9:30am PT by Chris Gardner
Inside Steve Golin's Celebration of Life Service With Beck, Laura Dern and Alejandro González Iñárritu
"Change your heart, look around you. Change your heart, it will astound you. I need your loving like the sunshine."
Those are just a few of the lyrics to the song "Everybody's Got to Learn Sometime," a track performed by Beck on April 30 during the celebration of life service for Steve Golin held at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre. It was clear that Golin changed many hearts as more than 1,000 guests attended the service to pay tribute to the Oscar-winning manager-producer and Anonymous Content chief who passed away at 64 of cancer on April 21.
The song hails from the Golin-produced, Michel Gondry-directed Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which was well represented at the event. It was projected on the garden courtyard wall of the Ebell, a fitting choice because the film — in addition to being a vehicle for talent, artistic freedom and experimental storytelling — is about memory, heartbreak and the imprint love has on one's life and mind. These are all things that were important to Golin during his decades-long Hollywood career, which spanned film, television, commercials and advertising.
All industries were represented inside the Ebell, which hosted notable names like Gondry, Jeffrey Katzenberg, David Lynch, Sam Esmail, Emmy Rossum, Renee Zellweger, Laura Dern, Casey Affleck, Laurene Powell Jobs, Spike Jonze, Mahershala Ali, Mark Romanek, Jonas Akerlund, MC Hammer, Omar Epps, Tom McCarthy and Stephen Dorff. Those delivering tributes included family (children Anna and Ari; brother Larry; step-daughter Blue Etienne-Gay), colleagues (Jim Tauber, Michael Kuhn) and filmmakers (Alejandro González Iñárritu and Malcolm Venville).
"The truly wonderful thing, the thing that made it so real and so positive and collected everyone together was that the images and the speakers and stories came from his brother, his children, his partner and those very closest to Steve," manager-producer David Kanter tells THR. "Each speaker spoke directly from their heart and by doing so they brought us into their family and shared a side of Steve that we didn’t know. And the amazing thing was the consistency of Steve with his family and Steve with all of us at Anonymous Content and in the larger community. I believe it was his daughter, Anna, who said that he was the yin and the yang, but everyone in the theater knew precisely the man whom those closest to him remembered. It was a beautiful evening, it was honest, it was funny at times, and it was life-affirming throughout."
Producer Albert Berger said that what made Golin so special is his many unique charms. "There was always his humor. That impish Tony Soprano smile. That straight-ahead, unfiltered quality that was so pure, so Steve. He let you know how he felt. That was never in doubt. He was completely comfortable with who he was. I never saw him overly impressed by anyone — certainly not by himself," Berger says. "Everyone at Anonymous loved Steve. They wanted to be around him. In fact, they couldn’t get enough of him, and everyone knew what he was going through. Steve didn’t have patience for secrets. But as bad as it got, it never stopped him. He had an ambition to create that fueled him through everything, an urgency that kept him going. Who else aspired to build an empire while going through what he went through? We all witnessed something rare and remarkable."
One member of that empire, manager-producer Rosalie Swedlin, says that the years she worked under Golin were among the "most wonderful" in a long career. "Every day I looked forward to coming into the office, to be surrounded by so many talented and good people, and most of all, to have had the opportunity to know and to work with Steve. We keep saying there is now a little bit of Steve in all of us," she tells THR. As for the event, it was "beyond perfect," she adds. Aside from Beck, additional music came courtesy of the Carl Tassi Quartet. On behalf of the Golin family, Bedonna Smith, executive producer of activism at Anonymous Content, led a team of colleagues from the company to produce the evening, with Cathy James of the James Group as event planning partner.
Says Swedlin: "It was such a beautiful and loving portrait of a man who led a full, rich and complete life surrounded by love from family, friends, colleagues and professional collaborators. The tributes were each distinctive, personal and clearly drawn from the deep love that [they] all have for Steve. I smiled, I laughed and I wept many times."
The program featured a black-tie-clad Golin and remembrances in the form of "Steve-isms" and "The Golin Rules," which were compiled by onetime assistant Emmeline Yang (who now works as head of TV and film at Iconoclast). A few of the rules: "If you give your word, that's it. Expect the same from other people." "Nurture, protect and defend artists. Help them do their best work. Your relationship will thrive if you are honest, not because you tell them what they want to hear." "Put your colleagues first. Theirs should be the first calls you return. Find time to listen, and help each other. Sharing your knowledge helps the greater good, and helps you in return." "Be confident, and take pride in your work. Be humble. It's not about you, or your ego." "Enjoy life. Have that glass of red wine. Gather your friends and celebrate successes and good times. Stay out later than you should. Travel the world, appreciate art. Learn, always."
For those compelled to take up Steve's fierce determination to put an end to cancer, please give to The Steve Golin Fund at Stand Up to Cancer which will fund research in Ewing sarcoma at StandUpToCancer.org/SteveGolin.
A version of this story first appeared in the May 8 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.