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Eric Lieber, 1937 - 2008

TV producer created 'Love Connection'

July 05, 2008|Dennis McLellan | Times Staff Writer

Eric Lieber, a veteran television producer who created and executive-produced TV's long-running dating show "Love Connection," has died. He was 71.

Lieber died of leukemia Wednesday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, said his wife, Peggy, who worked as co- producer with her husband for many years.

After launching his career on a TV game show in New York in the late 1950s, Lieber became a producer of the Dick Cavett, Sammy Davis Jr. and Mike Douglas talk shows and three Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Assn. telethons.

He also produced specials such as "Grammy Salutes Oscar" in 1974 and "The American Film Institute Salute to Henry Fonda" in 1978, for which he shared an Emmy nomination.

And, in 1976, he executive-produced the television coverage for the Democratic National Convention.

Lieber's "Love Connection" was a successful syndicated show with Chuck Woolery as the host from 1983 to 1995. Lieber also executive-produced the 1998-99 version when Pat Bullard was the host.

The show featured participants who watched videos of three prospective blind dates and, after picking one, appeared on the show afterward to talk about their date. Before the date was described, the studio audience watched excerpts from the original videos and voted on the person they thought was the best date.

Shot at the KTLA-TV Channel 5 studios in Los Angeles, the show had a closely guarded video library that, according to a 1992 article in the Chicago Sun-Times, housed "some 30,000 tapes of people spilling their guts in five-minute snippets."

Such as: "I'm Michelle. The last guy I dated had a big dog that bit me. I had to have a tetanus shot."

If, as the Sun-Times reporter put it, it sounded "lame and desperate," Lieber countered by saying, "You know, we've had 21 or 22 marriages on our show." What about divorces? "Just one," he said, "and I'm kind of depressed about it."

As for the appeal of the show, Lieber said he personally enjoyed "the couples who rag on each other, but also the people who get along are fun. The show succeeds because we believe in honest emotions. And, admit it: We're all a little voyeuristic and enjoy peeking into someone else's life."

Born in Vienna on April 7, 1937, he came to the United States as an infant and grew up in New Jersey. He studied art at the High School of Music & Art in New York and served a stint in the Army shortly after launching his TV career in the late 1950s.

In addition to his wife of 43 years, Lieber is survived by a daughter, Christine; and a granddaughter.

Instead of flowers, the family suggests donations to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, 1311 Mamaroneck Ave., White Plains, N.Y. 10605.

A memorial service is pending.

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dennis.mclellan @latimes.com

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