Friday, July 28, 2017

Marty Sklar (1934-2017): A Tribute

Marty Sklar passed away today, and I'm very saddened to hear that.  I was fortunate enough to meet Marty in his home just three months ago, and I'd like to share my impressions of him.  If you're not familiar with the Disney universe, you may not know who he is, but suffice it to say he was one of the all-time Disney Legends.  While still in college, he started working at Disneyland when it opened in 1955 and soon became Walt's go-to guy.  Eventually he made it to Executive Vice President where he ran Disney Imagineering and the theme parks.  Despite retiring from Disney, he kept busy with writing books and appearing on the Disney convention/speaker circuit.

I reached out to him back in December of 2015 and asked if he would do a podcast with my Dad and I about his second book, One Little Spark, and I was surprised when he said yes.  Here's a link to the podcast -- it was one of my favorites that I've done, especially since my Dad was involved, and it was really fun to talk to him.

Fast forward to the end of this past April when I took a trip to Los Angeles.  I reached out to Marty and asked if it would be all right if I stopped by to say hello, and once again I was surprised that he said yes.  I'm always grateful when anyone who I contact for this blog agrees to talk to me let alone meet with me.  I don't take it personally when people decline since it's understandable why someone wouldn't want to talk with some random, unknown guy from "the internet".  But just like Stephen Downing (producer of MacGyver), Marty said, "Sure, come on by."

It was about 3:30 PM and I had driven about an hour from Long Beach (where I met Downing in the morning) to Hollywood, and I was fortunate to not hit any bad L.A. traffic (although sometimes the heavy traffic seems preferable to everyone driving 100 miles an hour like it's a Fast and the Furious movie).  I wound my way through the twists and turns of the Hollywood Hills and eventually made it to Marty's house.  I pulled into the driveway and saw him standing by the door waiting for me.

I went inside and he showed me his office which was enormous, a giant room square that I'm guessing was at least 20 feet by 20 feet if not bigger.  As you might imagine, it was overflowing with Disney memorabilia. From there, we moved to a sitting area next to a wine bar where he offered me a drink.  We sat on cushioned benches perpendicular to each other and talked until about 5:00, at which point he was going out to dinner in Hollywood to celebrate his daughter's birthday.

In today's world, it's easy for us to form opinions of people we've never met based on what we see, hear, or read about them, but you can't ever really know what a celebrity is like based upon their public persona.  And while I certainly don't know exactly what kind of person Marty was based on just 90 minutes together, I did feel like I got a good sense of him from our meeting. And that sense was that he was a good man, kind and gentle, and he was very non-threatening and easy to talk to.  And I could tell that he was very smart and still mentally sharp as a tack.

We talked about all kinds of things.  My goal was not to interview him or try and get any information out of him -- I just wanted to have a nice, relaxed conversation, and that's exactly what we had.  I learned that he was a big tennis fan and went to the Indian Wells ATP tournament every year.  Of course we talked about Disney, and he told me that he was working on a third book.  I signed my book for him, and he signed his books for me, and we talked about doing another podcast when his third book came out.  And with that, we took a selfie (pictured above), shook hands, and I drove away.

I hope this post helps to humanize him for those who didn't know much about him. I'm grateful for the opportunity to have those 90 minutes with him, and I wish his family the best as they mourn his passing.


  1. Thank you for sharing your memory, a nice tribute.

  2. definitely got that interview in at the nick of time. Did he seem as though he was ailing three months ago?

    1. It wasn't an interview, but you're right, I did get to talk to him just in time. He seemed fine as far as I could tell, and he had a public appearance just a couple weeks ago.

  3. A nice way to remember him. Thanks for posting, Nick.