MISSOULA — David Mirisch has led such an interesting life that they probably should make a movie.

Actually, they have made a movie. You won't find it on the marquee this week at The Roxy Theater, but it's a documentary worth watching. An insightful look at a Superior man who has made a big difference, raising over 35 million dollars for charitable organizations and nonprofits.

Mirisch did most of it as a once-revered press agent in Los Angeles. He worked with everyone from Wilt Chamberlain and Yogi Berra to Raquel Welch, Frank Sinatra and Johnny Mathis.

He discovered Farrah Fawcett and started up the Los Angeles Rams cheerleaders. He's spent quality time with sports legends like Joe Louis, Wayne Gretzky and Hank Aaron.

Sports, music, movie celebs ... geez, you'd have a hard time finding someone more interesting to sit down and chat with at the local coffee shop than the 86-year-old Mirisch.

And who was the most interesting athlete he ever met?

"I'd say Jesse Owens," David offered. "Knowing what he did in 1936 in those Olympic Games in front of Hitler, that was probably the greatest impression an athlete ever made on me. He was part of one of our shows and I just told him, 'Mr. Owens, I really admire what you went through.'"

Mirisch's documentary, entitled, "The Man Behind the Golden Stars," was featured at the Flathead Lake International Cinema Fest in Polson last winter. David will be a guest of honor when it is shown in suburban Seattle in September and then again in San Diego in November.

Mirisch strikes you as a man that would have thrived in any era. His dogged determination and mile-wide smile served him well in the 1960s in Los Angeles when it was all about publicity in the newspaper.

Through it all he's made a nice life for he and his wife. And he may never turn his back on his expertise, still helping organizations like, for example, the Montana Senior Olympics, which are coming up in September in Missoula.

Needless to say, there have been some funny and fascinating incidents along the way.

As Chamberlain's press agent in 1968, Mirisch was responsible for organizing parties at Wilt's house overlooking Beverly Hills. He'd book classical musicians for the "social set" in the afternoon and a rock band for that evening.

Then there was the time he and his wife accompanied Shaquille O'Neal to a hotel prior to a scheduled publicity event.

"When we arrived at the Hilton to check in, Shaq said, 'Do they have a piano here?'" Mirisch recalled. "I found one in the lounge area. He just started playing some show tunes and it lasted 30 minutes. He's a true gentleman."

David has a mighty good memory. He can still tell you who was on the judging panel he put together for the first Rams cheerleader tryout in 1986. Or at least two members of the panel — Chamberlain and former high jump world record holder Dwight Stones.

The lesson we might all learn from Mirisch's life is the value of a positive attitude and persistent. One point stressed time after time in his documentary is that he was always upbeat and down to Earth.

David walks with a cane these days, but he still can't stop mingling and smiling. He simply loves people.

"I get a real thrill because I get to go to Missoula once a week for doctors appointments," he joked.

We should all be so happy about simple things like a trip to the Big City. Maybe that's how you make it to age 86 with a big grin on your face.

Bill Speltz is Missoulian Sports Editor and has served as Sunday columnist the past 15 years. Do you have a story idea? Email Bill at bill.speltz@missoulian.com.

Load comments