Field Reports1 Mar, 2008 By: Thomas Haire, Jacqueline Renfrow Response
Early in his career, Greenburg served as a deputy attorney general in Pennsylvania (after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania law school), practiced corporate and antitrust law and then joined NBC as vice president of compliance and practices in 1978. In 1981, he became the head of daytime programming at the network before leaving in 1984 to become executive producer of "The Regis Philbin Show." It was there that he won the first of his two Emmy awards.
Response has supported the Rick Weiss Humanitarian Awards throughout the event's existence. Here, Response publisher John Yarrington joins Greenburg at the 2006 gala.
Greenburg continued as a TV producer throughout the 1980s, until he joined the direct response industry by becoming president of the Home Shopping Network's (HSN) entertainment arm in 1990. One year later, Greenburg formed Transactional Media Inc. – the company that eventually became TMP.
Throughout the 1990s and into the first decade of the 21st century, TMP was an influential player on the DR scene, putting together hundreds of successful partnerships between and among industry service providers and marketers. Bret Saxon, Greenburg's friend for 20 years and a partner in TMP for 12, told Response, "Earl was the best man at my wedding, my best friend, my mentor and, in many ways, he was my father. The void in my life left by his passing will never be filled, and if I live to be a thousand years old, I'll miss him every single day."
Greenburg was also instrumental in the early days of ERA. He eventually served three terms as ERA's board chairman, and friends and clients of his still dot the ERA membership roster as well as influential positions on the association's board and committees.
In an exclusive interview with Response, long-time DR media leader Nancy Lazkani, founder and president of Van Nuys, Calif.-based Icon Media Direct, said, "Not many people realize the importance of his role in the electronic retailing industry. When Earl believes in a cause, he puts 120 percent of his relentless efforts into making it a success. I believe ERA is what it is today because of his efforts and the influence he had on others. Even though I was never one of Earl's clients, he was always my friend, through thick and thin, and expected nothing in return. He has given some very sound advice to me personally and professionally that had a profound affect on my life, my family and my business."
At the same time he was influencing the DR business, Greenburg, who purchased a home in the Palm Springs area in 1988, was becoming an icon in the Southern California desert community for his charity work. After his companion Rick Weiss died of AIDS in 1994, Greenburg dedicated much of his time and energy to creating a legacy for Weiss. He founded Project New Hope, which in 1997 created the Rick Weiss Apartments, an 80-unit affordable housing complex for those living with HIV/AIDS, in Santa Monica, Calif. He also created the Rick Weiss Humanitarian Awards, which has become one of the biggest charity events in the Coachella Valley. The 10th annual event is set for April 12 at the Palm Springs Convention Center.
"What an honor to witness the difference he made in the lives of so many people," Lazkani said. "He took a very tragic situation is his life with the passing of Rick Weiss and did great things in his name that help so many people. Not only did he help the families of Rick Weiss Apartments, but he rolled up his sleeves and got involved personally. He enlisted an army and made us aware how important it was to 'pay it forward.'"
Greenburg's involvement – along with Peet – in other charitable endeavors expanded beyond all boundaries. The Greenburg Family Foundation has supported such causes in the Palm Springs area as the Desert AIDS Project, Barbara Sinatra Children's Center, Shelter From The Storm, the AIDS Assistance Program and the Desert Cancer Society. The efforts of Greenburg and Peet were rewarded on March 31, 2007, as they became the first gay couple honored with a star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars.