Dan Slusser, who has been with MCA/Universal since 1974, has gone into early retirement effective immediately. Slusser has run the studio’s day-to-day operations for almost 23 years and holds three titles: veepee of MCA Inc., senior VP and G.M. of Universal City Studios, and chair of the Universal Facilities Rental division.
Slusser is a well-known and well-regarded man on the Universal City lot and throughout the labor industry. He worked for years as an industrial relations rep for 20th Century Fox and MCA. An outspoken exec, he worked aggressively on behalf of his companies and the industry.
Asked if he might continue in the entertainment industry in some capacity, Slusser said: “I’ve had a number of calls. I don’t know what I’ll do next. I’ve had a great run. It’s been a lot of fun. I’ve been working full-time since I was 11 years old. If I can retire, I will.”
Several co-workers noted Slusser did not fit well with the new regime, and there was constant friction with current management over “the simplest” day-to-day procedures.
“If Dan left while I was there, I would have had many sleepless nights,” said Sid Sheinberg, former MCA president-COO. “I worked with him for many, many years and he really did a superb job. He is one of those rare people. Running a studio facility like that where you have to interface with several divisions, there is a lot of opportunity for friction, and he was dedicated to making things work and was able to do it well.”
Slusser’s career began in 1968. He was hired by Lew Wasserman in 1974 for MCA’s Yosemite Park & Curry Co. Two years later, he was named VP of industrial relations for MCA Recreation Services, where he was involved in collective bargaining pacts. He became G.M. in 1981.
Slusser was responsible for overseeing rebuilding of the Universal backlot after a 1990 fire. “He had to get the soundstages back to working order and productions moving forward again, and he did it in record time,” said Tom Wertheimer, former MCA exec VP who worked with him for over 20 years. “There were things that involved tremendous logistical efforts and he was able to do it. He did extraordinarily well in what I think is the hardest job at the studio.”
He was a two-term prexy of the L.A. Film Development Committee, two-term chair of the L.A. County Filming Advisory Board and past vice chair of the California State Film Commission. He’s still involved in the Permanent Charities Committee.
“I’ve had the pleasure of knowing him for about 25 years and I’ve always found him to be a very tough negotiator but a very fair one,” said SAG national director Ken Orsatti. “Even though we were on opposite sides, I always had a lot of respect for him. He’s been one of the outstanding executives of the business in terms of representing his company’s position.”
Nick Counter, Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers prez, noted Slusser was instrumental in streamlining the permitting process with the merger of the L.A. city and county film offices.
Many ex-colleagues noted his integrity. “He said I will never lie to you, and he never did,” Harry Floyd, West Coast chief of the Intl. Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees. “Now that is pretty good for labor relations people,” he joked.
Ted Johnson contributed to this story.