Merrin has many celebrity memories, including Jackie Robinson

By Norm Clarke  (VSiN Columnist) 

April 16, 2017 12:05 AM
Jackie Robinson with Bruce Merrin in the early 1970s.
© Courtesy photo

Las Vegas public relations man Bruce Merrin has reeled in many famous Hollywood clients over the years.

U.S. presidents? He’s booked all of them since Ronald Reagan, for public speaking appearances, including a president-in-the-making, Donald Trump.

Then there was a dinner with Johnny Carson at his Malibu home. Carson gave him some life-changing advice.

When Michael Landon of “Bonanza” and “Little House on the Prairie” fame learned he had pancreatic cancer, he called Merrin to set up a televised press conference.

One time Merrin flew first class with a dog. Not just any dog. Lassie was one of Hollywood’s biggest celebrity animals.

His first sports superstar booked for a paid speaking engagement was Jackie Robinson.

Merrin sent me an email on Saturday after I retweeted a photo of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ dedication of a statue of Robinson sliding into a base. The unveiling of the statue, on a plaza at Dodger Stadium, commemorated the 70th  anniversary of Robinson breaking baseball’s color barrier in 1947.

“This so touched my heart,” said Merrin, who attended UCLA, Robinson’s alma mater.

Merrin had met Robinson in 1971 or 1972 on a set for the filming of “Sports Challenge,” which tested star athletes’ sports knowledge.

“I owe this to my dad, Dan Merrin. He was the producer. Dad booked Jackie on the show,” said Bruce. The show’s host was Dick Enberg.

“I picked up Jackie and his wife at LAX. We had dinner at the Brown Derby. He was booked on the show with Duke Snider and Carl Erskine of the Dodgers.”

“A month later I booked Jackie with Bank of America,” recalled Merrin, who, as a kid, had seen the trio of Dodger stars play at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn.

Robinson died on October 24, 1972 at the age of 53. The cause of death was complications from heart disease and diabetes. He was almost blind by middle age.

Dan Merrin and his family had moved in 1956 to Las Vegas, where he became general manager and executive vice president of the Flamingo Hotel and Casino.

That year he booked a 11-year-old singing sensation named Brenda Lee. For her 12th birthday, a pool party was planned and Bruce accompanied her to the soiree.

Later, young Merrin sat in the front row “and she sang her hit, ‘Jambalaya,’ to me,” said Merrin.

After attending film school at UCLA, he got a big break in 1973 when he booked Landon as his first PR client. Merrin got Landon booked on NBC’s “Tonight Show” starring Carson. After the show, Carson invited Landon and Merrin to do dinner at his Malibu home.

During the dinner conversation, Carson asked Merrin why he didn’t start a celebrity speakers bureau.

Landon offered to be his first client and Carson added he’d be his second.

The scene and heard

Among the promotion nights I’d pay to see when the NHL arrives in Las Vegas: Knights in White Satin Night at T-Mobile Arena. Bring in the Moody Blues for a mini-concert and auction off those satin uniforms for charity...

Stat of the day: The Raiders allowed just 18 sacks and 41 QB hits in 16 games in 2016, first in the NFL — via NFL Network.

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On this day…

April 16, 1964: Breck Wall brings his comedy/vaudeville/burlesque show “Bottoms Up” from Dallas to Las Vegas, debuting at The Castaways Hotel, where The Mirage now stands. The blackout sketch revue plays venues over five decades before Wall – an old pal of Jack Ruby’s – dies in 2017.

April 17, 1981: Three thousand people pack Caesars Palace Sports Pavilion for the funeral of Joe Louis, the legendary boxer who worked as a greeter at the hotel for the last decade of his life. “Howard Hughes dies, with all billions, not a tear,” Muhammad Ali says. “Joe Louis, everybody cried.”


Celebrity blogger Perez Hilton, with friends at Beauty & Essex at The Cosmopolitan on Friday. They capped their dinner with root beer floats and a peanut butter pie sundae.

The punch line

“You’re either a jew or a beaver in heat.” – Don Rickles, to a lady wearing a mink stole – From Variety.

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