Steven Spielberg, John Williams Celebrate Lionel Newman at Building Dedication

Eric Charbonneau
Steven Spielberg, John Williams, Jim Gianopulos

Randy Newman also was on hand for the Fox event honoring the memory of his late uncle. "The first day I met Lionel, I realized I needed to be on his side," Spielberg joked.

Steven Spielberg and longtime artistic collaborator John Williams were among those attending Thursday's celebration on the 20th Century Fox lot renaming the studio's historic music building in honor of the late Lionel Newman, the prolific television and film composer.

Randy Newman, Lionel Newman's nephew, also helped remember his uncle, whose tenure at Fox spanned 46 years and 200 films.

The ceremony began with a few introductory remarks from 20th Century Fox Film CEO/chairman Jim Gianopulos, who dubbed the Newman family the "Kennedys of songwriting."

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Spielberg said he was first introduced to Lionel Newman -- a "force of nature" -- by a then 41-year-old Williams. "The first day I met Lionel, I realized I needed to be on his side," he joked, "because you didn’t want to be on the other side of Lionel, ever. If someone crossed Lionel, you heard such language. I never learned to swear, until I came to Fox."

Williams, who first worked with Newman on the TV series Lost in Space (1965-1968), said the legendary conductor and composer was "inimitable, irreplaceable and certainly an original." Speaking of his friend’s rituals, he said, "at 5 o’clock there was cocktail hour." He paused. Then came the punchline: "Most of the good music that was written in this building was between the hours of 5 and 7 in the evening." 

Randy Newman spoke of his uncle’s passion for music, his sharp-witted tongue and his infectious humor. "He was enormously serious about music. I look at those pictures of him conducting, and I think that’s what was most real for him," he said.

The singer also recounted a humorous exchange between his uncle and Jerry Goldsmith. "He called Jerry ‘Gorgeous,’ and Jerry said it was because Lionel was jealous that all the women at Fox were wild about him."

Newman added: "Jerry wasn’t exactly vain, but I saw him walk by a couple of mirrors one day." After the laughs died down, he finished the story. "Lionel put a pool of water on the stand, so that Jerry could see his reflection," he recalled. His humor-spiked speech ended with: "I miss him."

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Joey Newman concluded the speeches with remarks about his "Papi."

"My grandfather was an incredible role model for me," he said. "The connection between my grandfather as a conductor and myself as a conductor, is something I truly cherish."

Lionel Newman's numerous credits included Road House (1948), There’s No Business Like Show Business (1954), River of No Return (1954), Love Me Tender (1956), North to Alaska (1960) and Hello, Dolly! (1970), which earned him an Oscar.