By Chad Emerson
Recently, the amusement industry lost a Giant when Dave unexpectedly passed away. Though he had recently retired from his long-time career as a Disney publicist, Dave leaves behind a lasting impact throughout the industry and beyond. His impact is inextricably tied to his strength. As a family man, as a friend, and as one of the best publicists the industry has ever known, Dave was a Giant.
Hired in 1981 by another Disney legend, Charlie Ridgway, Dave was a strong family man. Rarely would a conversation not include stories about beloved wife Kathy, daughters Kristin and Stephanie, and his grandchildren. Their happiness motivated him. Dave deeply loved his family.
Dave was also a strong friend. I first met Dave in 2003 through a strange email miscommunication (another story for another day). While our friendship started unconventionally, it grew into one of my most cherished relationships. As I covered Disney for Blooloop, Tourist Attractions & Parks Magazine, and several other publications, I always looked forward to visiting with Dave. He was a strong friend because he looked out for you. And he provided sound advice whenever asked (and sometimes even when not!).
I’ll never forget one press event that ended with Dave and me walking down a near empty Main Street U.S.A. just discussing life. Dave was the friend that you looked forward to seeing every time you had the opportunity.
And, of course, Dave was a strong publicist. He was a Giant among even his most prolific peers. This is probably because he never forgot his reporter roots. Over the years, Dave had many opportunities to climb the corporate ladder. He was, after all, as talented as anyone many rungs up. Though he did test those waters on occasion, Dave ultimately settled into the role he loved: a reporter who happened to work as a publicist for Disney.
Regardless of how many times Disney changed his title (which wasn’t infrequent) Dave remained the same. He was a mentor to colleagues, a loyal employee to his employer, and an amazing resource for the media. This is not to say that Dave was without his own opinions and ideas. Indeed, it was Dave’s strong opinions that made him such a Giant.
In Dave’s mind, if Michael Eisner or Bob Iger or Tom Staggs (or any other Disney leader) would just embrace his ideas, The Walt Disney Company would reach previously unknown heights of success. Even so, he was never disloyal or dishonest. What you heard is what you got with Dave.
Dave defined authenticity. His strength was real and genuine. It was so refreshing in the modern world of often disguised motives. I find it hard to imagine that there will ever be a better amusement industry publicist than Dave Herbst.
Ultimately, Dave was a Giant because Dave was strong. Dave loved his life and we are better because of it. Though we mourn his leaving, we still celebrate his strength and his love for others.
Padiddle, Dave. Padiddle.