Dave McNary Dies: Longtime Variety Film Reporter Was 69

Justin Kroll
·4 min read

Dave McNary, the veteran film reporter who covered the industry for more than two decades at Variety and was a friend to many of us at Deadline, has died at 69. His wife, Sharon McNary, veteran journalist and KPCC-FM infrastructure correspondent, confirmed the news on Saturday morning.

McNary suffered a stroke on December 19 and was rushed to Huntington Hospital in Pasadena, passing away from complications.

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McNary started his long career at Variety in 1999, where he covered everything from the Guilds to various studios, including Warner Bros. Many of us at Deadline had the opportunity to work side by side with Dave over the years, including Ted Johnson, Anthony D’Alessandro, Mike Fleming, and Peter Bart, the long-time Editor-In-Chief at Variety, who hired McNary in 1999.

“Dave McNary epitomized the passionate newsman,” Bart said. “He loved breaking stories. And he was meticulously fair minded, for example, when covering the battles of the Writers Guild, seeking to understand all sides of the issue. Even when people were yelling at him he responded with a patient smile and a calm retort.”

McNary had a more than 40-year career in journalism, much of it spent as an entertainment industry business reporter. He worked for UPI, the Los Angeles Daily News, Pasadena Star-News and others before joining Variety in late 1999.

He was a prolific reporter who filed dozens of stories a week, mostly focusing on the independent film business, box office, production in Southern California as well as SAG-AFTRA, IATSE, the Writers Guild of America, the Directors Guild of America and Producers Guild of America. He was known throughout Hollywood’s guild community simply as “Dave” and it was recognized that he understood the inner workings of unions better than many guild employees.

McNary had a busy second career in comedy. For three decades, he hosted a Sunday standup comedy showcase at the famed Ice House venue in Pasadena, where he auditioned and booked numerous comics who have gone on to careers in the industry. In the 1970s, he did some work with the Groundlings and with acting coach Gary Austin. He was part of a comedy troupe dubbed the Procrastinators, who made appearances on “The Gong Show” doing out-there acts such as the surf tune “Wipeout” on belly bongos or “Rawhide” on stick horses.

Born David Nathan McNary in Berkeley, Calif., he grew up in San Rafael and Woodland as the oldest of five children. During his middle school years, the family lived in Barcelona, Spain, which left McNary fluent in Spanish. As a youth he was involved in the Boy Scouts and achieved the top rank of Eagle Scout.

After returning to California, McNary wrote for his high school paper and made his way to UCLA. He earned a degree in history and also rose through the ranks to become editor of the Daily Bruin newspaper. He remained an enthusiastic Bruin booster and continued to speak at events for alumni of the Daily Bruin.

It cannot go without saying the effect McNary had on so many young reporters who have or are still covering the industry today. I, like so many other young reporters at Variety, had the great honor of learning how to cover the business from him when I first started as Intern in 2008. That was the thing about Dave, no matter how busy he was covering the latest issue with the guilds or posting a piece of big development news, he always had the time to chat whether it be who we should reach out to to confirm a story, to simply gloating about his beloved San Francisco Giants winning a big playoff game.

He was known for asking interns if they would like to be his plus one for the DGA awards and then laughing the next day with them at how long the event went on for. It wasn’t just his friends and colleagues that love and appreciated Dave, but an a number of publicists, agents, execs and talent who worked with him and grew to appreciate how professional he was on whatever it was he was working on.

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