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Rest In Peace, Maria LaMagra

9 Aug, 2011 By: Thomas K. Arnold

I’m still reeling with shock and sadness at the death a few days ago of Maria LaMagra, the veteran home entertainment publicist who spent more than a decade running the PR show at Universal Studios Home Entertainment and then went on to become a successful PR consultant and independent contractor for Walt Disney Studios, Sony Pictures and others

So often, when people die, those of us who are left say something along the lines of, “She left us too soon. She was so full of life.”

In Maria LaMagra’s case, this isn’t just another platitude. It’s God’s honest truth. Maria didn’t observe life, nor did she merely live life. She took life by the shoulders and shook the bejesus out of it, and made it do her bidding.

Come to think of it, she did that to all of us.

Maria LaMagra was the diva of the Hollywood publicists when I joined what was then Video Store Magazine in 1991 and she was still the diva of Hollywood publicists when she died after a brief battle with cancer.

Her family put out a statement saying she was 66 when she died. Maria would have killed them. We all thought she was at least a decade younger. After a certain point, you see, Maria LaMagra stopped aging and became, well, ageless.

I’ll never forget her raspy voice, her loud laugh, the way she would throw back her head when she laughed, those expressive eyes, the way she carried herself, her sense of fashion and style, that aura of self-assuredness she always projected. And her approach – well, let’s just say Maria LaMagra was not from the Subtle School of Publicity. She emailed and then she phoned; she phoned and then she emailed. And she kept doing it, over and over again, until a journalist had no other choice than to say “yes.”

She was, as rocker Dave Edmunds would say, “subtle as a flying mallet.” When Maria LaMagra walked into a room, she owned it. She was loud, no question – and yet her heart was even bigger than her voice.

I’m half expecting a phone call, chastising me for putting her age in print – and asking me for one last favor, for a client, of course. Just six weeks before she died, she was at the EAA’s Wine & Wisdom event at the Skirball Center – clearly ill, but still a big, overwhelming presence. I was on vacation, but our editor in chief, Stephanie Prange, was there and talked to Maria.

The last thing she said, as Stephanie was preparing to leave: “Tell T.K. he still owes me a write-up on Smore Entertainment.”

If there’s a heaven, I can only imagine Maria up there right now, that loud laugh echoing through the clouds as she tells God and his angels what to do.