Longtime industry publicist and former journalist Chuck Panama died at the Motion Picture and Television Fund home in Woodland Hills on May 13. He was 93.
Before beginning his career as a journalist and later publicist, Panama served in WWII after being drafted, working as a radio man on a B-24 bomber in the Pacific. After returning home, he enrolled at UCLA on the G.I. Bill, where he became the sports editor of the Daily Bruin. Panama remained closely involved with UCLA athletics after graduation, working with the press on basketball and football games for over 50 years.
Panama began his professional career as a correspondent for the Los Angeles bureau of International News Service (INS) before following his boss to the PR department at 20th Century Fox, where he worked with such celebrities as Elvis Presley and Jayne Mansfield. During this time, Panama became a voting member of both the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Television Academy.
After 12 years in the motion picture division at Fox, Panama moved to independent PR, where he worked with stars like Elizabeth Taylor, Henry Fonda and Faye Dunaway. He returned to Fox’s television division in 1976, where he was publicist for “L.A. Law,” “The Simpsons,” and the last seven years of “M*A*S*H.”
During his career, Panama was honored by the Publicists Guild three times for excellence in his profession: as Outstanding Agency Publicist in 1976, as winner of the Les Mason Award in 1990, and as recipient of the Bob Yeager Award for community service in 1993.
Panama retired from Fox in 1991, but continued his PR passion as personal publicist for Fyvush Finkel, shepherding him through the press gauntlet after his 1994 Emmy win for best supporting actor on “Picket Fences.”
In retirement, Panama was an active member of the Entertainment Publicists Professional Society (EPPS) and the Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters. He also volunteered at the Museum of Flying in Santa Monica and later at The Getty Museum.
Panama is survived by his wife of 64 years, Gerry, their children Craig, Cindy, and Carrie, and seven grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be sent to MPTF or UCLA.