A memorial service will be held Sunday for journalist-turned-entertainment publicist Chuck Panama, who worked with such stars as Elvis Presley, Elizabeth Taylor and Henry Fonda and handled public relations duties for the television shows “LA Law,” “The Simpsons” and “M*A*S*H.”
Panama died May 13 at the Motion Picture & Television Fund home in Woodland Hills at age 93, according to publicist Leonard Morpurgo, acting as a spokesman for Panama’s family.
He was drafted into the Army Air Corps, where he served as a radio operator on a B-24 bomber in the Pacific during World War II. When the war ended, he moved to Los Angeles, where he attended UCLA on the G.I. bill and was named sports editor of the Daily Bruin. He remained close to UCLA’s athletic program after graduation, working with the press at Bruin football and basketball games for more than 50 years.
Panama began his professional career as a correspondent at the Los Angeles bureau of International News Service, then followed his boss to the PR department at 20th Century Fox, where he worked with Presley and other celebrities, including Jayne Mansfield, and became a voting member of both the motion picture and television academies, according to Murporgo.
After a dozen years at Fox’s motion picture division, Panama became an independent publicist, but he returned to Fox in 1976, this time to the television division, where his duties included working on “M*A*S*H” during the last seven years of its decade-long run.
He retired from Fox in 1991, but remained active in the profession as the personal publicist of Fyvush Finkel, helping the late actor with press interest surrounding his 1994 Emmy win for his supporting role on the TV series “Picket Fences.”
Panama, who was known to friends as “Chuckles,” also volunteered in his retirement years at the Museum of Flying in Santa Monica and later at the Getty Museum, and was an active member of the Entertainment Publicists Professional Society and the Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters.
He is survived by his wife of 64 years, Gerry; their children, Craig, Cindy and Carrie; and seven grandchildren.
The memorial service will begin at 2 p.m. at the Saban Center at the MPTF Wasserman Campus, 23388 Mulholland Drive. Attendees are being encouraged to wear Bruin blue and gold casual attire.
In lieu of flowers, the family asked that memorial contributions be made to MPTF (www.mptf.com/donate) or UCLA (giveto.ucla.edu).