May 30, 2002
Developer of Sunset-Gower Studios, Dies at 85
Saul Pick, a Holocaust survivor who developed the Cinerama Dome and built the first high-rise hotel on Sunset Boulevard, died of pneumonia on May 8. He was 85.
Son Mark Pick, a managing partner of Sunset-Gower Studios, remembers a man of conviction with a generous and passionate heart.
"What was most remarkable about my dad," he told The Journal, "is that, despite the unspeakable evil that he witnessed in the Holocaust and the suffering he endured, he had a true capacity not only to love, but to express that love openly. He valued life and his family, his friends and his community.
"He was passionately Zionist his entire life. He remained fiercely involved with Israel. He was a member of the Irgun, the radical pre-World War II Zionist organization, in Poland. His regional leader was Menachem Begin."
Born in Bendzin, Germany, Pick met his future wife, Mala, in a forced labor camp. They were separated when Pick was sent to Dachau. Pick lost his parents and four of his eight siblings in Auschwitz. After the war, Mala reunited with Pick. They married in Munich and immigrated to Los Angeles. Mala died in 1977.
Pick segued from manufacturing aluminum doors to real estate, and had purchased the southern corners of Sunset and Vine by the late 1950s.
His passion for Israel continued unabated in America. While the Brentwood resident kept his philanthropic contributions private, he was a known supporter of Friends of Hebrew University. "Politically, he was very concerned with what's going on in Israel, and at the same time, a very passionate naturalized American citizen," his son said.
Pick contributed to Hollywood's luster with several landmark projects. As a child, Mark Pick remembers wearing a hard hat and visiting the Cinerama Dome while it was still under construction. The Dome opened in 1963 with the premiere of "It's Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World."
The old Columbia Studios lot was in severe disrepair when Pick and partner Nick Vanoff purchased it for $6.2 million in 1976. Every major production entity -- from ABC and Warner Bros. to DreamWorks -- has since used Sunset-Gower Studios for television and film production.
Pick also kick-started the high-rise hotel craze on Sunset with Gene Autry's Hotel Continental, now the Hyatt West Hollywood.
"Everyone told him he was crazy to build a high-rise hotel on Sunset," said his son, noting the roster of hotels that have since followed. "But that's the way he was. He was a visionary."
He is survived by his wife, Karen; sons, Mark and Bernard; grandchildren, Marisa and Michael; brother, Moritz; and sister, Sala Magier. -- Michael Aushenker, Staff Writer