Dave Robb, a fine reporter and great friend

By Ray Bennett

LONDON — A friend of mine is gravely ill and so, risking his wrath, I want to write this now rather than later. David Robb is the best reporter I’ve ever known and I’ve been fortunate to work with a good many very talented journalists.

The labour beat on a trade paper in the entertainment business is one of the toughest assignments of all. Dave did that job better than anyone. Parties on all sides can be devious or tight-lipped but they are the most skilled dissemblers, fabricators, prevaricators and flat-out liars in any industry.

With honesty and impartiality, Dave confronted studio magnates, union bosses, mob lawyers and highly paid flacks with fearless dedication.

On a TV show called ‘Poker Face’, Natasha Lyonne plays a smart cookie named Charlie Cale who has an unerring ability to detect bullshit. Dave Robb is the male equivalent.

We were colleagues on The Hollywood Reporter in the Nineties. Dave worked in the newsroom where competition with Daily Variety was ferocious and tension was high. Dave just got on with his work amidst the strife. He wasn’t too proud to seek help if his intense and detailed reporting required a snappy lede and I was enormously flattered when he asked for my help. One of the proudest moments in my long career came when we collaborated on a news story and I shared a byline with Dave Robb.

I’m very pleased that I was able to tell Dave all of this during a great conversation the other day; once again one filled with observations, reminiscences and plenty of laughter.

Beneath his toughness and gruff exterior, Dave is a sweet guy with a wicked sense of humour and generous to a fault. He married brilliantly and has close friends. I’m pleased to be one of them. He was a regular at our poker nights along with my Herald Examiner colleagues Charles Fleming, Gordon Dillow, Deborah Hastings and the late Mark Schwed plus John DiSimio from Castle Rock.

One of my pleasures at that time was the regular smoking breaks that Dave and I and Chris Morris from Billboard took on the roof of THR’s building on Melrose Avenue or in the parking levels. There, we would chat about current events and matters great and small. There was a great deal of laughter.

One of Dave’s comments that still makes me chuckle came when we watched a group of seagulls waddle across the concrete. ‘You know,’ Dave remarked, ‘if I were a seagull, I think I’d just fly everywhere.’

When the time comes, fly on my friend.

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12 Responses to Dave Robb, a fine reporter and great friend

  1. Kelly Robb says:

    Can you email me your beautiful tribute?

  2. Doug Galloway says:

    Brilliantly penned. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Bill Knoedelseder says:

    Perfect, Ray. Thanks. I will still be chuckling at Dave’s seagull line when I fly on.

  4. Aileen Fraser says:

    This is lovely. Thank you.

  5. Tony Angellotti says:

    Dave is a lovely man, a great friend, and one of the funniest people i know. Likely the only person I’ve ever enjoyed hearing complain bitterly, because he finds a way of making it an art form, infusing it with outrage and humor. I’ve learned so much from Dave. I have so many memories, starting from our first meeting in 1979, to how we taught John how to play poker so we’d have something to do on a regular basis on Friday nights, to his book signing where he fawned over my young son. He’s a great guy, with tremendous wit and heart. Love you Dave.
    Tony Angellotti

  6. Cheryl D Rhoden says:

    A wonderful tribute. That’s how I think of Dave too. The best of the best.

  7. Robin Winter-Young says:

    Extremely touching. Beautifully written.

  8. David brought me back to life when no one cared…Julie Ann Johnson/THE STUNTWOMAN

  9. PETER BESAS says:

    Hi, Ray,
    Bob Marich forwarded this email to me. He is keeping an eye on Dave Robb’s condition in the hospice.
    I believe Dave worked for a while on Daily Variety. Do you know the approximate time span he was there, and whether it was during the “old” Silverman-owned period, i.e. prior to the 1987 sale to the corporates?
    If so… when the time comes, I’d like to post your tribute to him, along with the replies
    on the webpage we have for former Variety “muggs”, as they were called. (www.simesite.net)
    Among your replies was one from Doug Galloway, who used to contribute to a once-a-year roundup of the former employees of Variety that I put together at the end of the
    year, but to which Doug has not responded of late. Do you know if his email address is still: [email protected]?

    Best regards,


  10. Mark Silverman says:

    Ray: this is very sad news to hear, but thank you for a lovely tribute to Dave.

    My best description of Dave is sandpaper, with a velvet backing. Gruff on the outside, a funny, softie romantic on the inside. He could be a bulldog on your case but I thought he was always trying to give everyone a fair shake from the start, until they messed with his BS meter. A reporter’s reporter, with a backbone to match,

    I did play in a few memorable poker nights with Dave and John DeSimio et al in the early ‘80s; they say if you look around the table and wonder who the pigeon is, it’s you. The photo of Dave above is the same winning smile I’ll always remember him asking me, “Are you all in?” Bon voyage, Dave. Fly like a gull.

  11. Michael Silverman says:

    Responding to Peter Besas (hi, Peter!): Yes, Dave Robb not only worked at Daily Variety, he toiled like a demon (like all of us) at Daily Variety under longtime Editor Tom Pryor in the 1980s and early ‘90s. I always called him “BIG Dave Robb” in those days as he was a tremendous center fielder on the DV industry softball team. Gruff on the outside but in reality a softie (a truly good thing) on the inside, he was one of the most tenacious reporters I ever worked with, like a bulldog on a bone he would not let go until every crevice of that news bone had been worked over hard for all the facts. And Ray is right, the labor beat in Hollywood was among the most difficult to write and get right. I’m truly sorry to hear he’s in hospice, because a guy like Big Dave Robb makes the world a better place to be in unless you’re a “lying low-down snake spawn of the devil” as Dave might have said (correctly) about a few ethically-challenged Hollywood denizens. The world can use more people like Dave Robb, and I’m glad and proud to have worked and played with him (except in poker, as I hear he’s pretty darned good). God bless Dave Robb and his kind. — Mike Silverman (—Mich.)

  12. Jeff Daniels says:

    Thank you for sharing this special tribute to Dave Robb. I’m sad to hear he’s in hospice. Dave and I worked together at The Hollywood Reporter during the 90s. What a great time we had together. His wit, charm, patience, kindness, and humor stand out – as well as his great reporting and fascinating stories. Always a class act and someone you could count on. Though he might not see this, I hope he feels our love and support.

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