Sam Rubin, legendary KTLA entertainment anchor, dies at 64

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

Sam Rubin, one of the most respected and connected entertainment journalists in broadcast history, died suddenly in Los Angeles on Friday at age 64.

Rubin’s family confirmed he died of a heart attack. He was last on the air Thursday morning and showed no outward signs of illness, co-workers said.

Rubin joined KTLA 5 Morning News in 1991, instantly making an impact with his encyclopedic knowledge of film and television and infectious charm. His news reports, interviews and feature segments were central to the morning broadcast and a hallmark of KTLA’s brand.

“The Sam that you saw on the air is the Sam that was off the air,” Rubin’s longtime colleague and friend Frank Buckley said in announcing his passing on live television. “Our hearts are broken. To all of us he shared his mornings with on television, and to those he worked with behind the scenes … we will not forget him. Quite simply, Sam was KTLA.”

Rubin’s sudden passing devastated co-workers, many of whom reflected on his impact during KTLA’s live coverage.

“Whenever a famous person passed away, he had the most touching and moving obituaries that he would write, and he would put their lives in perspective in such a way that was truly a talent,” recalled Eric Spillman, who also began working at KTLA in 1991. “Now we’re in the position of having to talk about his career and his life and give it some perspective and give it the dignity that it deserves … I’m at a loss for words.”

“Everybody in Hollywood knows Sam Rubin. Everybody loves him. He was my friend,” said KTLA 5 Morning News weather anchor Mark Kriski.

In a city known for its larger-than-life stars, Rubin was in a league of his own. Tom Hanks once called him “The Moses of Hollywood Moguls.”

Each weekday morning, television viewers were treated to his celebrity interviews with a wide range of Hollywood legends and up-and-coming actors and filmmakers. For many of them, the interviews were a rite of passage.

“He made you feel special every single time, and I am not the only person who felt that warmth,” reflected actor Henry Winkler. “When you were being interviewed by him, there was nobody after you, there was nobody before you at that desk. It was you in that seat, and that was all that mattered.”

Other tributes during KTLA’s live coverage included actor and L.A. native Danny Trejo, television host Mario Lopez, Leeza Gibbons, game show host Bob Eubanks and Mary Hart.

Actor and filmmaker Ben Stiller posted a tribute to KTLA’s Sam Rubin on X. May 10, 2024.

Social media was also flooded with memories.

“He was an institution. We have lost him way too soon,” said Ben Stiller.

Sam’s connections to Southern California ran deep. He was born in San Diego in 1960 and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from L.A.’s Occidental College before launching his local news career.

Over the years, Rubin won numerous awards, including Emmys, a Golden Mike for Best Entertainment Reporter and a lifetime achievement award from the Southern California Broadcasters Association. He was also a fixture at the Academy Awards, Emmys and Critics Choice Awards galas, and his interviews with celebrities on the red carpet often looked like reunions with old friends.

“I last talked to Sam Rubin at the Critics Choice Awards this year,” actor Keifer Sutherland posted on X, formerly Twitter. “His smile and his genuine excitement for all things Hollywood ever-present. In nervous situations, he was a buoy of kindness. I will miss him.”

Off the air, Sam supported a wide range of non-profit organizations and took particular pride in organizing KTLA’s team for the annual MS 150 Bay to Bay Bike Tour, a premiere cycling event that raises funds to find a cure for multiple sclerosis.

“Sam was the kindest, warmest soul in this insane town,” said actor Jerry O’Connell.

Rubin is survived by his wife, Leslie, and his four children.

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About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.