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Carlos Amezcua: Sam Rubin was a giant personality, and my friend

Sam Rubin, the KTLA entertainment journalist, died Friday at 64. Rubin became a fixture of Los Angeles television after joining the station in 1991 as a reporter on “KTLA Morning News.” He worked alongside Carlos Amezcua, a co-anchor of the innovative morning show. In his own words, Amezcua remembers his friend and longtime colleague.

Sam Rubin was the spark that ignited the success of “KTLA Morning News.” His passing leaves a huge void not only in our hearts but also in the Hollywood entertainment community.

He was loved and even revered in some circles. All who needed attention for their films, music, TV shows and comedy could count on Sam to be there for them. He had a giant personality with a soft touch and was equal parts mischievous and solid journalist.He was all those things to those who watched and interacted with him, but to me, he was my friend Sammy. He really didn’t like to be called that any more than I liked him calling me Chuck, but such was our relationship. On the air, we carried on with laughter, sarcasm and wild-eyed enthusiasm. He knew what our audience wanted and delivered every single time — he never failed, not once.

When he came to us, Barbara Beck and I were told to go easy on this new guy they were bringing in. They wanted to try him out to be the Hollywood reporter. I don’t know what the bosses were afraid of, but we were welcoming and kind to this brash young man, full of bravado and quirky mannerisms. He sat down, delivered his stories and began to engage us in conversation, which surprised us. That was the beginning of the magic that Sam Rubin would bring to “KTLA Morning News.” I loved his wit, his smarts, his daring approach to entertainment coverage. He was not to be denied!

I began to learn what buttons to push and what would set him off. I challenged his movie reviews and caught him in a fib now and again. It was sport for Barbara, Mark Kriski and I, and we loved every minute of it. The show became a hybrid news and entertainment program, unlike anything Los Angeles or America had seen before.

What I often say about Sam is that he connected us to Los Angeles. He knew L.A. better than any of us. He knew the people, the showbiz players and he spoke their language. Sam and I had many spirited conversations about what he was doing, and I told him we would all back him up if the bosses ever got in his way. To their credit, the bosses never did, and our show became one of the most successful programs in L.A. history. For more than 30 years he gave it all he had. He was unwavering, cheerful, magnanimous and driven. At 64, he could outwork any reporter half his age.

The last time we had drinks together, we were both a bit melancholy. Time had passed too quickly, and we talked about all the stuff we still wanted to do in our old age. He was excited about his family, especially his children, and we shared stories about our kids. He was a very loving man who made everyone around him better. He loved his entertainment team, who worked tirelessly to fulfill his creative and sometimes kooky ideas.

For me personally, I will always be grateful that he listened to my suggestion that we promote Latino talent. Sam invited a young George Lopez and a parade of Latino actors, writers and musicians who were not seen on any other morning show in the country. My Latino community loved him, and I respected his efforts and was grateful that he made all of that happen.

The whole morning news team experience in those early years was like lightning in a bottle. The daily roll call, as the show started, declared who you would see on the show: “Carlos Amezcua, Barbara Beck, Mark Kriski — weather, Sam Rubin — entertainment, Eric Spillman, Michele Ruiz and Jennifer York in Skycam5!” What a lineup, what bravado! It took a large and dedicated team to make it all work, though Sam would sheepishly love to take most of the credit!

There is no denying that he was the central catalyst that made “KTLA Morning News” the powerhouse that it continues to be today. His mark on the broadcast is undeniable and indisputable. He was an original, a genius, my colleague, but most of all, he was my dear friend. I’ll miss you, Sammy. Rest in peace. Love, Chuck.

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