There is an exclusive Hollywood party going on tonight that none of us can get into and all of us wish we could. The lineup of stars in attendance goes on forever. Bette Davis is there. So is Joan Crawford but they aren’t talking to each other. The King Clark Gable is there and so is Judy Garland and the entire cast of The Wizard of Oz. Even the Munchkins are turning out for this gala event. The list goes on and on… Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, John Wayne, Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, Roddy McDowall, Natalie Wood, Irene Dunne, Greer Garson, Elizabeth Taylor with Richard Burton at last!!! Lauren Bacall and husband Humphrey Bogart are sitting with Robert Mitchum and Spencer Tracy who cannot keep his eyes off off, you guessed it, Katharine Hepburn. There is the beautiful Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck and James Cagney and the Marx Brothers and well just about every major Hollywood star who have graced the silver screen and gave us classic film images we will never forget.
They are all there to welcome the new kid in town to their version of a Hollywood party to end all Hollywood parties. This one is up in the clouds. This one is up in the heavens. And walking down that yellow brick road to meet them is the man who was the “movies best friend” Robert Osborne. They are waiting with open arms and love. And he deserves it. All of it.
I was lucky or should I say honored to know Robert Osborne. It happened a long time ago. An old business partner of mine by the name of John Hart introduced me to him many years ago and we enjoyed what ended up being a three hour classic martini lunch where I got to sit back and just listen to Robert talk about Hollywood, Turner Classic Movies, the stars he knew and his travels with a lot of them but mainly Bette Davis. One story has never left me and while I can never do it justice I will try and recapture the flavor of Robert telling it. He was accompanying Bette Davis to the Rome Film Festival. It is the early sixties. They are flying out of Los Angeles and are boarding the plane to sit in first class. As they entered the aircraft they immediately saw Olivia de Havilland, Roddy McDowall and a few other Hollywood heavyweights also sitting in first class. This prompted de Havilland to announce, “My gosh if the plane goes down the Los Angeles Times front page headline will read “Large group of Hollywood royalty perish in plane crash” to which Davis proclaimed, “No Olivia you are wrong, the headlines will say BETTE DAVIS and a group of Hollywood royalty perish in plane crash!” Imagine being fortunate enough to sit and listen to these stories for three hours. I have been that privileged.
In attending the TCM Film Festival each year whenever I would run into Robert he would always remember that lunch and always remembered me. He never forgot my name (in a business where everyone forgets everyone else’s name unless they are working with them that day) and always took the time to chat during his very busy schedule at the fest. He was just that kind of a guy. He loved people and he really loved people that loved movies. And they loved him back. Big time.
The effect that Robert had on the success of TCM can never be spoken about enough. His manner on air and his supreme knowledge of what he was talking about helped make the network into what it is today just as much as the movies they show. He wasn’t just a host. He was you friend, your favorite uncle, your father, your grandfather or any other family member that you invited into your home. His presence was that strong and his persona so beloved that the network will never be able to replace him. It’s that simple. It will go on and change as it must and adapt and try new hosts and hopefully the network will be smart enough to let Ben Mankiewicz take over the role that Robert once had. Totally and with no interference from hosts they consider younger or hipper. Mankiewicz is the real deal and knows his stuff.
Those of us that love movies and love TCM are shedding a tear today as we heard that Robert at the age of 84 has left us. He hasn’t been seen or heard from for a while now so I hope he is at peace and no longer sick and seeing old friends, family members and the who’s who of Hollywood he got to know and befriend. He had a lot of people welcoming him into that everlasting life we will all end up together in.
God Bless you Robert Osborne. Thanks for the moments and memories.
— TCM (@tcm) March 6, 2017