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If any of the films he worked on got the same turnout as his funeral, Tom Sherak would have been one happy distribution exec.
The parking lot at Woodland Hills’ Temple Aliyah was completely full; there was no parking available for blocks and it was standing-room-only inside the Conservative Jewish congregation’s hall. Among the roughly 1,000 seated for the 10 a.m. service were Sony Pictures’ Amy Pascal, Disney’s Alan Horn, producer Joe Roth, Legendary board member Dick Cook, former Yahoo chief Terry Semel, Fox Filmed Entertainment’s Jim Gianopulos, TriStar’s Tom Rothman, Warner Bros.’ Barry Meyer and Greg Silverman, Paramount’s Brad Grey and MGM’s Jon Glickman.
Sherak, the charismatic and charitable studio marketing and distribution executive who recently guided the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences through some tumultuous times, died Jan. 28 of prostate cancer at age 68. Sherak, who had a long career at 20th Century Fox and then Revolution Studios before serving three consecutive one-year terms as president of the Academy through August 2012, was famous for always offering to help friends with medical matters, knowing where to get the best care, and pressing that it get done right and right away. A story about that talent was used to begin Rabbi Uri Herscher‘s remarks.
The rabbi limped up to the microphone and said he’d recently had hip surgery that Sherak helped arrange. He mentioned how he’d called the doctor Sherak recommended and was told there was a three-month wait for an appointment. When the receptionist asked if this was acceptable, the rabbi replied, “It’s acceptable to me, but I’m not sure it is to Tom.”
For a rabbi speaking at a funeral, that got a pretty good laugh.
The rabbi compared people to trees, saying some trees grow short, some grow really tall. No tree, however, reached heaven. “But with Tom, I wonder,” he said. He ended his remarks by saying that when we die our deeds speak for us and that “Tom’s good deeds are so many, they’ll sing.”
Sherak’s widow, Madeleine, to whom he’d been married for 46 years, brought the crowd to tears when she recounted her husband’s last few days.
She wanted him to say more than just “I’m happy” and then finally realized that “the ultimate gift he gave me was letting me know he was at peace with the life he had and was ready to move on.”
Also moving the assembled mourners to tears were tributes by Sherak’s daughters Barbra Neinstein and Melissa Glasser.
The ceremony ended with family and friends leaving for the burial at Mt. Sinai Memorial Park in Simi Valley. (Paul Mazursky, James Cameron, Brett Ratner and Henry Winkler were among those who stood in line for 90 minutes to shovel dirt on the casket.)
As the procession left, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the current Academy president, said she thought of his role in the industry as “the super cheerleader. There’s a lot of good in Hollywood, and he wanted to shine a light on it.”
Others at the service included Samuel Goldwyn Jr., Ric Robertson, Jeff Blake, Greg Silverman, Bob Rehme, Dr. Gary Gitnick, Byron Allen, Ron Perlman, Gary Barber, Jon Landau, Hawk Koch, Sid Ganis, Rob Moore, Rob Friedman, Jonathan Glickman, Peter Farrelly, Brad Fischer, Nia Vardalos, Jason Shuman and Steve Guttenberg.
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