RIP Jeff Rose: Straight Out of Shakespeare Via Brooklyn
The former Screen Gems and Paramount TV publicity exec passed away at age 88, leaving behind lots of friends, colorful stories, and many he quietly helped. An oral history sheds light on his life, accomplishments and good deeds. Read the Hollywood Reporter's obit here.
The Brooklyn boy loved the LA Dodgers and was always swinging for the fences.
"Shakespeare would have liked Jeff Rose."
A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” wrote William Shakespeare's in “Romeo and Juliet.” He might have been talking about Jeff Rose, a longtime Hollywood TV publicity executive was also known for his charitable efforts. But that alone doesn’t capture Jeff.
“Shakespeare would have liked the Rose whose name was Jeff as much as I did, for he was a man worthy of the Bard’s examination, an intelligent man who was funny and accomplished, yet a man with the quirky flaw of refusing to live in today’s world of technology - Jeff Rose owned neither computer nor cell phone; however, few communicated as frequently or as well as Jeff did, which became his most endearing quality,” writes Lisa Bowman, who met Rose as the lone female on the KABC team covering the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1980s.
Nobody was a bigger Dodger fan than Jeff Rose. He was born in Brooklyn, as he recalled in a history of Ebbet’s Field, home to the Dodgers before the move West in 1957. It was life changing for him to be there when the baseball color line was finally broken. “I spent the first 20 years of my life as a resident of Brooklyn, and I lived within walking distance of the stadium,” wrote Rose. “Being able to attend (Jackie Robinson’s) first game (the first for an African American) excited me on so many levels.”
That Jackie Robinson experience stayed with Rose. Even among his hundreds of friends and acquaintance, few knew that long before it was fashionable, Rose was working at non-profits and foundations with African Americans in baseball, trying to together right the wrongs of the past.
After Roy “Campy” Campanella, a star catcher for Rose’s beloved Dodgers from 1948, was in an accident put him in a wheel chair in 1958, it was Rose who brought his talents as a Hollywood publicist, and his skill as a producer and writer, to help him. Rose served as Executive Vice President for the Roy and Roxie Campanella Foundation for Spinal Cord Injuries.
Rose was also Executive VP of the Forgotten Heroes Foundation (supporting major and Negro League players denied pensions).
Rose and Lisa Bowman in happier times
Lisa Bowman met Rose when she joined the SCSB, and worked closely with him in 1989 when she was the first and only female president of the organization, whose members are top LA-area TV/ radio sports talent.
“When I joined the Southern California Sportscasters in 1983, Jeff was one of its first members to befriend me. From the start, he struck me as a man from another age. He was as gallant as Sir Walter Raleigh tossing his cloak over the proverbial mud puddle for Queen Elizabeth, and he wished to value my efforts and to protect me from anything unpleasant.”
“He loved Lisa Bowman,” says Martin Leon, current Exec VP of the SCSB. “They were very good friends. I would have to say she was one of his favorites.”
The reigning SCSB President, Chris Roberts, long the voice of UCLA sports, recalls that Rose was “a loyal SCSB Board member for 4 different president's over a period of 25 years. He was invaluable as a writer for our organization and for his sage advice. He was a stickler with vocabulary.”
“He was the first person to greet newcomers and welcome them with a handshake at any luncheon or meeting,” adds Roberts. “His experience as a Hollywood publicist for Paramount Pictures, Screen Gems and Johnny Cash was phenomenal. His stories from the past working with stars are legendary. Some of the best times with Jeff were when the luncheons were over, the guests had left but Jeff remained. That's when the stories from years gone by would come back to him like they were yesterday I looked forward to those times together.”
SCSB Luncheon : Chris Roberts, Stephanie Corrales, Larry Stewart, Joe Cala and Jeff Rose
“I will miss you, Mr. Rose,” says Ann LaPeer Roberts, wife of Chris Roberts and a SCBA member. “ You had a most fascinating background and career with inside stories of old Hollywood yet you always made me feel like I was the most interesting person at the table. I will miss our animated, wide ranging, often goofy, occasionally angry Seinfeld-like conversations at Canter's Deli where you always sent me home with a dessert. I will miss our too long phone conversations where we couldn't get off the phone without one last story to tell.”
Rose & Mary and (Dodger turned broadcaster) Ron Fairly, & Ann LaPeer Roberts
Joe Cala, the veteran KNX1070 in Los Angeles sports broadcaster, first met Rose in 1995. He is now Treasurer of the SCSB. “Those who know Jeff I'm sure will agree that his telephone was one of his best friends,” says Cala. “ The only guy I know who would call, say 'do you have a minute' and we'd still be talking an hour later.”
Cala met Rose 25 years ago when “he introduced himself to my wife Bunny while I was playing in a Hugh O'Brian golf tournament. It was like welcoming a hurricane into my life.”
“We became friends while both of us were board members for SoCal Sports Broadcasters,” says Cala, “and we both loved to turn back the clock to talk about the old days-- going back to when the New York Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers both had FOOTBALL TEAMS. Of course, he never failed to mention he went to Penn and so did (former Dodger owner) Peter O'Malley. Or that he was on the tennis team. ‘A John McEnroe I ain't’ he said to me more than once.”
“Reader's Digest years ago had subscribers send in a story about who they thought was the most colorful character they'd ever met,” says Cala. “Jeff Rose qualifies hands down. I'll miss him and his phone calls.”
What impressed Lisa Bowman was that even after her Dodger career, Rose – who never married and lived many years in West Hollywood – remained her guardian angel.
“As I learned the details of his Hollywood career, I was even more impressed that he took the time to call me regularly, concerned to find out how I was coping with health challenges and eager to know how my life was going,” continues Bowman “He always included the caveat that I mustn’t misread his affectionate manner as anything out of line, because he knew my husband (Emmy-nominated director Chuck Bowman) from years past and would never overstep his bounds, something I knew he’d never do anyway, but something that always touched my heart because of its sweetness.”
“As involved and communicative as Jeff was, I felt his reticence to join the technological age set him slightly apart from the crowd,” said Bowman, “but it never lessened the appreciation of all who knew him.”
Jodi Taylor Block with longtime friend Jeff Rose
Rose was a history buff, but in his own special way. When things interested him, he recalled every detail, every personality, and he could spin out the whole story.
“Jeff had hundreds of anecdotal stories in his head and could remember exact dates and incidents,” says actress Jodi Taylor Block, a longtime friend. “ He knew movie stars and sports stars and even political statesmen. He had many unique stories and photos to share, one of which was going to visit a prison with Johnny Cash .”
He moved far from where he grew up in the boroughs of New York City, but never forget his family and many friends growing up, and at the schools he attended.
“Jeff told me that his lovely aristocratic Mother Teri Rose was invited to an afternoon tea with some friends ( one of whom was Eleanor Roosevelt). Jeff will remain in my heart forever.”
Rose rises As A Budding Youth
He was born Joffrey Bennett Rose on July 14, 1931, and raised in Brooklyn, New York. He hated his first name and always went by Jeff or Jeffrey. His father was Dr. Julian Rose and his much-remembered mother was Theresa “Teri” Karp Rose. He was their only child.
“Everyone loved Jeff, “says his Goddaughter Laurel Nevans. “He was always the Clown. He was there for me from the day I was born, and though officially only my godfather, he grew to be my best friend as I grew into an adult. (I'm not sure Jeff ever really did that.)”
Laurel knew Jeff because her father, Roy Nevans, was his best friend from college on.
“Jeff has literally been my dad's BFF for 70+ years, and they literally talk at least 4x a week,” Nevans wrote on Facebook July 5. “The last time he missed calling my Dad on his birthday was in 1977. Now Jeff is a phone person. He literally carried on a phone affair with my folks' neighbor because he mis-dialed them one time, and he and this lady he got hit it off. Jeff fills up your answering machine tapes with 30-minute messages.”
Nevans adds: “He was the reason I grew up saying "Stop introducing me to everyone I have a TV crush on so I can like them like a normal person." He knew everyone. And he had a million stories he loved telling.”
“I'm only the God-daughter, but to someone (like Jeff) with little family left and no wife/kids of his own, I was the closest one he had, …more of a daughter than a goddaughter.”
“I was always Jeff's favorite child,” says Nevans. “And even though both my sisters had wealthy family for godparents, as a child, mine was always the coolest.”
“Jeff did a lot of things in his life, and I could impress most of you just with his list of tenants who sublet his NY apartment, and some of the things he worked on when I was a kid were the pop culture icons folks still look back to today, things like The Monkees, I Dream of Jeannie, The Partridge Family, and The Flintstones,” recalls Nevans. “And that meant a lot of cool swag to show off to my friends. He'd come up from the City with a cool lunchbox or demo record that was part of his latest gig. He'd play with me and my friends, and make us laugh uproariously.
Rose graduated from the prestigious Poly Prep in Brooklyn, and went on to the experience of a lifetime attending the University of Pennsylvania, where he was on both the varsity tennis and soccer teams (and helped in coaching). He also attended Cornell Law but did not stick around to get a diploma.
A young man in a hurry, he returned to New York where he found entry level work with the CBS Television Network, already known as “The Tiffany Network.” Rose worked at times in production, publicity, sports and news.
In 1960, with the eyes of the world on them, he worked on David Susskind’s 1962 “Open End” interview special with Russian President Nikita Khrushchev. It aired at the height of the Cold War grabbing national attention. It was the first interview the leader of the USSR had ever given American television.
He joined Screen Gems, a division of Columbia Pictures, which had been spun off from CBS in 1957. He worked his way up to become Director of Publicity and Promotion. The 1969 episode of “The Johnny Cash Show” at the Arkansas State Penitentiary in Little Rock, Arkansas, which Rose loved to recall, happened only because he had arranged it through then-Gov. Laurence Rockefeller.
Rose in his days as a Screen Gems executive circa 1960s
After about a decade in TV, Rose moved into politics as America revived under the youthful new president, John F. Kennedy. Rose became Assistant to the President of the New York City Council, under then-Mayor John Lindsay. “(Lindsay) created a Kennedyesque excitement, bringing into city government bright young people of wit, zeal and imagination,” reported The New York Times (2000).
Rose moved to Los Angeles in 1977, working in live sports, news and on the annual Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Telethons where in the late 1970s and 1980s he was a writer and talent coordinator.
“Jeff moved out to LA when I was in High School,” recalls Nevans. “It was supposed to be temporary… He never came back East, except to visit. And we'd go to visit him too, and thanks to him, get to see the whole plastic side of life out there.”
“This is the rare person that starts out as ‘Fun Uncle,’ and somehow transforms into friend and confidante along the way,” Nevans wrote on Facebook. “We talked like only TV families talk, and had that kind of relationship you watch on TV and want in your own life.”
ROSE AND CHIP CAREY In front of the White House
Henry Frank “Chip” Carey met Rose through the Nevans family, and despite an age gap, they were lifelong friends, mostly on the phone in later years.
“Jeff treated me like a peer and valued friend despite our having several decades in age difference,” says Carey. “He would speak for hours on the phone, but always giving more than taking and always treating you like you were the most important person in the world at that moment. I only got to visit him twice in LA, once for the 1984 Olympics and once about a decade ago, along with three times for weddings of Roy and Ginny Nevans three daughters on the East Coast. But I always felt that he was a close friend, especially whom I had known his whole life.”
“There was almost no topic that did not interest him (except soccer, which he actually played in high school and college), especially Ivy League football and basketball, tennis, and whatever anyone in his circle of friends were up to,” adds Carey. “I feel like I know (musical star and close Rose pal) Billy Vera, whom I got to hear sing in Stamford, CT one summer, but heard Billy's life story.”
Carey recalled when Rose worked with “Emmanuel Lewis, who is like Gary Coleman. He came along a year or two later, but was even smaller. He was a star on ‘Webster’” He was the adopted son of Alex Karras (in the series).”
“Jeff talked to him as if he were a young kid.,” continues Carey “His mother said, “I don’t mean to tell you had how to do your job, but Emmanuel is 18-and-a-half-years-old.” You can see how funny Jeff was when telling stories about big stars.”
In Las Vegas, Rose produced coverage of the Riviera Hotel’s Annual Hall of Fame Golf Classic, where four dozen athletes from different sports (besides golf) competed on a TV special.
Rose often recalled he got to play a little catch with Joe DiMaggio and caught a spiral pass from football great from “Slingin’” Sammy Baugh of the Washington Redskins.
Rose also loved recalling when he got to play baseball on the “Field of Dreams” in Iowa, made famous as the location for the hit movie, starring Kevin Costner.
A tennis fanatic from his youngest years on, Rose loved to play at the posh Rhode Island’s Newport Casino, where he competed against legendary players like Pancho Gonzales, Bobby Riggs, Ken Rosewall and many others.
It was in sports that Rose made his most lasting impact. He became an active board member of the Southern California Sports Broadcasters, serving for over a dozen years. He is credited with creation of a series of student broadcasting seminars, and helped program the group’s luncheon program in a ballroom.
One event in a Toluca Lake club honored the most successful infield in baseball history –the Dodger’s Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Bill Russell and Ron Cey.
Rose: "‘You like me! You really, really like me!"
Cey in 2018 returned the favor when he presented Rose with the SCSB's Legends Award.
“Jeff was such a special person,” recalled Cey. Incredibly talented in so many ways. Where his work took him and the people he met provided us all with wonderful stories of his personal experiences. The sarcastic humor he had with me was something I could always laugh about.”
Rose even injected a little of his sarcastic humor into an otherwise gracious “Legends” acceptance speech, borrowing Sally Fields often mocked line when she won an Oscar in 1984. “That is when,” says Martin Leon, he used his favorite phrase: ‘You like me! You really, really like me!"
Jeff Rose holds his SBSB Legends Award, with presenter, Dodgers vet Ron Cey
“We shall all miss his inimitable style and panache,” said fellow board member, USC sports announcer Peter Arbogast.
“My mind holds Jeff in high esteem and my heart has him tucked into a special corner,” says Lisa Bowman, “where he’ll continually be showered with a courtly kind of love”.
“We were working on his memoirs when he died: ‘Recollections of a Well-Known Unknown,’” says Nevans. “That was Jeff. He was a publicist. He wrote scripts for all those shows you never knew had scripts, like the Jerry Lewis Telethon. He was a character. He was an old Jewish Guy with a heart of gold and a shtick that never ended. And I love him dearly.”
“To Jeff's family - please know he was very proud of his "people" and New York upbringing,” says Ann LaPeer Roberts. “ If you find that book Jeff was close to finishing, please let me know. I, for one, love to read it.
Then Mrs. Roberts added a play on another of Jeff Rose’s favorite catch phrases, this one from the 1970 Oscar winner, “Midnight Cowboy.”
"Hey! I'm walkin' here," recalls Roberts, adding: “Wish you were walkin' with us still”