Sunday, May 20, 2018
  • Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017
Dale Spina, former Warner Bros. Creative VP, dies at 66
Dale Spina
  • NEWHALL, Calif.
  • --

Dale Spina, formerly Warner Bros. VP, Creative Advertising and an award-winning copywriter for the studio, died on August 4 after a brief illness. He was 66 and lived in Newhall, Calif.
As co-head of The Idea Place, Warner’s in-house ad agency, formed in the early 1980s, Spina worked on dozens of Warner titles, including “Batman,” the “Lethal Weapon” series, “Beetlejuice” and “Chariots of Fire.” Many of his projects won Key Art Awards, the annual honors that recognize the best in motion picture creative advertising and marketing.
Spina joined Warner Bros. in 1970 as assistant to West Coast publicity cirector Diana Widom. In 1972, he became assistant to Charlotte Kandel (Widom’s twin sister), who was then a publicity project director. Later he worked as assistant to advertising director Nancy Goliger.
In 1980, Spina began to work with Joel Wayne, previously the top creative executive at Grey Advertising in New York, who had just joined Warner in a similar post as the studio’s new VP and creative director. “Dale was a genius writer. In my nearly half-century in the business, there was nobody better. At that time, executives sent out hard copies of written notes, a function often taken on by the assistant. I noticed something immediately in Dale’s ability to turn a witty, inventive and personable phrase. So I decided to trust my instincts to see what he could do with poster copy for ‘Chariots of Fire.’ He didn’t disappoint.” Wrote Spina: ”This is a story of two men who run...not to run...but to prove something to the world. They will sacrifice anything to achieve their goals.” The film went on to win an Oscar® for Best Picture. Spina once professed his favorite tagline was for “Beetlejuice”: “The Name in Laughter from the Hereafter.”
By the end of that year, Spina had joined Warner’s first attempt at an in-house ad group, a four-person team known as Creative Conspiracy. A year or two later, the group expanded and evolved into The Idea Place with much more responsibility for ad creation and production.
Spina continued through nearly the entire length of co-chairmen and CEOs Robert Daly and Terry Semel’s two-decade administration, which Spina called “the Camelot years” (referencing the studio’s successes during that period and the executives’ collaborative management style that permeated every department of the company). Spina reported to Wayne (who eventually became EVP Worldwide Creative Advertising Projects) and also worked closely with worldwide marketing chiefs Sandy Reisenbach and, subsequently, Rob Friedman. Spina retired from Warner in 1998 and spent the next three years as a freelance writer.
Charlotte Kandel, who eventually headed Warner worldwide publicity, said, “Dale had such a joy for life and such a generous spirit. On top of that was a cheekiness and irreverence like nobody else’s.”
Born in North Hollywood on November 9, 1950, Dale Michael Spina was raised by his widowed mother and learned quickly the values of independence and self-reliance. He attended Kittridge Elementary School and Notre Dame High, both in the San Fernando Valley. Subsequently, he earned a degree at Valley College, majoring in journalism. Spina is survived by his husband of four years and life partner of 40 years, Guy Apollo.
A memorial service has been scheduled for Saturday, September 23, 12:30 pm, at the Church of the Hills, Forest Lawn Cemetery, in Los Angeles.