Tom Sherak got a star today on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame. Actually it was dated February 14, 2014, the day the ceremony was planned. But knowing his condition was worsening by the hour, the installation was moved up and the plaque was sent over and presented to Tom. He may not have been fully aware, but I hope he was. It probably doesn’t really matter in the scheme of things. The fact is everyone in this town knew what tourists strolling down the Hollywood Walk Of Fame will soon find out. Tom Sherak was a star — and a champion. Deadline’s obituary states many of the reasons why. So let me make this personal.
Related: Hollywood Remembers Tom Sherak
The last time I saw Tom was at the October 24th Fulfillment Fund dinner honoring Chris Meledandri. He had his baseball cap on to cover his loss of hair. He had just completed what he thought would be his final chemotherapy treatment and told me he would be ready to fully start his new job as L.A. Film Czar in December. He wanted to plan a dinner with me and our wives (Madelyn and Madeleine) for the end of November. He was looking forward. But he was always looking forward, whether it was in his tireless work leading the fight against MS, working on the next movie or leading the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as he did for three years. Tom wanted to do a fourth, but he was termed out on the board. But in driving through the Academy Museum, bringing the Oscars into the electronic age, and so many other things he actually fit the equivalent of ten years into three. That was Tom. He also was very open about his battle with prostate cancer. He wasn’t going to let it defeat him. That was Tom. So, after grueling chemo treatments, there he was at the Fulfillment Fund dinner, and even though he wasn’t running the show, or hosting it, Sherak took over from his table during the auction, getting the deep-pocketed executives in the crowd to double their already-generous bids and making sure no stone was left unturned in persuading Hollywood to give and give back. That too was Tom. And he was fun. What other Academy President would dress up as Darth Vader to make his opening remarks at the Governors Awards? That was also Tom.
Over the past few years I had many conversations with Sherak, and I have rarely encountered someone so open, such a straight shooter. Much of the time in covering Academy Awards you tend to get a lot of PR spin. I never felt that Sherak was serving up anything but the truth. Those conversations, just between us (no publicists on the line, which must have driven them crazy) were special. I knew it at the time. Tom Sherak was one of a kind. The Academy was lucky to have him. This town was lucky to have him. It’s ironic that this terrible disease would take him at only 68 years old. It was always Tom who was helping others when they were sick and finding the right doctors or medical treatment. Even through his toughest times he was there for everybody — whether you needed a doctor, a job referral or just good advice. And of course, there was the endless philanthropy, the never-ending raising of money for all sorts of causes.
When the Academy decided to team up with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and move the Academy’s planned movie museum to Mid-Wilshire, Hollywood was understandably disappointed. Originally it was planned to be right there off Vine next to the Academy’s Pickford Center. In the end it became a win-win for everyone when that land was turned into Oscars Outdoors, a state-of-the-art screening space that turned into a very successful, often sold-out venue during the summer months. Sherak was thrilled at the prospect of making good for Hollywood and the community. Long before the facility was built, he even told me of his grand plan (in his mind, at least) for the opening-night program: a double feature of his two favorite films, Spartacus and Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs. “And I am going to be there selling popcorn too,” he told me with his usual excitement. Well, even though the opening film turned out to be Field Of Dreams, Tom and some former Academy Presidents were there at the concessions counter as promised. And you couldn’t help but be energized by this man’s boundless enthusiasm for anything he does.
Tom Sherak was bigger than life. And to say he will be missed, as so many are saying now, is a major understatement. He already is missed. I just hope that wherever he is right now, he’s got some popcorn and is enjoying that ever-so-Sherak double bill of Spartacus and Snow White.
Awards Columnist Pete Hammond - tip him here.