Mary Hart Remembers 'Entertainment Tonight' Producer Bonnie Tiegel: "She Was the Master Negotiator"
Tiegel passed away Jan. 23 following a battle with cancer. Longtime colleague, close friend and legendary host Hart pays tribute to the woman who was universally loved in Hollywood for her spirit, tenacity and supersized heart.
When Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman split up, neither wanted to do interviews — understandably so — and Bonnie and I had a really long talk about how to handle it. I, as the host of the show, didn't want to be put in the position of having a publicist say that I couldn't ask about this or that, or see a situation where someone walks out of the interview. Minutes after our conversation, Bonnie came back and said, "It's going to be fine. You can ask whatever you want."
Bonnie had gone to Tom's people and it ended up being just fine, always as it was in Bonnie's hands. She had that unique ability to make it the best for both sides, leaving everyone feeling like they were loved and taken care of. There was no one that could deal with that better. She had a wisdom about life and a self-confidence about her. She had worked in town for such a long time that she knew how the business worked. She didn't get ruffled, she didn't get impressed and she didn't get depressed.
In her own way, she was the queen bee around Entertainment Tonight. You could always go to Bonnie and know that she had a connection to whatever you needed — whether it be the head of a studio or a star. She knew every publicist who ever existed in this town. And the stars adored her. Usually there is this wall of publicists in between, but everybody loved Bonnie. She was the master negotiator, the producer who could get things done even if it seemed like there wasn't a compromise.
We worked with each other so well. We went through all of the happy times and all of the sad times together. It was always Bonnie who would say, "I love you, what can I do for you?" She would even do that on the red carpet at the Oscars. It is that kind of love. She and I were particularly close. I had known for the last several months how ill she was, and she didn't want the rest of our broad Entertainment Tonight family to know. She knew she had to fight this battle and she didn't want a lot of fuss to be made over her.
I knew her mother, Frankie, very well. She was so close to her mother and took such wonderful care of her. When her mother passed three years ago, we talked about it a lot. This past August, when Bonnie found out that my mother was dying, she dropped everything, even though she was traveling to Hawaii with her husband, Elliot. Her compassion is so emblematic of who she was.
I get very choked up talking about her because in the last couple of weeks of her life, I had the chance to really sit with her at the hospital. When I went out of town, I called because I wanted to tell her one more time how much I love her. Her son, Kenny, put the phone up to her ear. "Hey Bon, it's Mary," I said. I told her how much I loved her and I could feel her respond. Kenny told me that she said, "I love you, too."
It's a very personal loss for me. I was talking to [longtime ET executive producer] Linda Bell, and we both marveled at how we have never known anybody like Bonnie. I feel so comfortable about where she is now. I have seen all these gorgeous rainbows this week after all the rain in L.A. Bonnie is now a rainbow shining down on all of us with her bright light.
For 29 years, Mary Hart served as host of Entertainment Tonight, the longest -unning entertainment news show of all time.