Dale Spina, Former Advertising Executive at Warner Bros., Dies at 66

Courtesy of Carl Samrock Public Relations
Dale Spina

He was the co-head of the studio's in-house Idea Place and came up with poster copy for 'Chariots of Fire.'

Dale Spina, a longtime advertising executive and copywriter at Warner Bros. who helped with the marketing campaigns for such acclaimed studio films as Beetlejuice and Chariots of Fire, has died. He was 66.

Spina died Aug. 4 in Newhall, Calif., after a brief illness, publicist Carl Samrock announced.

As co-head of The Idea Place, Warners' in-house ad agency that was launched in the early 1980s, Spina worked on dozens of titles, including Chariots of Fire (1981), Beetlejuice (1988), Batman (1989) and the films in the Lethal Weapon series.

Many of his projects captured Key Art Awards, the annual honors bestowed by The Hollywood Reporter to recognize the best in motion picture creative advertising and marketing.

In 1980, Spina began working with Joel Wayne, the top creative executive at Grey Advertising in New York who had just joined Warner Bros. as vice president and creative director.

"Dale was a genius writer. In my nearly half-century in the business, there was nobody better," he said. "At that time, executives sent out hard copies of written notes, a function often taken on by the assistant. I noticed something immediately in Dale's ability to turn a witty, inventive and personable phrase. So I decided to trust my instincts to see what he could do with poster copy for Chariots of Fire. He didn't disappoint."

Wrote Spina: "This is a story of two men who run … not to run … but to prove something to the world. They will sacrifice anything to achieve their goals … except their honor."

The film, of course, went on to win the Oscar for best picture.

Spina once said that his favorite tagline was for Beetlejuice — "The Name in Laughter From the Hereafter.”

Spina's tenure at Warner Bros. nearly mirrored the two-decade run of Warner Bros. co-chairmen and CEOs Bob Daly and Terry Semel. He referred to their administration as the "Camelot years," a reference to the studio's success during that period and the top executives' collaborative management style.

Spina also worked closely with worldwide marketing chiefs Sandy Reisenbach and Rob Friedman. Charlotte Kandel, who eventually headed worldwide publicity at the studio, said, "Dale had such a joy for life and such a generous spirit. On top of that was a cheekiness and irreverence like nobody else's."

Spina retired from Warner Bros. in 1998 and spent the next three years as a freelance writer.

Dale Michael Spina was born in North Hollywood on Nov. 9, 1950, and raised by his widowed mother. He attended Kittridge Elementary School and Notre Dame High School, both in the San Fernando Valley, then earned a degree in journalism from Valley College.

Spina joined Warner Bros. in 1970 and worked as assistants to West Coast publicity director Diana Widom, Kandel (Widom's twin sister) and advertising director Nancy Goliger before moving up the ladder at the company.

He is survived by Guy Apollo, his husband of four years and life partner of 40. A memorial service has been scheduled for 12:30 p.m. on Sept. 23 at Forest Lawn in Los Angeles.