Among former U.S. studios' TV distribution presidents, there were three executives who were larger than life, and Lawrence (Larry) Eugene Gershman is one. After almost 60 years in the TV business, he's still going strong.
Brooklyn, New York-born Gershman has long been a man of strong convictions. With a no-nonsense attitude, the former president of MGM/ UA Television Group and co-founder of World International Network (WIN) has been described as "a businessman with the aggressiveness and physique of a rodeo cowboy." But, he is also a refined wine expert, a cuisine connoisseur and a raconteur.
Hollywood producer Pierre David, concurred: "I've known Larry for many years and worked with him for four years producing movies for WIN. He's quite an extraordinary human being. Negotiating my deal with him was grueling. But then once trust was gained, our collaboration was great and we never referred to our agreement! And he's so funny ... One of the best raconteurs I've ever met."
Joseph C. Tirinato, who was Gershman's head of domestic TV distribution at MGM/UA, confirmed: "Larry is a larger-than-life character who always commands attention in any given situation be it personal or professional."
Perhaps, due to this image, just mentioning the name "Gershman" to his industry peers increased their blood pressure, visible through reddened faces. However, his bark was bigger than his bite and in effect, he still is a gentle, very generous and honest man.
This writer discovered that, while president of MGM/UA, he refused a gold Rolex watch as gift from a then-prominent European broadcaster, which he considered a bribe. And, as a full disclosure, in 1981 Gershman prepaid $20,000 ($52,000 in today's dollars) against future ad pages in order to contribute to the launching of Video Age.
A lifelong industry man very active in television affairs and many other organizations, Gershman was chairman of the International Emmy Awards when the event was at the peak of its prestige.
He began his career with National Television Associates (NTA), a U.S. syndicator based in New York City that also distributed 20th Century Fox movies.
He joined NTA in 1957, just after getting his masters degree from Penn State University and before entering Temple Law School in Philadelphia: an action prompted by the fact that his first wife was having a baby and he needed a job. The offer came from the chairman of NTA, whom Gershman met while counseling his children at a basketball summer camp. The following year, NTA bought Channel 13 TV in New York and another TV station in Minneapolis and he became part of the management team.
In 1961, Gershman moved to TV ad sales at CBS-TV and, in 1964 he joined RKO General. About that period Dennis F. Holt Chairman and CEO of U.S. International Media, a media buying service, recalled: "Larry and I have been great friends since the '60s. We were both young salesmen for RKO, then the largest independent broadcast...