Tommy Culla, a veteran publicist, agent and raconteur, died Nov. 27 in Burbank of complications related to cancer. He was 79.
Culla was a colorful figure who early in his career worked for the publicity firm Solters/Roskin/Friedman and pitched items to gossip and Broadway columnists like Walter Winchell, Earl Wilson and Dorothy Kilgallen. His wide web of industry associations included working for agent-producer Freddie Fields, director John Boorman and such stars as Tony Curtis and Roger Moore.
After leaving the agency, Culla lived and worked in London. Later, he moved to Los Angeles, where he was employed by the Los Angeles Rams and subsequently former player-turned-“Hunter” star Fred Dryer.
Born in the Bronx to an Irish family, Culla grew up in a heavily Jewish neighborhood and liberally peppered his conversation with Yiddish phrases. Friends compared his eccentric style to that of Damon Runyon’s Broadway, and his rat-a-tat patter to Curtis’ character in the movie “Sweet Smell of Success.”
According to longtime friend Gretchen Wayne (the daughter-in-law of John Wayne), Culla was cremated and remembered at a private mass. He will be interred at Saint Raymond’s Cemetery in the Bronx.