Feb 1, 200805:25 PMThe Life
Palm Springs mourns passing of Earl Greenburg
Palm Springs mourns passing of Earl Greenburg
Earl Greenburg died this morning at age 61 at Eisenhower Medical Center, according to his life partner David Peet.
Greenburg was surrounded by his son, daughter, brother and Peet. He died of complications from melanoma. No funeral arrangements have yet been made.
Greenburg was a partner in Total Marketing Partners in Palm Springs and Transaction Marketing Partners in Santa Monica. His clients included Palm Desert National Bank, Eisenhower Medical Center, the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, Guide Dogs of the Desert, the Palm Springs Art Museum and the Desert AIDS Project.
Greenburg also served as chairman of the Palm Springs International Film Festival.
"He was pioneer," said Lea Goodsell, who will continue as president of Total Marketing Partners. "I have never worked with someone with such irrepressible spirit, backed by such knowledge."
Greenburg was a former vice president of NBC, producer of "The Regis Philbin Show," winner of two Emmys and virtually the "father" of video marketing as we know it today.
He was Palm Springs International Film Festival's board president. The festival, in its 19th year in January, saw attendance soar from 112,000 to 119,800. Box office revenue jumped from $800,000 to $979,000. Greenburg said the publicity from the star honorees drove the advance sale of passes to new heights.
"I think that had a lot to do with our sales, and just people getting to know our festival," Greenburg said.
Greenburg received his star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars on March 31, 2007. He and partner David Peet were the first gay couple to receive a star.
A career in entertainment
Greenburg, who was born in Philadelphia, started his career in law in the 1970s -- first with the Pennsylvania attorney general's office, then in corporate and antitrust law.
But Greenburg grew bored. After nearly a decade, he wanted a new challenge.
In 1978, a recruiter brought him to the network as vice president of compliance and practices, but he soon chafed at the position.
"The truth is, after three years on the job, I wanted to do something on the creative side," he said in a 2005 interview with The Desert Sun. NBC at that time was headed by television legends Fred Silverman and the late Brandon Tartikoff.
It was on a jog with Tartikoff that he asked a question that would change his life.
"He asked, 'What do you want to be when you grow up?'"
Tartikoff named Greenburg vice president-in-charge of daytime programming in 1981.
The promotion started a productive run at the network and launched Greenburg's career in entertainment.
Greenburg worked fast, canceling the network's game show programming. Except one.
By chance, he said, he kept "Wheel of Fortune."
The show has gone on to syndication and remains one of the most successful and popular game shows in television history.
After luring Regis Philbin from local to network television, the "Regis Philbin Show" won an Emmy in 1984.
After Greenburg left NBC, more success followed with proto- typical reality TV shows, "Fantasy," "World's Scariest Police Chases" and "World's Wildest Police Chases."
But a new opportunity arose in infomercials. The new long-form commercials were frowned upon by television executives and Greenburg knew little about the new format.
"I had no clue what an infomercial was," he said.
By 1990, he was president of a new unit of the cable giant Home Shopping Network - HSN Entertainment - based in Tampa, Fla.
"It was a fascinating experience. We built studios, produced shows."
But Greenburg couldn't stay in Tampa. His companion, Rick Weiss, was dying of AIDS, and Greenburg moved back to California to take care of him.
Weiss died in 1994
Weiss' life and struggle with the AIDS virus would later inspire Greenburg to establish the Weiss Apartments in Santa Monica. Today, 48 people live healthy with HIV/AIDS in the beachfront complex.
In the Coachella Valley, the Rick Weiss Humanitarian Awards is one of the area's gala events raising money for AIDS-related charities. Suzanne Somers, Larry King and Leeza Gibbons are among those who have received the prestigious award.
Life in California
The move from Florida to California also meant the genesis of TMP, and, later, a new relationship.
"I met David eight years ago in Japan," Greenburg recalled in the 2005 interview. "I met an American in Japan who spoke Japanese and Mandarin Chinese. We had a drink and I knew that was it."
Peet, a partner personally and professionally, is active in the desert's civic and philanthropic communities.
Greenburg found time to put his life and career in perspective.
"I don't think life is difficult at all. Life is pretty good and I have a renewed respect for wanting to live," he said.