Dave Robb, Longtime Hollywood Labor Reporter, Dies at 74



Dave Robb, a longtime Hollywood labor reporter who worked for Variety in the 1980s and ’90s, died Dec. 8 at his home in Los Angeles. He was 74 and had recently been diagnosed with cancer of the brain stem.

Robb most recently worked for Deadline, Variety‘s sibling company under the Penske Media Corp. umbrella. Robb spent most of this year on the strike beat as the Writers Guild of America and SAG-AFTRA engaged in historic, months-long work stoppages.

Robb made his name with aggressive and investigative reporting on Hollywood’s powerful labor unions. But he also had numerous other passions, always with an eye toward using his platform as a journalist to help the less privilged. Michael Fleming Jr., Deadline co-editor in chief, confirmed Robb’s death in a lengthy tribute posted Saturday.

“He was an advocate for the under-represented and disenfranchised in Hollywood: African-American and Native American actors, child actors, stunt performers, women,” Fleming wrote. “He exposed Hollywood’s dirty little secret, of not crediting screenwriters for their contributions on major movies because they’d been blacklisted in that shameful communist with hunt. Robb helped writers living and dead get their due on films that included ‘Lawrence of Arabia.’ ”

Robb was tall, gruff on the surface and had an unmistakable baritone voice. While working, he answered the phone “Dave Robb” in a way that announced to anyone on the other end of the line that they were talking to a formidable person. He was tough but fair and was guided by a strong moral compass. He never engaged in the niceities of entertainment journalism, but he was respected as an intrepid journalist who knew his stuff. He was too seasoned to spin.

After getting his start as a copy boy for the San Francisco Examiner, Robb moved to Los Angeles and got a job as an assistant at The Hollywood Reporter where he first was put on the labor beat. By 1982, he moved to Variety, where he stayed for about 10 years. Robb famously went in and out of Hollywood Reporter four more times in the 1990s and 2000s, each time exiting when the publication balked at publishing investigative news that he’d uncovered.

During his long career, Robb penned several books and also worked for such outlets as New York Times, Associated Press, LA Weekly, Los Angeles Daily News, Spy magazine and The Nation.

Robb’s survivors include his wife, Kelly.

More to come


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