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On With the Show

Live from the Academy Awards, KTLA's Sam Rubin puts the "entertainment" in "entertainment reporter."

by Michael Aushenker

March 20, 2003 | 7:00 pm

KTLA will air "Live From the Academy Awards" on Sunday, March 23, from 3 to 5 p.m., hosted by, from left, Mindy Burbano, Sam Rubin and Toni Senecal.

KTLA will air "Live From the Academy Awards" on Sunday, March 23, from 3 to 5 p.m., hosted by, from left, Mindy Burbano, Sam Rubin and Toni Senecal.

So how will this year's Academy Awards differ from previous Oscar outings? One word: War.

For entertainment reporter Sam Rubin, the issue will loom large on March 23, when, as of press time, he plans to cover the preshow on his nationally syndicated television broadcast, "Live From the Academy Awards," despite the cancelation of celebrity arrivals on the red carpet out of respect for the American war effort in the Mideast.

"I feel, like many in Hollywood do, rather conflicted," Rubin told The Journal. "I am not sure what the best thing to do is. Academy Award producers have made it clear that 'the show will go on,' and that the tone of the show will be adjusted as events in Iraq may warrant. But if there are terribly violent images coming from that area, it will provide a stark and sobering contrast to the usually glittery prom night atmosphere."

Rubin -- along with anchors Giselle Fernandez and Carlos Amezcua and weatherman Mark Kriski -- is among the first faces many Angelenos see each day as part of the self-effacing "KTLA Morning News" broadcast.

And if the gregarious, eager-to-please entertainment reporter seems at home schmoozing it up with the A-list celebrities, don't let appearances fool you. Occasionally, Rubin goes out on a limb to buck conventional Hollywood wisdom. For example, before Oscar nominations were announced in February, Rubin spent much airtime championing the little-seen independent film, "Rabbit Proof Fence." He also criticizes the industry. "[Hollywood] is not 'show friends,' it's 'show business,'" Rubin said, noting that "the profitability has always outweighed the art, but never as much as right now. There are gems to be found, but the vast majority is bad and getting worse."

Lately, Hollywood pretentiousness has scaled new heights, according to the reporter.

"One thing I do find pretty hilarious is the over-the-top security at these events," Rubin said. "As if Hollywood thinks itself so important to be a target. I don't think that. I never worry about security at these kinds of things at all."

Rubin is just as cavalier on the air. He joined "Morning News" in 1991, just a few months before the ratings-challenged broadcast adopted its signature casual-as-a-cup of-coffee attitude.

"We all thought we were going to be fired," Rubin recalled. "That's when things clicked because ratings were low. We just didn't care."

Breaking news like the L.A. riots forced "Morning News" anchors to improvise off teleprompter. The spontaneous approach quickly shot the program to No. 1.

Sometimes, the show's atmosphere can be too casual. Rubin was suspended twice by KTLA and parent company Tribune Entertainment -- in December 1998 and last September -- for on-air, off-the-cuff remarks about interim "Morning News" executive producer Jon Fischer and KABC-TV general manager Arnie Kleiner, respectively.

"I don't regret anything I've said," Rubin said. "But we are so comfortable, there are days you forget you're on TV. Every day for 11 years, out of thousands of reports, I get in trouble for two. That's a pretty good batting average. I never really dwell on it. It's not a good scandal. It's not rehab."

Antics notwithstanding, the Radio & Television News Association recently bestowed Rubin with its 2002 Golden Mike Award.

"He's the engine that makes our comedy hum," said "Morning News" executive producer Marcia Brandwynne. "His ideas are very creative. He's responsible for a lot and he's exceedingly dependable."

"To me, the best broadcast journalists should be the best writers," said Rubin, who also hosts the "The Sam Rubin Show," broadcast weekday mornings following Howard Stern on KLSX 97.1.

"I write every single word," he said of his news copy. "I can sleep in an extra hour and a half, but I don't. I really enjoy putting the report together."

A Westside native, Rubin, 43, has been interested in entertainment since childhood, when he attended films at the now-defunct Pickwood Theater on Pico and Westwood boulevards. Rubin grew up near Cheviot Hills, had his bar mitzvah at Congregation Mogen David and graduated from the University High School and Occidental College.

His mother is a German-born Jew who left the country because of her religion. "She has always remained bright and optimistic and not bitter about her ordeal, and I admire her so very much for that," Rubin said.

Rubin gamely participates in KTLA-organized charity events and commits his own time to National Multiple Sclerosis Society functions. He was also a Jewish Image Awards presenter in September.

On Jan. 9, Rubin and wife Julie celebrated their 15th wedding anniversary. Rubin still resides on the Westside, where he and his wife, who is not Jewish, raise daughters Perry, 7, and Rory, 2.

"As an interfaith couple, we try to figure what best to do with our kids," said Rubin, who sends Rory to Temple Isaiah because "the preschool is held in the highest regard."

Through his children, Rubin has reconnected with his culture.

"I am more aware now of my Jewishness as an adult, particularly given the world situation," he said.

Early in his career, Rubin noted, "some agents suggested it would be easier to get employment in other cities with a more generic-sounding name. But Los Angeles is my home, and I am, among other things, a Jewish man here. I would never even consider changing my name."

Rubin's name occasionally makes a cameo credit on a feature or TV show. But the self-deprecating reporter laughs off any thespian aspirations, insisting that even playing himself can be challenging.

"I am the world's worst actor," he said. "If some show is misguided enough to put me on it, who am I to refute their bad judgment?"

Sam Rubin will co-host the ninth annual "Live From the Academy Awards" on KTLA Channel 5, Sunday, March 23, from 3-5 p.m. Rubin appears on "KTLA Morning News" weekdays from 6-9 a.m.  

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