Murray weissman spent the 2015 Publicists Guild Awards surrounded by co-workers, friends and a few journalists who had matriculated into the latter category. He was a contender for the Les Mason Award, an honor recognizing career achievement.
He didn’t win. But for a guy nearing 90 who was still happily doing what he loved, this really was one of those instances where just being nominated appeared to feel pretty good.
Weissman will have one more chance to receive that honor, albeit posthumously. The veteran publicist, whose clients ranged from the TV Academy to the Weinstein Co., from FX Networks to AMC, died in December, having hung on just long enough to celebrate his 90th birthday.
Weissman’s career included inhouse publicity stints at Universal, Lorimar and Columbia, but he perhaps made a bigger name for himself after striking out on his own. In addition to handling the Academy for an extended stretch, he was a pioneer in the field of awards publicity, both on the feature side — where he worked on Oscar-winning campaigns for such movies as “The English Patient,” “Shakespeare in Love” and “Crash” — and in TV. Harvey Weinstein, Weissman’s client for many years, called him “a guy who makes the Hollywood machinery run.”
For TV, awards campaigning hadn’t traditionally rivaled the heat associated with movies. But a host of prestige titles and networks hungry for acclaim has tilted that axis. Weissman lent his expertise to AMC’s push for “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad,” both multiple Emmy winners.
Tony Angelotti, who was Weissman’s business partner for nearly nine years, remembered him as someone who brought a welcome sense of perspective to the job, and had a good time doing it. (Weissman’s most recent partner, incidentally, Rick Markovitz, also happens to be his son-in-law. The firm is known as Weissman/Markovitz Communications.)
“He was inclusive,” Angelotti says. “He was insightful. He was very common-sense-ical – and never hysterical. I learned a lot from Murray.” Others did too, and Weissman made it a habit to mentor those breaking into the industry.
From a journalist’s perspective, Weissman also possessed admirable qualities. Like all good publicists, he respected the reporters with whom he dealt. Although he was a strong advocate for his clients, he also realized that a bit of honesty now — about, say, a movie that might not be all that great — went a long way toward buying credibility later.
Faced with a fatal diagnosis, Weissman chose to enjoy life for as long as he could. And while he surely would have liked to take home that trophy last year, he didn’t require a formal prize to validate a lifetime of accomplishment.