Sam Rubin Remembered By Scott Mantz, Anchor Who Filled in for KTLA Icon

Over the nine years that I’ve been contributing to KTLA-TV in Los Angeles, I’ve been asked the same question over and over again by people who recognized me from the channel: “What is Sam Rubin really like?” The short answer is simple: With Sam, what you saw was what you got. As exuberant, enthusiastic and charming as he was on camera, that’s exactly how he was in person too.

And what a talented professional. After 33 years as the face of entertainment news for KTLA, he had the job down, and you could tell how much he loved doing it. He maintained the same level of gleeful energy from his first daily news hit at 6:15 a.m. to his last at 10:45 a.m. — and when I would see him later in the day at screenings, junkets, premieres and awards shows, he was still going strong. I really don’t know how he did it, but he did — every time.

It wasn’t until I started filling in for Sam on occasion that I began to truly appreciate how hard his job was and how much responsibility came with it.

By December 2015, I had already been a producer with Access Hollywood for about 15 years. I had some on-camera experience by that point but not a lot. So I was surprised when Sam called me up and asked me to fill in for him on a pretty important morning in the world of entertainment: the morning of the Golden Globes nominations announcement. It required a really early start since the nominations are announced just after 5 a.m. The KTLA Christmas party was the night before, and Sam really wanted to go that and also wanted the peace of mind of being able to celebrate with his KTLA family without having to worry about getting up so early the next day.

By that point, Sam was already a firmly established L.A. institution. After so many red carpet premieres, awards shows, and Oscar and Emmy preshows (with his amazing co-host, Jessica Holmes) — not to mention more celebrity interviews than anyone could count — he had earned a stellar reputation as a respected professional and a class act. So, more than anything, I was incredibly honored that he trusted me with such an important assignment.

Sam must have been happy with how I did because that was the first of many times that I filled in for him over the years on KTLA Morning News, the most recent being Friday.

The morning went super smoothly, thanks to the producers in the best entertainment news department I’ve ever worked with, not to mention the absolute graciousness of legendary morning anchors Frank Buckley, Jessica Holmes, Mark Kriski, Megan Henderson, Eric Spillman and Henry DiCarlo. I wrapped at 11, left the studio at 11:30, and just 20 minutes later, heard the news that Sam had passed away. I was in total shock. I couldn’t believe it. As I write this the following morning, I’m still in shock.

Like so many who knew Sam and who felt like they knew Sam, I have lost a dear friend.

Whenever I saw Sam, I would always greet him by saying, “There he is, the Godfather of Entertainment News,” and get a big smile from him in return. I will remember that smile, and I will also remember how supportive Sam was of me, particularly at a time when I needed it the most.

A few years ago, I was feeling pretty blue after experiencing a double-whammy of personal and professional upheaval, and that’s precisely when Sam and his amazing entertainment producer, Grace Mendoza, asked me to start contributing to KTLA on a more regular basis, usually once a week. That continued even during the pandemic lockdown (when everything shifted to virtual) and last year’s double strikes. And I can’t tell you how much it meant to me.

Moreover, Sam not only championed me to fill in for him but also to join him on the air on special occasions, like KTLA’s Oscar and Emmy preshows and Oscar nomination morning from the Academy. Those days were especially fun, as Sam and I played really well off each other.

And Sam was gracious enough to recommend me for other gigs, most memorably in 2021, when the Skirball Cultural Center unveiled a brand new exhibition called “Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds,” which featured props, costumes and models from across Star Trek’s 55-year history. He needed someone knowledgeable to program special screenings of classic TV episodes and movies, followed by hosted Q&A conversations with Star Trek actors and historians. Sam knew that I was a lifelong Trekker, so when they asked if he knew of anyone would could help, he immediately said, “I know the guy.” To this day, that is still one of the most rewarding professional and personal experiences I’ve ever had, and I have Sam to thank for it.

So, when people ask me, “What is Sam Rubin really like?” I always give the short answer I shared above but also make it a point to say that Sam was generous, and his generosity was unconditional. As anyone in this cutthroat business will tell you, that sort of generosity is incredibly rare. I never took it for granted, and I never will.

Moving forward, I have no idea what the entertainment news world will look like without Sam, nor do I know what my life will be like without Sam’s support and guidance. But every time I hear the “ding-ding-ding” music fanfare that starts the KTLA “Entertainment News” report, I will think of him. And I will miss him dearly.





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