Norman Milton Lear (born July 27, 1922) is an American television
writer and producer who produced such 1970s sitcoms as All in the
Family, Sanford and Son, One Day at a Time, The Jeffersons, Good
Times, and Maude. As a political activist, he founded the advocacy
People for the American Way in 1981 and has supported
First Amendment rights and progressive causes.
1 Early life
4 Political and cultural activities
4.1 Declaration of Independence
4.2 Declare Yourself
4.3 2015 Iran nuclear deal
5 Personal life
6 TV productions
9 Further reading
10 External links
Lear was born in New Haven, Connecticut, the son of Jeanette (née
Seicol) and Hyman "Herman" Lear, a traveling salesman. His
mother was born in
Elizabethgrad in Kherson Gubernia in Ukraine, while
his father was born in Connecticut, to Russian-born parents.
He had a younger sister named Claire Lear Brown (1925–2015). Lear
grew up in a Jewish home and had a
Bar Mitzvah ceremony.
When Lear was nine years old, his father went to prison for selling
fake bonds. Lear thought of his father as a "rascal" and said that
the character of
Archie Bunker (whom Lear depicted as white Protestant
on the show) was in part inspired by his father, while the character
Edith Bunker was in part inspired by his mother.
Lear graduated from Weaver High School in Hartford, Connecticut, in
1940 and subsequently attended
Emerson College in Boston, but
dropped out in 1942 to join the
United States Army
United States Army Air Forces.
After the Pearl Harbor attack, during World War II, Lear enlisted in
September 1942, serving in the Mediterranean Theater as a radio
B-17 Flying Fortress
B-17 Flying Fortress bombers with the 772nd
463rd Bombardment Group (Heavy)
463rd Bombardment Group (Heavy) of the Fifteenth
Air Force, where Lear said they bombed Germany. He flew 52
combat missions, for which he was awarded the
Air Medal with four Oak
Leaf Clusters. Lear was discharged from the Army in 1945. He and his
World War II
World War II crew members are featured in the book "Crew
Umbriago" by Daniel P. Carroll (tail gunner), and also in another
book: 772nd Bomb Squadron: The Men, The Memories by Turner Publishing
After World War II, Lear had a career in public relations. The
career choice was inspired by his Uncle Jack: "My dad had a brother,
Jack, who flipped me a quarter every time he saw me. He was a press
agent so I wanted to be a press agent. That's the only role model I
had. So all I wanted was to grow up to be a guy who could flip a
quarter to a nephew." Lear decided to move to California to
restart his career in publicity, driving with his toddler daughter
across the country.
His first night in Los Angeles, Lear stumbled upon a production of
George Bernard Shaw's
Major Barbara at a 90-seat theater in the round
Circle Theater off Sunset Boulevard. One of the actors in the play was
Sydney Chaplin, who was the son of actors
Charlie Chaplin and Lita
Alan Mowbray and Dame
Gladys Cooper sat in front of
him, and after the show was over, Chaplin performed.
Lear had a first cousin in Los Angeles, Elaine, who was married to a
man named Ed Simmons, who wanted to be a comedy writer. Simmons and
Lear teamed up to sell home furnishings door-to-door for a company
called The Gans Brothers and later sold family photos door-to-door.
Throughout the 1950s Lear and Simmons turned out comedy sketches for
television appearances of Martin and Lewis, Rowan and Martin, and
others. They frequently wrote for
Martin and Lewis
Martin and Lewis when they appeared
Colgate Comedy Hour
Colgate Comedy Hour and a 1953 article from Billboard magazine
stated that Lear and Simmons were guaranteed a record-breaking $52,000
each to write for five additional
Martin and Lewis
Martin and Lewis appearances on the
Colgate Comedy Hour
Colgate Comedy Hour that year. In a 2015 interview with Vanity
Magazine Lear said that Jerry Lewis had hired him and Simmons to
become writers for
Martin and Lewis
Martin and Lewis three weeks before the comedy duo
made their first appearance on the
Colgate Comedy Hour
Colgate Comedy Hour in 1950.
Lear also acknowledged in 1986 that he and Simmons were the main
writers for The
Martin and Lewis
Martin and Lewis Show for three years.
In 1954 Lear was enlisted as a writer hoping to salvage the new
CBS sitcom, Honestly, Celeste!, but the program was
canceled after eight episodes. During this time, he became the
producer of NBC's The Martha Raye Show, after
Nat Hiken left as the
series director. Lear also wrote some of the opening monologues for
The Tennessee Ernie Ford Show, which aired from 1956 to 1961.
In 1959 Lear created his first television series, a half-hour western
for Revue Studios called The Deputy, starring Henry Fonda.
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Starting out as a comedy writer, then a film director (he wrote and
produced the 1967 film
Divorce American Style
Divorce American Style and directed the 1971
film Cold Turkey, both starring Dick Van Dyke), Lear tried to sell a
concept for a sitcom about a blue-collar American family to ABC. They
rejected the show after two pilots were taped. After
a third pilot was taped,
CBS picked up the show, known as All in the
Family. It premiered January 12, 1971, to disappointing ratings, but
it took home several
Emmy Awards that year, including Outstanding
Comedy Series. The show did very well in summer reruns, and it
flourished in the 1971–72 season, becoming the top-rated show on TV
for the next five years. After falling from the #1 spot, All in
the Family still remained in the top ten, well after it transitioned
into Archie Bunker's Place. The show was based loosely on the British
sitcom Till Death Us Do Part, about an irascible working-class Tory
Lear's second big TV sitcom was also based on a British sitcom,
Steptoe and Son, about a west London junk dealer and his son. Lear
changed the setting to the Watts section of
Los Angeles and the
characters to African-Americans, and the
Sanford and Son
Sanford and Son was
an instant hit. Numerous hit shows followed thereafter, including
The Jeffersons (as with Maude a spin-off of All in the Family),
One Day at a Time, and
Good Times (which was a spinoff of Maude).
What most of the Lear sitcoms had in common was that they were shot on
videotape in place of film, used a live studio audience, and dealt
with the social and political issues of the day.
Maude, while reputedly based on Lear's wife, was actually the
brainchild[vague] of series writer Charlie Hauck; however, Frances
herself would acknowledge that the show's title character was based on
Lear's longtime producing partner was Bud Yorkin, who also produced
All in the Family, Sanford and Son, What's Happening!!, Maude, and The
Jeffersons. Yorkin split with Lear in 1975. He started a production
company with writer/producers Saul Turteltaub and Bernie Orenstein,
but they had only two shows that ran more than a year: What's
Happening!! and Carter Country. The Lear/Yorkin company was known as
Tandem Productions that was founded in 1958. Lear and talent agent
Jerry Perenchio founded T.A.T. Communications (T.A.T. stood for
"Tuchus Affen Tisch", which is Yiddish for "Putting one's butt on the
line") in 1974, which co-existed with
Tandem Productions and was often
referred to in periodicals as Tandem/T.A.T. The Lear organization was
one of the most successful independent TV producers of the 1970s. TAT
produced the influential and award-winning 1981 film The Wave about
Ron Jones' social experiment.
Lear also developed the cult favorite TV series Mary Hartman, Mary
Hartman (MH MH) which was turned down by the networks as "too
controversial" and placed it into first run syndication with 128
stations in January 1976. A year later, Lear added another program
into first-run syndication along with MH MH, All That Glitters. He
planned in 1977 to offer three hours of prime-time Saturday
programming directly, with the stations placing his production company
in the position of an occasional network.
In the fall of 1981 Lear began a 14-month run as the host of a revival
of the classic game show
Quiz Kids for the
CBS Cable Network.
In January 1982 Lear and
Jerry Perenchio bought out Avco Embassy
Pictures from Avco Financial Corporation, and the Avco part of its
name was dropped after merging that with T.A.T. Communications Company
to form Embassy Communications, Inc.
Embassy Pictures was led by Alan
Horn and Martin Schaeffer, later co-founders of Castle Rock
Entertainment with Rob Reiner.
In March 1982 Lear produced an ABC television special titled I Love
Liberty, which was aimed to counterbalance groups like the Moral
Majority. Among the many guests who appeared on the special was
Conservative icon and the 1964 US Presidential election's Republican
nominee Barry Goldwater. Even before the special aired, it was
revealed that I Love Liberty had more obtained even more public hype
CBS documentary Central American In Revolt, which aired
the day before Lear's special and was meant to hype the Reagan
Administration's policy surrounding the Central American crisis.
On June 18, 1985, Lear and Perenchio sold Embassy Communications to
Columbia Pictures (then owned by the
Coca-Cola Company), which
acquired Embassy's film and television division (including Embassy's
in-house television productions and the television rights to the
Embassy theatrical library) for $485 million in shares of The
Coca-Cola Company. Lear and Perenchio split the net
proceeds (about $250 million). Coke later sold the film division to
Dino De Laurentiis and the home video arm to Nelson Holdings (led by
In his book Even This I Get To Experience, Lear stated that he was the
one who produced the four-day
Liberty Weekend special which aired
during the 1986 Fourth of July Weekend and that he was also the one
who was used the Israeli ship The Galaxy which set sail during the
event. Lear also stated that he used The Galaxy to host a private
party celebrating his upcoming marriage to his fiancee Lyn and that he
in part made the special so it was coincide with this party as
well. He also stated that it was his close family, friends and
associates who were occupying the ship with him and Lyn and
watching the event via closed-circuit TV.
Tandem Productions was abandoned in 1986 with the
cancellation of Diff'rent Strokes, and Embassy ceased to exist as a
single entity in late 1986, having been split into different
components owned by different entities. The Embassy TV division became
ELP Communications in 1988, but shows originally produced by Embassy
were now under the
Television banner from 1988 to
1996 and the Columbia TriStar
Television banner from 1996 to 2002.
Lear's Act III Communications, founded in 1986 with Tom McGrath as
President, produced several notable films, including Rob Reiner's next
three films: The Sure Thing, Stand By Me, and The Princess Bride, as
well as Fried Green Tomatoes.
He is the godfather of actress and singer Katey Sagal.
On February 2, 1989, Norman Lear's Act III Communications formed a
joint venture with
Television called Act III
Television to produce television series instead of managing.
Lear attempted to return to TV production in the 1990s with the shows
Sunday Dinner, The Powers That Be, and 704 Hauser, the last one
putting a different family in the house from All in the Family. None
of the series proved successful.
Lear's Act III Communications was founded in 1986 and led initially by
Tom McGrath, who met Lear while negotiating on behalf of
acquisition of Lear's old company, and later by Hal Gaba, a former
Embassy Pictures executive. This included: Act III
Theatres, sold to KKR in 1997; Act III Broadcasting, sold to Abry
Communications; and Act III Publishing, sold to PriMedia. Lear is also
the owner of Concord Records, and in 2005 consummated a 50% interest
in the film library and production assets of Village Roadshow
Productions Pty Ltd.
In 1997 Lear and Jim George produced the
Kids' WB cartoon series
Channel Umptee-3. It premiered on the Saturday-morning lineup on
October 25, 1997. The cartoon was the first to meet the Federal
Communications Commission's then-new educational/informal programming
requirements. It received positive reviews, but
ratings were low and it was eventually canceled after one season, with
the finale show airing September 4, 1998.
In 2003 Lear made an appearance on
South Park during the "I'm a Little
Bit Country" episode, providing the voice of Benjamin Franklin. He
also served as a consultant on the episodes "I'm a Little Bit Country"
and "Cancelled". Lear has attended a
South Park writers' retreat,
and served as the officiant at co-creator Trey Parker's wedding.
Lear is spotlighted in the 2016 documentary Norman Lear: Just Another
Version of You. In 2017, Lear served as executive producer for One
Day at a Time, the reboot of his 1975-1984 show of the same name that
Justina Machado and
Rita Moreno as a
In 1967, Lear was nominated for an Academy Award for writing Divorce
American Style. Lear was among the first seven television pioneers
inducted into the
Television Academy Hall of Fame in 1984. He received
Emmy Awards (two in 1971, and one each in 1972 and 1973) and a
Peabody Award in 1978. He received the Humanist Arts Award from the
American Humanist Association
American Humanist Association in 1977. His star on the Hollywood Walk
of Fame is located at 6615 Hollywood Boulevard.
In 1999, President
Bill Clinton awarded the
National Medal of Arts
National Medal of Arts to
Lear, noting, "
Norman Lear has held up a mirror to American society
and changed the way we look at it." Also in 1999, he and Bud Yorkin
received the Women in
Film Lucy Award in recognition of excellence and
innovation in creative works that have enhanced the perception of
women through the medium of television.
On May 12, 2017, Lear was awarded the fourth annual Woody Guthrie
Prize presented by the
Woody Guthrie Center
Woody Guthrie Center based in Tulsa, Okla. The
event took place in the Clive Davis Theater at the
Grammy Museum in
Los Angeles. The Woody Guthrie Prize is given annually to an artist
who exemplifies the spirit and life work of Guthrie by speaking for
the less fortunate through music, literature, film, dance or other art
forms and serving as a positive force for social change in America.
Previous honorees include Pete Seeger,
Mavis Staples and Kris
On August 3, 2017, it was announced that the
Kennedy Center had made
Lear, along with Carmen de Lavallade, Lionel Richie, LL Cool
J, and Gloria Estefan, one of the 2017 Kennedy Center
Honors. US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump
were scheduled to be seated with the honorees during the Kennedy
Center ceremony, which took place on December 3, 2017, and they
were planning to host a reception with them at the White House earlier
in the evening. Variety magazine's senior editor Ted Johnson
reacted with statements such as "That in and of itself will be an
interesting moment, as Lear and Estefan have been particularly
outspoken against Trump and his policies." It was afterwards
announced that Lear would boycott the White House reception. In
the end, the President and Mrs. Trump did not attend.
Political and cultural activities
In addition to his success as a TV producer and businessman, Lear is
an outspoken supporter of First Amendment and liberal causes. The only
time that he did not support the Democratic candidate for President
was in 1980. He supported John Anderson because he considered the
Carter administration to be "a complete disaster."
In 1981, Lear founded
People For the American Way (PFAW), a
progressive advocacy organization. PFAW ran several advertising
campaigns opposing the interjection of religion in politics. Lear
has long been a vocal critic of the ideas held by the Conservatives
and Christians and has advocated for the advancement of
Prominent Conservatives and Christians such as Pat Robertson, Jerry
Jimmy Swaggart accused Lear of being an atheist and
holding an anti-Christian bias. In the January 21, 1987 issue
of Christian Century, Lear associate Martin E. Marty, a Lutheran
professor who taught church history at the University of Chicago
Divinity School between 1963 and 1998, refuted the allegations and
stated that the television producer had praised the moral values of
various religions and had personally praised his interpretation of
Marty also noted that while Lear and his family were never followers
Orthodox Judaism that was practiced in his childhood community
and questioned the beliefs held by the local religious leaders,
the television producer was still a follower of Judaism.
In a 2009 interview with US News journalist Dan Gilgoff, Lear refuted
claims by the Conservatives and Christians that he either was an
atheist or prejudiced against Christianity and maintained that while
he did not believe religion should hold influence in politics or any
other form of policymaking, he still held religious beliefs and had
also integrated some evangelical Christian language into his Born
Again American campaign as well.
In a 2014 interview with The Jewish Journal journalist Rob Eshman,
Lear described himself as a "total Jew" but never a practicing
In 1989, Lear founded the Business Enterprise Trust, an educational
program that used annual awards, business school case studies, and
videos to spotlight exemplary social innovations in American business
until it ended in 1998. In 2000, he provided an endowment for a
multidisciplinary research and public policy center that explored the
convergence of entertainment, commerce, and society at the Annenberg
School for Communication and Journalism. It was later named the Norman
Lear Center in recognition.
Lear serves on the National Advisory Board of the Young Storytellers
Foundation. He has written articles for The Huffington Post.
Lear is a trustee emeritus at The Paley Center for Media.
Declaration of Independence
In 2001, Lear and his wife, Lyn, purchased a Dunlap broadside—one of
the first published copies of the United States Declaration of
Independence—for $8.1 million. Not a document collector, Lear said
in a press release and on the Today show that his intent was to tour
the document around the United States so that the country could
experience its "birth certificate" firsthand. Through the end of
2004, the document traveled throughout the United States in the
Declaration of Independence Roadtrip, which Lear organized, visiting
several presidential libraries, dozens of museums, as well as the 2002
Olympics, Super Bowl XXXVI, and the
Live 8 concert in
Rob Reiner produced a filmed, dramatic reading of the
Declaration of Independence—the last project filmed by famed
cinematographer Conrad Hall—on July 4, 2001, at Independence Hall in
Philadelphia. The film, introduced by Morgan Freeman, features Kathy
Bates, Benicio del Toro, Michael Douglas, Mel Gibson, Whoopi Goldberg,
Graham Greene, Ming-Na, Edward Norton, Winona Ryder, Kevin Spacey, and
Renée Zellweger as readers. The film was directed by
Arvin Brown and
scored by John Williams.
In 2004, Lear established Declare Yourself, a national nonpartisan,
nonprofit campaign created to empower and encourage eligible 18- to
29-year-olds in America to register and vote. Since then, it has
registered almost 4 million young people and contributed significantly
to the unprecedented turnout of young voters.
2015 Iran nuclear deal
Lear was one of 98 "prominent members of Los Angeles' Jewish
community" that signed an open letter supporting the proposed nuclear
agreement between Iran and six world powers led by the United States.
The letter called for the resolution of the bill, warning that the
killing of the agreement by Congress would be a "tragic mistake". The
letter was also signed by billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad; Walt
Disney Concert Hall architect Frank Gehry;
Mad Men creator Matthew
Weiner, and many more.
Lear has been married three times:
1943–1956: Charlotte Lear née Rosen. Ended in divorce.
1947: Daughter, Ellen Lear, a sex therapist
Frances Lear née Loeb (1923–1996). Publisher of
Lear's Magazine. Separated in 1983. Ended in divorce, where she
received $112 million in a divorce settlement from Lear.
1958: Daughter Kate Breckir LaPook, an executive
1959: Daughter Maggie Beth Lear
1987–present: Lyn Lear née Davis (1947–).
1988: Son Benjamin Davis Lear
1994: Daughters Madelaine Rose Lear and Brianna Elizabeth Lear; twins
born to surrogate
Note: The above chart does not include the made-for-television movies
The Wave, which aired on October 4, 1981 or Heartsounds, which aired
on September 30, 1984.
Lear, Norman. "Liberty and Its Responsibilities," Broadcast
Journalism, 1979-1981. The Eighth Alfred I. DuPont Columbia University
Survey, Ed. By Marvin Barrett. New York: Everest House, 1982.
Lear, Norman. "Our Political Leaders Mustn't Be Evangelists," USA
Today, August 17, 1984.
Lear, Norman and Ronald Reagan. "A Debate on Religious Freedom,"
Harper’s Magazine, October 1984.
Lear, Norman. "Our Fragile Tower of Greed and Debt," Washington Post,
April 5, 1987.
Lear, Norman. Even This I Get to Experience. New York : The
Penguin Press, 2014. ISBN 978-1-594-20572-9
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World War II
World War II Army Enlistment
Records". FamilySearch. Retrieved 16 October 2014.
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Business Media, Inc. – via Google Books.
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Norman Lear Looks Back on Early
Days as TV Comedy Writer".
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'Occasional' Networks". New York Magazine. pp. 34–35. Retrieved
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^ Michael Schrage (June 18, 1985). "Coke Buys Embassy & Tandem".
The Washington Post. Archived from the original on May 2, 2013.
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Embassy: 485 million". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the
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^ George Russell (May 12, 1986). "Fizz, Movies and Whoop-De-Doo,".
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^ a b c
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New York City: Penguin Books. p. 369.
ISBN 978-0-14-312796-3. Retrieved August 30, 2017.
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Retrieved August 30, 2017.
Katey Sagal on Wise Guys, Lost and More!. TV Guide.com. Retrieved on
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Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 19,
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2009, Accessed February 26, 2013
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1996. ISBN 978-1-563-11320-8
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Wikimedia Commons has media related to Norman Lear.
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Norman Lear Website
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2005 interview with Norman Lear
2006 story on Lear and
All in the Family
All in the Family that describes Lear's
interests and his life in Vermont
Independence Road Trip
463rd Bombardment Group Historical Society
Norman Lear Archive of American
Appearances on C-SPAN
Shows produced or created by Norman Lear
The Deputy (1959–61)
All in the Family
All in the Family (1971–79)
Sanford and Son
Sanford and Son (1972–78)
Good Times (1974–79)
The Jeffersons (1975–85)
Hot l Baltimore (1975)
One Day at a Time
One Day at a Time (1975–84)
Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman
Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman (1976–78)
The Dumplings (1976)
All's Fair (1976–77)
The Nancy Walker Show
The Nancy Walker Show (1976)
All That Glitters (1977)
Fernwood 2 Night (1977)
A Year at the Top (1977)
Sanford Arms (1977)
America 2-Night (1978)
In the Beginning (1978)
Apple Pie (1978)
Hanging In (1979)
The Baxters (1979–81)
Palmerstown, U.S.A. (1980–81)
a.k.a. Pablo (1984)
Sunday Dinner (1991)
The Powers That Be (1992–93)
704 Hauser (1994)
Channel Umptee-3 (1997–98)
One Day at a Time
One Day at a Time (2017–present)
Guess Who Died? (2018)
TCA Career Achievement Award
Grant Tinker (1985)
Walter Cronkite (1986)
Hill Street Blues
Hill Street Blues (1987)
David Brinkley (1988)
Lucille Ball (1989)
Jim Henson (1990)
Brandon Tartikoff (1991)
Johnny Carson (1992)
Bob Hope (1993)
Charles Kuralt (1994)
Ted Turner (1995)
Angela Lansbury (1996)
Fred Rogers (1997)
Roone Arledge (1998)
Norman Lear (1999)
Dick Van Dyke
Dick Van Dyke (2000)
Sid Caesar (2001)
Bill Cosby (2002)
Carl Reiner (2003)
Don Hewitt (2004)
Bob Newhart (2005)
Carol Burnett (2006)
Mary Tyler Moore
Mary Tyler Moore (2007)
Lorne Michaels (2008)
Betty White (2009)
James Garner (2010)
Oprah Winfrey (2011)
David Letterman (2012)
Barbara Walters (2013)
James Burrows (2014)
James L. Brooks
James L. Brooks (2015)
Lily Tomlin (2016)
Ken Burns (2017)
Television Hall of Fame Class of 1984
Edward R. Murrow
William S. Paley
Kennedy Center Honorees (2010s)
Bill T. Jones
Carmen de Lavallade
LL Cool J
International Emmy Founders Award
Jim Henson (1980)
Shaun Sutton /
Roone Arledge (1981)
Michael Landon (1982)
Herbert Brodkin (1983)
David L. Wolper (1984)
David Attenborough (1985)
Donald L. Taffner (1986)
Jacques Cousteau (1987)
Goar Mestre (1988)
Paul Fox (1989)
Joan Ganz Cooney
Joan Ganz Cooney (1990)
Adrian Cowell (1991)
Bill Cosby (1992)
Richard Dunn (1993)
Film on Four (1994)
Don Hewitt (1995)
Reg Grundy (1996)
Jac Venza (1997)
Robert Halmi Sr. (1998)
Hisashi Hieda (1999)
John Hendricks (2000)
Pierre Lescure (2001)
Howard Stringer (2002)
MTV International (2004)
Oprah Winfrey (2005)
Steven Spielberg (2006)
Al Gore (2007)
Dick Wolf (2008)
David Frost (2009)
Simon Cowell (2010)
Nigel Lythgoe (2011)
Ryan Murphy /
Norman Lear /
Alan Alda (2012)
J. J. Abrams
J. J. Abrams (2013)
Matthew Weiner (2014)
Julian Fellowes (2015)
Shonda Rhimes (2016)
ISNI: 0000 0001 1471 5478
BNF: cb148612484 (data)