David Mirisch of Superior, Mont., had an amazing career. At age 86, his business of more than 50 years as a publicist and producer of nonprofit fundraising events is still vibrant.
Enthusiastic about the day ahead, Mirisch hits the floor at 5 a.m. every day, to plan a nonprofit event, channeling his energy into helping others.
Mirisch didn’t start out in Superior. Born in Gettysburg, Penn., he grew up in Shorewood, Wis., just outside of Milwaukee. He graduated from Ripon College in Wisconsin after majoring in speech and communications.
In 1957, his family moved to California where three uncles were establishing the famous motion picture company, The Mirisch Corporation. The brothers signed a 12-picture deal with United Artists in 1957, which extended to 20 films two years later.
The company would go on to produce phenomenally successful movies, such as The Pink Panther, The Magnificent Seven, Some Like it Hot, Fiddler on the Roof, and West Side Story, to name a few. Altogether, the Mirisch family produced 72 films and won 24 Academy Awards, including three for Best Picture of the Year.
Life of Promotion
Mirisch’s job in the movie industry was to travel to cities where grand openings of United Artists films were held. He promoted each film through the media and stirred up excitement.
“It was a fantastic opportunity for learning creative, unique techniques to inform people and get them interested in attending a movie, either the grand opening or a showing thereafter,” said Mirisch. That experience gave him his first opportunity to become a publicist.
Mirisch’s next job was as personal assistant to Henry Rogers of Rogers and Cowan Marketing and Communications Company. Rogers’s routine taught Mirisch to get up early.
Mirisch started out each day by reading the newspapers and trade papers, underlining every Rogers and Cowan’s client before Mr. Rogers arrived at the office at 7 a.m. After about a year, Mirisch was ready to start his own business, Mirisch Enterprises.
From 1973 to 1993, Mirisch Enterprises represented over 500 sports stars, actors, actresses, musicians, and other performers as their publicist.
Sometimes Mirisch even discovered celebrities. When he was in Texas to judge the Miss Texas Beauty Pageant, he saw a beautiful young woman with something special about the way she carried and expressed herself.
Mirisch wanted her to go to Hollywood so he could represent her, but her parents said no. About a year later they contacted him, and then he promoted Farrah Fawcett to stardom.
Mirisch served as publicist for many major musical stars, such as Perry Como, Johnny Mathis, Pat Boone, and Merv Griffin. These stars had an agent who scouted tryouts and found work for their clients.
Mirisch’s job was different. As a publicist, he made certain their names were in the media and noted by the general public. To do that, he would sometimes hold special events, such as nonprofit fundraisers named after his celebrity clients.
Paving the Way to a Fundraising Career
At the time, he didn’t realize how getting to know the many personalities and star athletes in Hollywood would benefit his future career goals. After holding several events for clients, he realized he could have a niche helping nonprofits enjoy successful events.
He was able to call upon those hundreds of celebrities he knew to participate in those events. It was a win-win situation that gave him the satisfaction of knowing he assisted nonprofits, such as the March of Dimes, that helped so many.
Celebrities likewise enjoyed contributing and meeting with friends. Not one of them was ever paid for participating.
Mirisch produced over 2,500 fundraising events throughout the United States and in seven foreign countries. Through these events, he raised $35,000,000.
“I found that I was successful by networking extensively, being creative, never forgetting anything, being ultra-organized, and following through on what I started,” said Mirisch.
Once he had the time, he was ready to help college students who were majoring in the publicity field by mentoring them. He recently mentored six students for two semesters at San Jose State University.
“Students majoring in this field have a bright future. Besides a sundry of opportunities for owning a business in the publicity field, almost every large hotel has an event coordinator,” said Mirisch.
Peaking his career, Mirisch’s extraordinary life was highlighted through beautifully arranged newspaper clippings, posters, and pictures at The Museum of Ventura County in California for a month in 2018.
Mirisch and Sandy, his wife of 40 years, lived in the Missoula, Mont., area for four years, moved back to California, and then returned to Montana to live in Superior where their daughter, Summer, and her three children had moved.
With the Internet, Mirisch easily “uses his golden Rolodex of over 6,000 entries” to coordinate his latest projects from his rural community.
A documentary about Mirisch’s life and contributions to society, titled The Man Behind the Golden Stars and directed by Marcela Mariz and co-produced by Monarca Group and Shorebird Productions, is currently making the documentary film festival circuit. It features numerous cameo interviews with celebrities, such as Johnny Mathis and Dionne Warwick.
Pat Boone, who Mirisch represented, has been a friend for years and had this to say in the film: “[David Mirisch] has done so much for so many people. I’m glad we’re doing this story about him. ”
The film ran at the Flathead Lake International Cinemafest in January and will be shown at the following national documentary film festivals: Burbank, Calif.; Coronado, Calif.; Gig Harbor, Wash.; and Palm Springs, Calif. It will also show at the Varese International Film Festival on November 1, 2021, in Varese VA, Italy.
Mirisch is an international figure, but he is also ready to jump in and make suggestions for Montana nonprofit events. Presently, he works with Glory for Ashes, a nonprofit organization in Kalispell, focused on the prevention of human trafficking.