed Ammer to have a full recovery.
Ammer’s cousin Randy Abood told the family history of being descended from Lebanese immigrants who had seven children. He also brought up the fact that Ammer’s father had died when he was 4 and what a struggle that was for the family.
In Ammer’s case, his son Geoffrey is 7 and his daughter Annie is 5.
Abood recalled Geoff’s strength and his ability to be a leader which was clear even when he was 15 years old. He talked about Ammer going to the University of Florida on a football scholarship and his early career as a promoter of rock concerts.
He also said Ammer had an extraordinary relationship with his mother, who was always proud to show off her son “in from Hollywood” to friends when he came home on visits to Toledo.
The last speaker was Sherak who spoke of their three decades of working together, beginning in 1983 at Fox. He said Ammer was like “the younger brother I never had.”
Sherak recalled it was Ammer who, when his own mother was dying, left a movie junket in Florida to accompany her from Miami to Los Angeles, pushing her wheel chair until he got her to her sons home.
Sherak ended by saying: “Although everyone believed I took care of you, in truth you took care of me and my family and all of us.”