Dale C. Olson, Prominent Entertainment Publicist, Dies at 78

By Robert Simonson
August 9, 2012

Dale C. Olson, an entertainment industry publicist, died Aug. 9 at the Burbank Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center after a long battle with cancer. He was 78.



Mr. Olson's personal clients over the years included a panoply of stars, including the late Rock Hudson, for whom he was spokesperson during his battle with AIDS; Shirley MacLaine, Steve McQueen, Gene Kelly, Doris Roberts, Marion Ross, Clint Eastwood, Lord Laurence Olivier, Peter Ustinov, Robert Blake, Tony Curtis, Cleo Laine, Diane Ladd, Jean Stapleton, Marilyn Monroe, and dozens more.

Born on Feb. 20, 1934, in Fargo, ND, Mr. Olson began his career as an entertainment journalist. In 1956, he became West Coast editor of the motion picture exhibitor trade magazine Boxoffice. Subsequently, he spent six-and-a-half years as a reporter and entertainment critic. As the Variety drama critic, he was instrumental in forming The Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle.

He left reporting to become publicity director of The Mirisch Corporation, an important independent film production company of its day. He later became an executive of Rogers & Cowan, Inc., then the largest independent public relations company in the entertainment industry, where he remained for 18 years, serving as senior vice president and president of the motion picture division, before he left to start his own firm.

Mr. Olson was known for waging Oscar campaigns on behalf of various films that featured his clients, including "In the Heat of the Night," "Tender Mercies," "Terms of Endearment," "American Beauty" and "Gladiator." He served on the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences Public Relations Coordinating Committee and Executive Committee for more than 20 years and chaired the committee for three years. He was also a trustee and on the executive committee for The Actors Fund.

"This is a great loss for The Actors Fund. Dale was a staunch advocate for this organization, and I'm personally humbled by his commitment and dedication," said Tony-winning actor Brian Stokes Mitchell, who is the fund's chairman. "When the HIV/AIDS crisis devastated the entertainment community, Dale was among the first to speak out for those suffering and in need. His work led to programs and services that bring comfort and relief for thousands of our clients every year across the country. I speak for everyone at The Fund when I say he will be sorely missed."

On July 12, Dale Olson was awarded the Actors Fund Medal of Honor (the highest honor awarded by the Actors Fund) and presented by colleague and friend, Shirley MacLaine, who said, "He was not only an ace publicist, but also a true friend to me, and to so many in need in our industry. A great, loyal and generous man. Thank you, Dale."

Mr. Olson is survived by his spouse of more than 30 years, Eugene Harbin. Services and memorials will be scheduled in the coming weeks. In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to The Actors Fund.