Sunday, May 26, 2024

Sam Rubin, who died Friday at 64, felt like a fun-loving friend on the KTLA 5 Morning News

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Legendary Los Angeles entertainment reporter Sam Rubin aways felt like a friend. You might be a Hollywood star talking with Rubin on the KTLA 5 Morning News or a bleary-eyed viewer watching from home, but Rubin’s cheerful, curious, conversational style made you feel like part of his circle.

Rubin, 64, died Friday at home, apparently after a heart attack. He’d called in sick Friday, one day after interviewing actress Jane Seymour on the Morning News with no sign of anything wrong.

As news of his death spread, the loss — to celebrities, viewers, colleagues, friends and family — felt profound.

“He made you feel special every single time and I am not the only person who felt that warmth every time they sat down at your desk,” actor Henry Winkler said on a call into KTLA as the station reported on his death and remembered his many years behind the Morning News anchor desk in his chair on the right side of your screen.

“He made every human being feel so special, and then got them to open up like a flower,” Winkler continued. “My heart goes out to his family, to you, his colleagues. He will be so missed. I am so overwhelmed that he won’t be here with us.”

“The Sam that you saw on the air is the Sam that was off the air,” said KTLA news anchor Frank Buckley, who struggled to keep his composure as he broke the news of Rubin’s death to viewers just after midday Friday.

“I am heartbroken,” wrote Mariane McLucas on the KTLA Facebook post announcing that Rubin had died. “Sam was like a family member. Every morning I watched him. We chatted on social media many, many times over the years. Such a nice man, such a fun loving soul. I’m just broken up.”

In his interviews, Rubin often seemed like a fan who had lucked into a job as a entertainment journalist. Not that he wasn’t anything less than a very talented professional broadcast journalist. He just so clearly loved his work in a pinch-me-do-I-really-get-to-do-this way.

Often he might open an interview with some off-the-wall question to catch a media-trained entertainer off guard as a way to break the ice.

“Is it shampoo and condition? Or just shampoo? What is the hair regimen, Jared, good morning to you,” Rubin once asked Jared Leto to kick off their interview. The long-tressed actor-musician laughed and played along — “Well, you know, my friend, it’s a toupee” — and Rubin howled with laughter.

At the Oscars in 2018, Rubin ended up talking with Common and Tiffany Haddish, and ultimately, cheekily, suggested they might be a good match so why not go on a date? A few years later, they were a couple, and Rubin was beyond pleased with his matchmaking self.

Rubin was always game to play along with anything guests invited him to do. Invitations to dance were never declined whether it was the K-pop boy band Ateez teaching him one of their moves on air last year, or Rubin jokingly offer to join Destiny’s Child many years earlier.

“Could I do backup with you guys?” Rubin asked the trio as he demonstrated his talents. “Ahhh, I think you got a little work to do,” Beyoncé replied, trying not to laugh at his herky-jerky moves.

Rubin often talked about his own life on the air, such as his adventures with his wife Leslie and their four children. His KTLA colleagues laughed as they recalled how much Rubin hated camping and how cheerfully he would go when it was an outing with one his kids.

In 2012, he flew to New York City to do a press junket with Ryan Gosling for “The Place Beyond the Pines,” primarily because his 17-year-old daughter Perry threatened to stop talking with him if he didn’t meet her favorite actor and ask him a few very specific questions for her. Rubin did, Gosling was impressed with the questions, and Perry surely was thrilled.

Like any journalist, do the job long enough and you’ll make a mistake. Rubin had the ability to apologize, laugh and move on from any minor slips, though the time Samuel L. Jackson scolded Rubin for confusing him with Laurence Fishbourne surely wasn’t fun.

All of that — the sense of fun, the humility, the willingness to say and do anything, the good-natured affection he had for all his guests, and the genuine kindness and warmth he had for all in his orbit — contributed to the outpouring of emotion that greeted his death on Friday.

“I don’t think there was ever a person who loved his job more than Sam Rubin did,” wrote actress Marilu Henner on X. “He was always a BLAST! My heart goes out to his beautiful family at home & his incredible family at KTLA. You could feel the love when you walked on set. And Sam was the heart and hearth.”

Actor Kiefer Sutherland mentioned running into Rubin on a red carpet earlier this year — Rubin was a fixture of Los Angeles awards shows coverage.

“I last talked to Sam Rubin at the Critics Choice Awards this year,” Sutherland posted on X. “His smile and his genuine excitement for all things Hollywood ever present. In nervous situations he was a buoy of kindness. I will miss him.”

Actor Danny Trejo called into KTLA on Friday from Canada were he was traveling to share his feelings about Rubin.

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