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TV producer David Gerber's odd choice to pitch a cop show

January 7, 2010 |  6:08 pm


David Gerber, an award-winning TV producer and executive who died Jan. 2 at 86, was a rapid-talking Brooklyn native known for speaking with what a former colleague calls "a tortured English" and for periodically mixing up names.

"There are legendary stories of things he thought he was saying and people took literally, and actually he was saying something entirely different," said Jeff Sagansky, former head of CBS Entertainment and Sony Pictures Entertainment who was a development executive for Gerber early in his career three decades ago. "It happened to me on numerous occasions."

One time, Gerber told Sagansky to pitch a show about rookie cops to Sam Spiegel, the legendary producer of "Lawrence of Arabia" and other films.

After a week, Sagansky finally tracked down Spiegel by phone on a boat in the Mediterranean.

Reporting back to Gerber, Sagansky said that Spiegel, to put it nicely, was not interested in doing a TV show about rookie cops.

"Why are you talking to Sam Spiegel?" Gerber asked. "I mean the guy at CBS."

"You mean Scott Siegler?" Sagansky asked.

Observed Sagansky: "The big thing everybody had in common is when we got to the point where we could understand what he was saying fully and translated for other people, you felt you had arrived."

-- Dennis McLellan

Photo: David Gerber in 1978. Credit: Associated Press