Gary David Goldberg ’66 dies at age 68
Emmy Award winner was an engaged member of the alumni community
Gary David Goldberg ’66, a television producer and writer best known for the hit series “Family Ties” and “Spin City,” starring Michael J. Fox, died of brain cancer June 23 at his home in Montecito, Calif. The two-time Emmy Award winner was 68.
Goldberg, a Brooklyn native who attended Brandeis on a basketball scholarship, was an engaged member of the alumni community. He was the keynote speaker at the student-organized SunDeis Film Festival in 2005, hosted an event at his Los Angeles area home in 2006, generously supported the university, and visited campus two years ago to accept an Alumni Achievement Award and speak to fellow alumni at Reunion.
“He changed the way we looked at and related to television, and spoke deeply and profoundly, yet gently, through his work,” Brandeis President Frederick Lawrence said. “When he received his Alumni Achievement Award, he spoke of the irony of not having, in fact, graduated from Brandeis. But he added that, ‘Brandeis changed the arc of my life, and that means I am an alumnus.’ He was indeed. He will always be remembered as a cherished member of the Brandeis family.”
At Reunion 2011, Goldberg shared stories of his career in Hollywood, casting Fox in “Family Ties” and “Spin City,” and his academic travails at Brandeis. Two years earlier he had published a memoir, “Sit, Ubu, Sit: How I Went from Brooklyn to Hollywood with the Same Woman, the Same Dog, and a Lot Less Hair.”
Goldberg and his wife, Diana Meehan, made gifts to establish two programs at Brandeis in the name of Meehan’s mother, Brenda: the Brenda Meehan Arts Program at the Women’s Studies Research Center and the Brenda Meehan Social Justice and Social Policy Program. Goldberg also supported a variety of other initiatives at the university.
In 1980, after writing for a series of TV situation comedies during the 1970s, Goldberg formed his own company, Ubu Productions (Ubu was his beloved black Labrador retriever), in partnership with Paramount.
He created “Family Ties,” which was based on his and Diana’s parenting experiences with their daughter, Shana. The family comedy starred Fox as the conservative Alex P. Keaton, the oldest offspring of aging flower children. It debuted in 1982 and ran for seven seasons, earning 19 Emmy nominations and five victories.
Following “Family Ties,” Goldberg created “Brooklyn Bridge,” which was based on his childhood. It ran for two years in the early 1990s. Along with writer/producer/director Bill Lawrence, Goldberg created “Spin City.” Fox played the chief of staff to a dim-witted mayor of New York in the series, which ran from 1996-2002.
Goldberg’s work was not limited to the small screen. He also produced the feature films “Dad” (1989), about a father-son reconciliation that starred Jack Lemmon and Ted Danson; “Bye Bye Love” (1995), with Paul Reiser, Matthew Modine and Randy Quaid as divorced men; and “Must Love Dogs” (2005), a romantic comedy with Diane Lane and John Cusack.
Goldberg received numerous honors during his career, including an Emmy and a Golden Globe as co-producer of “Lou Grant,” an Emmy as writer for “Family Ties,” a Peabody for “Lou Grant,” and two Writers Guild Awards for “M*A*S*H*” and “Family Ties.” He was recognized by the Producers Guild as Producer of the Year in 1991 and was inducted into the Broadcasting Magazine Hall of Fame.
Along with his wife of 23 years and his daughter, he leaves another daughter, Cailin; his brother; and three grandchildren.