Jeffrey Ressner, Journalist Who Worked for The Hollywood Reporter, Dies at 56
Veteran writer also worked for L.A. Weekly, Cash Box, Rolling Stone, Time magazine and Politico in distinguished career.
Jeffrey Ressner, a familiar figure on the local entertainment journalism scene who wrote for Cash Box, The Hollywood Reporter, Rolling Stone, Us Weekly and Time, among others, died June 28 of complications from heart disease. He was 56.
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Ressner was born and raised by the Jersey shore, in the small town of Lakewood, where he developed a love of journalism at an early age by penning letters to the editor of the local paper. He frequently wrote for his high school newspaper and also started an underground journal that was banned from school property. He graduated from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., moving to Los Angeles in 1979 to pursue a career as a writer and journalist. He joined the L.A. Weekly shortly after its launch, working his way up from messenger and typesetter to become a contributing editor, covering everything from the New Age movement and marijuana decriminalization to profiles of indie film directors and local rock bands. He began his trade journalism career at Cash Box and The Hollywood Reporter before going consumer, joining Rolling Stone as a senior writer in 1988, where he wrote numerous cover stories and features in his three-year tenure.
Ressner then took a management position at the magazine’s sister publication, Us Weekly, as West Coast bureau chief. As a business and entertainment reporter at Time Magazine for 15 years, through much of the 1990s, Ressner wrote cover stories on Steve Jobs and the formation of DreamWorks SKG. He was equally at home with politicians, businessmen and rock stars, writing about such California icons as O.J. Simpson and Arnold Schwarzenegger, media moguls Steven Spielberg, Rupert Murdoch, David Geffen and Terry Semel as well as Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert Downey Jr., Winona Ryder, Jerry Seinfeld and Tommy Lee Jones. One of his favorite interview moments occurred on the afternoon he escorted Bjork to the Beverly Hills Hotel's Polo Lounge, where she snuggled up to a piano and began singing Gershwin tunes. Ressner joined the online site Politico as their Hollywood correspondent, and then worked the last few years as a freelancer.
In his personal life, Ressner enjoyed traveling to Europe and Asia and remote spots such as Luang Prabang in Laos, Lijiang in southwest China, and Nuwara Eliya in Sri Lanka. In his spare time at home, he liked to read, watch movies, kick back with The McLaughlin Group and blast James Brown on his iPod.
Said noted author and Ressner’s close friend Fred Goodman, who worked with him at Cash Box and Rolling Stone: "Jeff was a fantastic colleague, the kind of journalist and co-worker you dream of having at the next desk. He wasn't afraid of the heavy lifting and knew where to look for stories and how to go after them. He quietly but consistently avoided any writer who used his perch to angle for an industry job but otherwise shared his own contacts and knowledge with true generosity. I learned Jeff was ill when I called his house looking for help tracking down a film producer. I still haven't found the producer. And now we've lost our friend."
Ressner is survived by his longtime partner, Rina Echavez, his sister, Lise Olsen, and his stepmother, Roz Ressner.
A memorial service will be held Tuesday, July 8, at 11 a.m. at Forest Lawn in Burbank.