On the night of Monday, January 15, 2024, my beloved father-in-law, John Frederick Hamlin Jr., passed from this earth into God’s arms at the age of 92, just two months shy of 93. He went peacefully with his daughters and grandchildren by his side.
Among his many list of accomplishments as a television executive across his multi-decade career, rising to the level of senior VP of specials and variety programming at ABC, Hamlin most notably served as a consultant on the Oscars telecast, advising as many as 45 shows in his lifetime — a possible record for most shows worked.
“He was extremely unique as a television executive because he was also a full-fledged producer,” said Gary Pudney, former ABC senior VP of special projects and senior executive in charge of specials and talent, for Hamlin’s obituary for the Los Angeles Times. “He knew more about producing than the producers did.”
Longtime friend and colleague Jeff Margolis, who directed the Oscars and other shows, echoed those sentiments. “There is no network executive ever in the history of television that I feel was as good and as passionate as he was,” Margolis said. “He loved television.”
“One of the things I loved about working with John was he had his finger on the pulse of television and he knew what the home audience liked,” Margolis later added.
Indeed, John was a man of Old Hollywood, a bygone era where craft reigned supreme and the audience mattered most of all. Over the years, as awards shows like the Oscars put politics ahead of entertainment, John believed that the telecast needed to return to its roots. “The emphasis of the telecast must return to what the public wants: They want to be entertained,” he said in his latter years.
This is a massive loss and a sad day. John was a mentor to me and so many others. I learned everything I know about the Oscars from him. RIP to a great man. https://t.co/cUAb3wjNQt
— Robert Mills (@Millsy11374) January 21, 2024
Jessica I will NEVER forget your dad. I was so lucky to work with and more importantly know him. You are all in my thoughts and prayers.
— Robert Mills (@Millsy11374) January 22, 2024
John always said that meeting Charlie Chaplin on the night he won the Honorary Oscar at the 1972 Academy Awards was the highlight of his career, but among his favorite memories, however, was having the inside scoop on the infamous streaker at the 1974 Academy Awards. Truth be told, it was all planned and co-host David Niven’s hilarious response about the man’s “shortcomings” was prewritten.
Hamlin’s roster of people with whom he had worked throughout his career boasted a who’s who of pedigree talent, including Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Bob Hope, Goldie Hawn, Bob Saget, and Sammy Davis Jr. He also entertained several U.S. Presidents for the special A Gala for the President at Ford’s Theatre. On any given day, you could utter a household name in his presence, and, more often than not, he had a fresh story of them on hand to reminisce. During the 1985 Oscars, for instance — the year Gregory Peck produced — John once recalled telling the beloved actor he had begun to sense a growing gap between the show and the American audience by noting that none of that year’s Best Picture nominees enjoyed the same box office numbers as Ghostbusters.
It only took another 30+ years for his suspicions to be confirmed.
John Hamlin, Longtime Consultant of Oscars Telecasts, Dies at 92 https://t.co/S5BNHolby5
— Variety (@Variety) January 21, 2024
As for myself, I will always be grateful to John for welcoming me as his guest at the Oscars rehearsals between 2012 and 2018, giving me priceless memories that I will never be able to replicate, whether it was sipping coffee in the green room or watching legendary musical artists like U2 or Adele rehearse their show-stopping numbers in preparation for the big night. I knew I hit the jackpot in 2013 when I had the privilege of witnessing Shirley Bassey rehearse her rendition of “Goldfinger” for that year’s James Bond tribute. A piece of cinematic history unfolded before my very eyes and I owe it all to the man who had welcomed me as his son-in-law.
John’s passion was equally matched by his physical stamina. I first met him in 2011 in the wake of his 80th birthday, and yet, every year, come Oscar time, he would muster the strength to work the show as its oldest living consultant. This would be no small feat for even a physically fit 25-year-old, but for an 80+-year-old man to spend a week pacing between corridors in a sprawling theater complex while advising executives on perhaps the biggest television event in the world, I stand awe-inspired by his ageless tenacity. He kept this tradition going until he finally retired in 2018 when his legs could no longer withstand the pressure.
In 2012, he gave me his daughter’s hand in marriage and I quickly learned of his boundless generosity. Time after time, whenever we needed him, John would be there to help us and he never demanded anything in return.
Life will go on and time will give me many new and exciting memories, but these past 12 years of knowing him will always be a special part of my life that I will hold close to my heart until the day that God calls me home to Him.
Requiescat in Pace, old friend.
Hamlin was predeceased by a son and daughter and is survived by two daughters, a son, six grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. The family requests donations be made to his favorite charities — Wounded Warrior Project and Paralyzed Veterans of America.