Bill Rosendahl, a former producer and host of public affairs TV shows for Century Cable and Adelphia, and the first openly gay man to sit on the Los Angeles City Council, died March 30 after a years-long battle with cancer. He was 70.
Rosendahl first began hosting and producing public affairs TV shows for Century Cable in Los Angeles in the late 1980s, with his Week in Review show becoming a mainstay for both Century and Adelphia (with the latter purchasing the former in 1999). He also served as an executive for Century Communications Corp.
Between Week in Review, Local Talk, The God Squad, Beyond the Beltway, Mideast Perspective and Personal Best, Rosendahl hosted and produced more than 3,000 public affairs programs during his 16 years with Century and Adelphia, often signing off each episode with “God bless and bye-bye,” according to obituary information provided by Mike Bonin, Rosendahl’s successor on the L.A. City Council.
“My dear friend, neighbor, predecessor, and mentor passed away quietly and peacefully at home near dawn this morning,” Bonin wrote in a March 30 Facebook post. “My heart wants to ache, but instead swells with love when I think of Bill and the way he lived his life — open, without boundary or inhibition, full of generosity and compassion. There was no heart bigger, and no smile more impressive. He has left an indelible impression on all those he knew.”
First entering the TV business (with Westinghouse Broadcasting Company) in the early 1980s, Rosendahl would go on to hold senior level positions with both Century and Adelphia, earning a CableACE Award and a Beacon Award from the Cable Television Public Affairs Association along the way.
Born in 1945 in Englewood, N.J., Rosendahl became active in the civil rights movement of the 1960s as a student, eventually leaving his graduate studies in 1968 to work on Robert F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign. After a two-year stint with the U.S Army during the Vietnam War, he worked as a fundraiser for Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern in 1972. Rosendahl would go on to work for President Jimmy Carter’s administration, and following Carter’s 1980 defeat by Ronald Reagan, relocate to Los Angeles, where he began his career in broadcasting.
Rosendahl came out as gay in 1995, after his longtime partner died of AIDS, and in 2005 he would become the first openly gay man elected to the Los Angeles City Council, representing the city’s 11th district, covering L.A.’s west side, including the communities of Brentwood, Marina del Rey and Venice. Diagnosed with stage four cancer in 2012, Rosendahl retired in 2013.
L.A. politicians, advocates for the LGBT community, and others were quick to mourn Rosendahl’s death.
"As a member of the Los Angeles City Council and a local broadcaster, Bill served Los Angeles with passion and distinction,” Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement. “He was one of the earliest and bravest voices for equality for the LGBT community, a staunch defender of workers' rights, and the first openly gay man elected to our City Council.
“Most importantly, he was a decent and compassionate human being. … He had the biggest heart I know, and I will miss him deeply.”
Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, called Rosendahl a “prince of a man who gave voice to the voiceless.”
“Long before it was fashionable, Bill used the platform of his cable television news show to educate and inform the public about important, often unheralded causes that were near to his heart: the fight against HIV/AIDS, LGBT issues, the homeless and other disenfranchised communities,” he said.
California congresswoman Janice Hahn (D-San Pedro), a former L.A. city councilwoman who served with Rosendahl, called him “one of the most selfless and kind-hearted individuals I have ever known.”
“That heart made him an incredible advocate and a beloved champion for the people he represented,” she said in a statement. “He was brave in the face of adversity and had a contagious passion for life. … I will never forget his joyfulness and his gregarious laugh that never failed to put a smile on my own face.”
And Claudia Peschiutta, a general assignment reporter for CBS’s KNX 1070 Newsradio, Tweeted: “Council not the same w/out his ‘Great! Great! Great! Great! Great!’ harkening to an exclamation Rosendahl would use during his time as an L.A. city councilman.
Rosendahl is survived by his partner, Hedi El-Kholti, brothers Thomas Rosendahl and Steven Rosendahl, and sisters Mary LeMothe and Helen Davoren.
While funeral and memorial arrangements are still being finalized, a mass is scheduled to be held at St. Monica's Church in Santa Monica, along with a memorial service at Mar Vista Park, according to Bonin.
In lieu of flowers, donations in Rosendahl’s memory can be made to the following organizations: Safe Place for Youth, New Directions for Veterans, and the Jeff Griffith Youth Center at the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center.