With the passing of legendary press agent Dale Olson, “we would like to express our heartfelt appreciation for his uplifting approach to life and the industry,” said Mirjana Van Blaricom, IPA President. “He was my mentor at the beginning and throughout my career. Dale always said ‘let’s look at the good things.’ He always had something good to say, which is very rare in this business.”
While many in the industry will forever remember Olson as the tactful spokesman who stage-managed the historic AIDS announcement of his client Rock Hudson, the veteran publicist who died yesterday at age 78 was first and foremost a revered personal friend to his clients and a formidable strategist who deftly handled over 150 Oscar campaigns.
His career took off with the campaign for “In the Heat of the Night” in 1967, which won five Oscars and followed this brilliant trajectory through blockbusters like the “Superman” franchise to nuanced films like “American Beauty” where Olson masterminded a sophisticated publicity strategy to reach Academy voters on a personal level.
Clint Eastwood, Shirley MacLaine, Gene Kelly, Steve McQueen, Lynn Redgrave, and Walter Matthau were among his high-profile clients, that once included British screen legend Laurence Olivier, funnyman Peter Ustinov, and Diana Rigg. Olson was also on the vanguard of changes in communication and was wary of the invasions of privacy.
“Dale never lost sight of the future,” Van Blaricom said. “At the end of each year, instead of a holiday card, he would send a letter that addressed everything relevant going on in the business and the world around us.”
“In the last letter I received, he wrote a great quote that everyone should think about: ‘So blog away, twitter all you want, make a thousand ‘friends’ on Facebook, but think about the consequences of what you have to say. If we truly believe in the First Amendment, isn’t it our responsibility to properly follow the guidance our forefathers so wisely provided?’”
“He championed a lot of causes and wouldn’t give up. Less than a month ago, we spent more than an hour in his hospital room laughing and talking – that is how I will remember him.”
In 2000, The International Press Academy honored Dale Olson as the first publicist to receive an honorary Satellite Award. Shirley MacLaine presented the award.