Dale Spina, formerly Warner Bros.’ vice president of creative advertising and a copywriter for the studio, died on Aug. 4 after a brief illness. He was 66.
Spina served as co-head of The Idea Place, Warner’s in-house ad agency that was formed in the early 1980s. He worked on “Batman,” the “Lethal Weapon” franchise, “Beetlejuice,” and “Chariots of Fire.” Many of his projects won Key Art Awards.
Spina joined Warner Bros. in 1970 as assistant to West Coast publicity director Diana Widom before becoming serving the same role to Charlotte Kandel (Widom’s twin sister) two years later, who was then a publicity project director.
In 1980, Spina began to work with Joel Wayne, previously the top creative executive at Grey Advertising in New York, who had just joined Warner Bros. as new vice president and creative director.
“Dale was a genius writer,” Wayne said. “In my nearly half-century in the business, there was nobody better. At that time, executives sent out hard copies of written notes, a function often taken on by the assistant. I noticed something immediately in Dale’s ability to turn a witty, inventive, and personable phrase. So I decided to trust my instincts to see what he could do with poster copy for ‘Chariots of Fire.’ He didn’t disappoint.”
“Chariots of Fire” won the Academy Award for best picture and grossed $59 million worldwide. Spina’s copy for the poster was “This is a story of two men who run … not to run … but to prove something to the world. They will sacrifice anything to achieve their goals.”
Spina once said his favorite tagline was for “Beetlejuice”: “The name in laughter from the hereafter.”
Spina continued at Warner Bros. through nearly the entire length of co-chairmen and CEOs Robert Daly and Terry Semel’s two-decade administration. He reported to Wayne and also worked closely with worldwide marketing chiefs Sandy Reisenbach and, subsequently, Rob Friedman. Spina retired from Warner in 1998 and spent the next three years as a freelance writer.
Charlotte Kandel, who eventually headed Warner worldwide publicity, said, “Dale had such a joy for life and such a generous spirit. On top of that was a cheekiness and irreverence like nobody else’s.”
Spin was born in North Hollywood and was raised by his widowed mother. He earned a degree at Valley College, majoring in journalism.
Spina is survived by his husband of four years and life partner of 40 years, Guy Apollo. A memorial service has been scheduled for Sept. 23 at the Church of the Hills at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Los Angeles.