Denise Cramsey, the reality TV producer who died Tuesday of a brain aneurysm at 41, was known as a dynamo who won two Emmys for producing “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” and was constantly juggling disparate projects.
The producer died after exercising earlier in the day with a private trainer at the Hollywood Production Center. After working out, she collapsed and was taken to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where she was eventually taken off life support.
Cramsey was a vital figure on the reality landscape, most recently working on the Mark Burnett special “Live for the Moment” and the Warner Horizon skein “School Pride,” which aired on NBC. Cramsey had a first-look deal with Warner Horizon. For her 40th birthday, she traveled to Mt. Everest with her fiance, docu filmmaker Scott Farquharson, for his film “Expedition Inspiration.”
“She’s the last person in the world who I thought would suffer any health-related issues. I went looking for a partner in crime and couldn’t have found a better one,” said Tom Forman, who as exec producer of ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” hired her to be his co-exec producer. She would eventually rise to exec producer and showrunner when he left the series.
“Extreme Makeover” was Cramsey’s first job as an exec producer for broadcast TV. Previously on the cable side, she was an exec producer for many seasons on TLC shows “A Baby Story” and “A Wedding Story” as well as “Trading Spaces.” Her other credits included “Gimme Shelter,” “House Wars” and “Manhunt: The Search for America’s Most Gorgeous Male Model.”ABC alternative co-topper Vicki Dummer worked closely with Cramsey on “Extreme Makeover” and recalled a conversation when Cramsey first came onboard. “She was a blend of heart with no bullshit. She wrapped that up in a package with such humor.”
Lisa Higgins, who worked as an exec VP at “Extreme Makeover”-produced Endemol and is now president at Wexler Video, said the loss will be devastating. “She was very well respected and got her hands dirty to produce the shows and get the job done,” she said.
“Denise was an integral part of what I think is one of the best shows we’ve ever made, ‘Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,'” said Endemol North America chairman David Goldberg. “She clearly was, along with Tom Forman, the inspiration and driving force behind it.”
Cramsey was nominated for six Emmys; her wins came for “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” which was named top reality program in 2005-06. She continued her relationship with ABC after leaving “Extreme Makeover.” In 2009 she was exec producer of the Alphabet’s “True Beauty,” which ran for two seasons.
Warner Horizon said in a statement: “She was an inspiration to many, whether it was from her professional work to improve public schools, help those in need or raise money for breast cancer research or her personal love of scaling the mountains of the world.”
In addition to her fiance, she is survived by her mother, three brothers and a sister. Donations may be made to Expedition Inspiration Fund for Breast Cancer Research, P.O. Box 4289, Ketchum, ID 83340, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.