He would be the last to make any such claims for himself, but Richard Larcombe, who died last Friday aged just 55, played a substantial part in the development and promotion of the UK video and DVD industry.
Best remembered today as the boss and founder almost 22 years ago of PR company The Associates, Richard helped run a pioneering video library in Hampstead when those miniature goldmines first emerged on the high street in the early 1980s, finding his true niche after adventures in cooking and the City.
He took up (hand) writing a fearless and often very funny retailer column for Video Business magazine in 1982, having been recruited by then editor Tim Smith.
We became great friends when the magazine went weekly on my arrival in the editor‘s chair in 1983, and remained so until the end, despite his treacherous desertion to Video Trade Weekly to become an editor in his own right.
It was the zenith of the power of the trade weeklies, as 12,000 or more independent video rental stores relied on them for business guidance and boy did we take full advantage of it.
Immensely charming and capable of coming up with genuinely witty and original approaches to film publicity campaigns, Richard was a public relations natural. Very shortly after setting up The Associates in 1989, he was handling the CIC account with its blockbuster product from Universal and Paramount. The rapidly expanding company also handled 20th Century Fox‘s video output for a spell, alongside independents including long-standing client High Fliers. Whether they were suits from the studios or independents, clients loved The Associates approach to movie PR inspired by Richard.
He also had a rare knack with “the talent” that he toured round the newspapers, magazines, TV and radio stations, becoming friends with figures like Bruce “Evil Dead” Campbell, Leslie “Naked Gun” Nielsen, and Adam “Batman” West. Journalists loved him because he worked honestly and with sincerity to deliver what they needed to fill their DVD pages without the usual helping of helping of bull that comes naturally to most others in the entertainment industry. He also understood their culture and enjoyed their company.
Always a film fan, though not an obvious cinema buff, Richard employed some of the cash that came in to found an arty film label called Art House, acquiring both classics (Marco Ferreri’s La Grande Bouffe) and pricey flops (Cane Toads) before backing out of the market licking his wounds. More recently his contributions to Martin Nash’s Nouveaux label kept his hand in rather more successfully.
In recent years Richard and The Associates became the PR company of choice for a host of independent labels. His team won awards for a ground-breaking website and noisy advocacy of the creative independent sector as it became squeezed for shelfspace in the mass merchants.
He continued the build The Associates in recent times, creating a well-respected company within the media, successfully branching into theatrical as well as DVD publicity. His personality and approach ensured a happy and loyal staff whose skills reflect their long term commitment to Richard and the company. He did a lot to encourage, support and advise various people in the industry, including writers and the smaller independent distributors, many of whom have reason to be grateful for a word in the right place from Richard.
More than anything, he had a rare generosity of spirit and a fierce loyalty to his friends, of whom he had hundreds.
He was around from the beginning. Now his energy, infectious enthusiasm for the films and stars he represented, and appetite for fun will be sorely missed in an increasingly corporate and timid industry.
John Hayward, former editorial director at Video Business, Video Home Entertainment et al
If I had to describe ‘Larkers’ in one word, which is a hard task in itself, it would be optimistic, sometimes impossibly so. This, coupled with his energy and enthusiasm for the business and a quirky taste in film, explains his success in PR as well as his undoubted popularity.
Stories of Richard’s exploits are legion and will be fondly recounted over the coming weeks and months by his large circle of industry friends.
I miss Richard already, and in these surreal times I can imagine being in some Soho watering hole, drinking something red and robust and, following Monday night him telling me that he’d never seen Nouveaux titles shifting so quickly before, and then giving me that deep Frank Bruno-like guffaw. Classic.
We’re all sad right now and still can’t quite believe that Richard is no longer with us, but knowing him, the last thing he would want to see are long faces and tears but rather a celebration of him and his varied career and the fact that he would always try in his own distinct way to make life a little bit better for everyone around him.
Martin Nash, Nouveaux
Needless to say, it’s extremely difficult to reflect and try to form into words our thoughts and feelings about our friend and colleague Richard Larcombe. We’ve had so little time to adjust to the idea that he’s gone.
It’s been my absolute privilege to have known almost all of The Associates’ extended family over the years that I have worked for the company. I’ve made so many great friends and benefitted from the experience of so many amazing people, not least Richard Larcombe. Richard had a gift for hiring the right people at the right time and nurturing their individual talents. For many, including me, it wasn’t always a conventional career path but I think all the better for that.
The hard work, sometimes very long hours (presentations that weren’t perfected until the early hours), stresses and strains of an ever-changing industry environment (which is another way of saying ups and downs) have always been accompanied by a huge amount of laughter, good will and general mockery – often at poor Richard’s expense.
The years have just flown by and have provided some amazing experiences, memories and anecdotes. Rosé wine on La Croisette in Cannes, marathon Christmas lunches at La Rocchetta, ‘Batman’s flying the plane’, Air guitar at Quex Road are just a few. I wish there had been more to come.
Those who witnessed our working relationship will probably highlight the constant affectionate bickering between us but you cannot IMAGINE how pissed off I am now that he’s left us. We are all going to miss him so much.
Back when I started collecting videos in the late 80s I thought the industry looked really exciting. I’d get hold of trade mags, collect up ex-rentals, standees and other crapola until my room resembled a low-rent video store (much to my mother’s despair). It was an obsession that propelled me into the industry at the time DVD was born here – in ’98 – first as a journalist and then into PR.
What I found was not as expected. It was far less free-wheeling and gut instinct than the spreadsheet culture I realised it was and frankly I spent more time chasing uninspired PRs as a journalist than doing my job. The exception was Richard Larcombe – a true personality and someone whose infectious love of film and the industry was always apparent but for me as a journalist the key thing was he understood the angles, how to pitch a story and invariably I’d find myself promising him coverage no one else could get out of me because they weren’t Richard.
Richard was for me what I’d hoped the video industry would be like. He’d buccaneered his way through it with style, wit, an always-ready smile and an infectious sense of humour but what some people won’t realise is he set serious standards underneath it all. Once I crossed over to learn the dark arts of PR it was clear we’re there to sell, charm, disarm, persuade – whatever angle works best with each journalist and outlet but it was always done with honesty, genuine engagement and a desire to produce great work for both sides – otherwise it simply won’t work. Richard demanded that our press releases be the best, that we didn’t become sloppy in language as the industry became ever more informal, that we always try to give clients more than requested and understand what they need and that whilst a sense of fun works best – that the work has to be good.
Richard also didn’t do what other companies did – which was to ignore the small fry journalist. We all have to start somewhere and his attitude was always to give people a chance and that was vital to me moving forward in my career and it’s something that paid off time and time again for him as journalists would rise through the ranks and take his call whenever it came through.
That’s the professional side but it’s hard to distinguish the side as a friend because he was always so generous with his time, his delightfully dry candour, infectious laugh, zest for life, boundless optimism and faith that you would do well and not let him – or yourself – down. It’s easy, almost desirable to say things that are flattering and paint a fine portrait of a man and it would be wrong to do that because we all know no one is that perfect but I can honestly say the his heart was always true and generous and never have I had a boss where I could tell him exactly what I thought, he’d take it on the chin and then we’d work out what to do and that quality made him the very best to work for.
They say don’t turn your hobby into your work life – it only disappoints and the video industry wasn’t what I initially thought it would be but the journey was worth it to meet and work and share many fine moments with Richard Larcombe and I’ll miss him more than words can say. Which as I’d point out to Richard makes me a rubbish PR. And he’d laugh at that. And probably agree!
I first met Richard Larcombe in 2001. Richard had been on holiday at the time of my interview and had left the decision to hire me in the safe hands of Associates Lisa Richards and Rachael Marshall. So on my first day Richard didn’t know who was turning up to start work at his company and I didn’t know what my new boss would be like and, to be honest, my first impression was – this man is terrifying! He was big, very direct and had the most powerful voice I had ever heard.
I quickly learnt that you can’t always trust your first impressions and underneath his tough exterior Richard was funny (always), kind (when not teasing) and a fantastic boss (most days)!
It was these qualities that Richard had that made and still do make The Associates such a great place to work, Richard was so proud that we had all stayed with the company for so many years and he was even prouder of everything we have achieved in his absence over the past year.
The voice I was so terrified of on my first day at The Associates will be so sorely missed in the office, it was the source or much laughter, much banter and much teasing, I will miss it booming across the office and greeting me in the morning ‘DEBELL’.
I remember fondly the day I was interviewed by Richard and the other Associates, one question he asked me was “What floats your boat?” A rather unconventional interview question that became and still is a running joke in this office, recycled many times over. I really don’t think he expected me to stay, in fact he asked whether I even wanted a diary if I planned on staying that long! Fast forward six and a half years and I’m still here. That was the thing about Richard, he truly was an unconventional boss. He expected us to work hard but he did his upmost to make our working lives that little bit easier. We would always be rewarded with kindness and generosity and I felt a tremendous amount of loyalty towards him. I remember so many examples of his good will… The quiz nights, summer soirees and the macho bonfire nights (who brought the biggest firework etc…) were an Associates tradition but also it was the little things I’ll always remember. I once convinced him to buy us an office Wii, I think we’ve used it twice and it has never been touched since. I remember when the snowstorms started in London a couple of years ago and I stupidly twisted my ankle while trying to walk up Muswell Hill. He happily ordered me a taxi on the company to take me home safely. But the one memory which always makes me smile is my first Associates Christmas Party in 2005 when he said in front of everyone; “I’m not going to make a speech but I just want to say the best day this year for the company was the day Fanny joined.” We were all drunk but that meant so much to me. I’m really going to miss you Richard. You were an awesome boss.
Long before I started working at The Associates I was introduced to Richard in The Angel (where else?) on St. Giles High Street by a very close friend of mine. Richard and I gradually became casual acquaintances, bonding over a mutual love of film, music, drinking (lots of drinking) and the kind of mildly offensive banter you can only get away with when you trade insults with someone you really like and respect. Our friendship blossomed over the years and, during a brief period when The Associates found themselves slightly short-staffed due to one member being on sick leave and another on holiday, Richard invited me to join “the family” for a couple of weeks on a freelance basis to make the coffee (really!), write a few press releases and upload photos to the company’s website. A couple of weeks soon became a couple of months and, for reasons best known only to himself, Richard offered me a permanent, full-time position at The Associates. It was an opportunity that changed my life and one for which I will forever be grateful.
That was almost a decade ago and since then I’ve been lucky enough to have spent almost every working hour and many, many social hours in the company of one of the kindest, funniest and most generous people I have ever known. Richard was an awesome boss to work for and to work with, but it was his friendship that counted more than anything. He regularly invited us all to his home for drinks, summer barbecues and autumnal fireworks parties, not as work colleagues but as friends. He was one of the first people to call me “Mikey” (as opposed to my usual “Mike”) and it stuck to the point where the majority of the people who know me now call me that.
One of my fondest memories of Richard involves getting seriously drunk on tequila with him, his wife Taryn and the friend who first introduced us, in a Mexican Cantina while we were holidaying together in Los Angeles a few years ago. It was a perfect night; the likes of which I am desperately sad to know will now never be repeated.
At the time of writing this, it’s been a week since I heard the news of Richard’s untimely departure and I still can’t believe he’s gone. He’s going to be sorely missed, not only by myself but by everyone fortunate enough to have known him.
A dear friend and colleague who never failed to bring a smile. Always relaxed and professional in any situation but bottom line a great person to know and be with. Whenever you were in his company he just naturally raised your spirits a gift that very few people have. His good nature and ever ready smile will be greatly missed.
Dave and Steve,
Showbox Media Group
To me, Richard epitomised all that’s good about our industry. He was great at what he did, he cared passionately about film and video and he never forgot that we’re all in the job of entertaining people and and we should have some fun along the way. I employed The Associates as my PR company over 15 years ago and Richard and I became great friends right from the start. I will remember his legendary fireworks parties, his summer barbecues and his wonderfully hosted client pop quizzes upstairs at the Queen’s Larder. He was a generous, lovely man who was full of life and I’ll miss him very much.
Ken Law, Scanbox
We are very honoured to have known and dealt with Richard Larcombe over the last 22 years.
Richard had a special charismatic personality that was easily received by all and we will all miss him greatly.
May Monteiro, High Fliers
True passion is so very hard to come by in an industry so tightly bound to the bottom line, to the flash of the most dazzlingly current title and to the claxon call of the biggest, brashest, noisiest campaign.
But from the biggest splash to the most dedicated cult gem, Larkers had passion in spades. Passion for film, passion for TV, passion for music, passion for travel, passion for his job, passion for being a pop culture nerd, passion for his family, passion for everyone he knew in the industry (and it seemed, to an outsider, that it was everyone) and, above all, a passion for all those things that make for such a rich and fulfilling life.
His stories of industry exploits, of travelling through Death Valley in a top of the range US motor toward the arching mountains of California, of wining and dining Bruce Campbell, Don Coscarelli, Jackie Chan, of talking heated politics with Oscar-winning documentary filmmakers, of championing the weirdest, most hippy-dippy oddity from the annals of the dodgy 70s UK rock scene (which he could convince you with all sincerity was the greatest song ever recorded), of surprising you by suddenly expressing his love for a long-forgotten 80s high school comedy featuring a bitchin’ soundtrack and Casey Siemaszko. Quite frankly, through most of his tales, I was in awe of all these amazing experiences. And he did all this from the comfort of a chair in a pub in Queen’s Square, where most of the time I had with Larkers was spent, in the company of an array of loyal, great and true friends he had unsurprisingly amassed overt the years. He no doubt charmed them all with just the same wit, bravado, cheek, passion, nerdiness and generosity with which I grew to admire and respect and love him.
It’s hard to believe I’ll never hear another of his wonderful stories, never argue the merits of crusty 80s horror, chastise his terribly odd taste in music, never delight in one of his fiendish and idiosyncratic quiz nights and never see the night sky above his flat awash with the cacophony of bloody great big fireworks, to the gleeful delight of no one more than Richard himself, again.
A true gentleman and a wonderful friend, of all the people I’ve met in the industry in my relatively short time, his was the biggest personality, the biggest laugh, the biggest heart.
With love to Taryn and Josh especially at this desperately sad time.
Giles Edwards, Metrodome
During our office move I came across some pictures of Richard, Adam West and me from the Batman – The Movie Tour and was thinking I must call him so it was a real shock to hear about his illness and very sad to lose such a colourful and intelligent industry veteran.
I obviously knew Richard from his journalist days and was one of his first clients (CBS/Fox) when he struck out in to PR. The Batman tour was one of our first events together and was a fantastic success incorporating PAs at Virgin stores nationwide and Batman Nights at local nightclubs with fans turning up in fancy dress. All was going well until the Newcastle date when due to technical difficulties (Richard’s alarm clock) they missed the plane. The solution: charter a plane, on my credit card. That took some explaining.
His true skill though can be seen in the campaign for Vinny Jones’ video Soccer’s Hard Men. I had sold the concept to VVL and Richard was handling the PR. Vinny’s comments were pretty inflammatory in places and Richard wound the review tapes on to the worst bit and sent them to the sports desks of the nationals. The response was instant and the furore cost Vinny a £20,000 fine from the FA and VVL got themselves a 100,000 plus unit seller. Unfortunately for Vinny he had agreed a £2,000 buy out fee.
I will always remember fondly the Friday nights at the Angel with Richard, Rex Anderson, John Hayward and other flotsam and jetsam from the industry. All manner of issues were discussed and solved from industry matters to more weightier subjects such as football and cricket. I miss those nights and I will miss not having the opportunity to do them again.
Tony Carne, industry veteran at, among others, CBS Fox, now at Revelation Films
I sold rental video to him as a shop buyer in Clare in Suffolk in 1984 when he was also a correspondent for one of the trades. He wrote that he had a meeting with the “be-jeaned Palace Video rep” who tried to sell him Fassbinder and Win Wenders movies which caused me a lot of issues with our partners Virgin Vision as he didn’t mention the releases they had. It also meant that our “dress code” was questioned at some length, to no effect I might add. A sad loss, I liked Richard, he was a warm and engaging man who knew his business, Tony may have more to say on that front as he employed his PR company and may have some pictures.
Trevor Drane, Revelation Films
It is with great sadness that I write this farewell message to our good friend and colleague, Richard Larcombe. Anchor Bay Entertainment has enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship with Richard and his agency, The Associates for more than a decade. As head of marketing for the Manga label, I can directly attribute much of the brand’s success over the past six years to the guidance and hard work of his incredibly dedicated team at The Associates. I know that Richard would be very proud of Lisa, Almar, Farhana, Mike, Paul, Lisa D. and the rest of the team and the amazing service they provide to all of their clients.
Richard was a proper old school PR guru. I loved hearing about his latest adventures and anecdotes, and him lamenting and celebrating England’s wins and losses in the Ashes. He had a warm heart, a great laugh and a generous spirit. He will be sorely missed by all of us here at Anchor Bay and Manga. Our condolences go out to Richard’s family during this very difficult time.
Jerome Mazandarani, Manga and Anchor Bay
Richard Larcombe was a true gentleman of the UK film industry. A deeply passionate, true professional and fun-loving fan of film and the people he dealt with a day-to-day basis. He gave me my first break in this industry by being the first PR person to take my amateur horror website (www.eatmybrains.com) seriously, which led me to exposure to other horror circles such as FrightFest and ultimately my role at Revolver Entertainment. I would not be doing what I do today without him, and he will be sorely missed by many.
Mike Hewitt, Revolver
Richard was hugely knowledgeable about the UK film and video industry and passionate about what he did. He genuinely loved movies and had a real sense of enthusiasm for promoting the industry in a positive manner. Richard had an instinctive feel for what would and wouldn’t work, in marketing and PR terms, and was particularly adept at producing coverage of more difficult titles that would satisfy the distributor whilst not attacking the BBFC. Of course, Richard had personal experience of dealing with the BBFC in his days as a distributor and displayed a similar sense of pragmatism and sensitivity then. Although he may not always have agreed with us, he was always sensitive to our concerns and appeared to understand and appreciate our position. He maintained an enviously calm, relaxed, cheerful and approachable manner that made him a pleasure to deal with. He will be missed greatly.
Craig Lapper, senior examiner, BBFC
A genuinely kind person who was always smiling and great fun to be around. He gave me my first step on the career ladder, which I will always cherish and be grateful for. A dear friend to so many in the film industry – Richard, you will be greatly missed.
Louise Rivers, Showbox Media Group Ltd (an ‘Associate’ for 3 years)
I first met and worked with Richard in 2002 and we bonded over a mutual love of the first series of 24. He was a kind and generous man, who will be remembered not only for his brilliant bonfire night parties but his gregarious nature. He will be missed.
Kristy Luxford, Optimum Releasing
I’ll always have fond memories of Richard and the fun we had back in the good old days of video when the industry was a very different place to work in. We constantly seemed to be at parties. Happy times. He always tried so hard to do right by people. I’ll not forget the generosity he and Taryn showed when I got made redundant many years back and they took me on for a while to help out.
A really sad occasion for everyone who knew him.
Clare Dundrow, Momentum Pictures
I worked with Richard for a long time, and he was certainly always one of my favourite people in this industry. It did not matter if we were negotiating PR fees or indulging in our mutual love of the game of cricket we always had a stunning relationship.
Richard was a real driving force behind titles we released such as the groundbreaking District 13, I have much to thank him for and regret not spending more time with a genuine top top bloke. We will dearly miss you.
Adam Eldrett, Momentum Pictures
I first met Richard when I was a buyer and was invited to events such as Art House productions’ launch of Le Grande Bouffe on video. That was a night of joyous debauchery, including a steel bath full of pink blancmange, the sort of evening that typified the sense of fun that Richard infused into everything. I went on to work at Art House until it eventually folded, but Richard always remained upbeat and optimistic – even until the very end of that particular venture. We kept in touch over the years, from time to time revisiting our favourite Italian restaurant from that period. It was the most fun I’ve ever had in the industry, all thanks to Richard and I will miss him and his generous spirit very much.
Jon Sadler, Revolver
“I will miss Richard as a great publicist; one of the old school who knew how to treat journalists. But mostly i will miss Richard as a friend who looked after me when i first entered the then video industry and then welcomed me into his family at some legendary BBQs.”
Jessica Mellor, freelance journalist
Trust me Richard, the UK market is crying out for the release of Kiwi classics like Goodbye Pork Pie – it can’t possibly fail.” Even after dubious pieces of advice like that – more often than not, given late in the evening at the Angel – Richard and I remained good friends inside and outside the business, and his passing is a sad, sad loss.
Richard was actually indirectly responsible for me getting into the video trade press in the first place. I had applied for a job as cub reporter at Video Trade Weekly and although I didn’t get it (he graciously told me I was over-qualified), his subsequent departure for the world of PR led to a bit of trade press musical chairs, which eventually saw me land a gig at Video Week.
Over the years, you always breathed a sign of relief when you learnt that a label had taken Richard and his team on board: as well as being a genius at getting invaluable mainstream media coverage for his clients, he always took care to look after the trade press as well. And because he knew exactly what we required, there was no need for long, frustrating conversations about why we needed a review copy six weeks before the video or DVD was out.
Although I finally returned to NZ in 2000, we have stayed close over the years. Richard always ensured I had a place to stay at Quex Mansions on my occasional visits back to Blighty and I had the pleasure of reciprocating when he, Taryn and Josh visited me Down Under. I’m so pleased that I managed to catch up with him one last time last year, but that’s scant consolation for the tragic loss of one of life’s good guys.
John Ferguson, formerly with Video Business and its various permutations
I was chatting to another former Video Business/VHE/HEW employee last week and we discussed Richard and how he’ll be sorely missed. We agreed on one other thing too: for any aspiring trade hack, or designer or even advertising person come to think of it, especially one working for Video Business, pretty much the first person you met in the trade outside of your own office was Richard Larcombe. Generally speaking, you’d have been welcomed in to his other office, aka The Angel, and, over the first pint, you’d have been given a warm welcome in to the business. Several hours later, you’d have staggered back to the office, thinking “if this is what the industry’s like, then I’m going to love it”.
Over the years, Richard was a constant. Of course we had our ups and downs, but because he’d worked on every element of the trade press, he intuitively understand any frustrations you may have. And it could always be resolved with a pint.
There are numerous tales, everyone’s got their own favourite (my favourite involves George Best and THAT Wogan appearance) and some great parties to remember too (for a brief while myself and a couple of herbert mates were The Associates’ DJs in residence, I remember one particularly debauched and messy affair at the House Of Corrections in Clerkenwell, we had some novel payment methods too) and some of the above show how warmly people felt towards Richard.
In an industry increasingly devoid of characters, shorn of excitement and enthusiasm, Richard was someone who could be relied on to remind you why you loved working in this business in the first place.
He will be sorely missed.
Tim Murray, The Raygun and other now defunct trade magazines
We would like to gather together family and friends on Friday August 26 2011 to commemorate the life of Richard Larcombe and say our farewells.
The informal service will begin at 2.00pm at:
The West Chapel, The West London Crematorium at Kensal Green, Harrow Road, London W10 4RA
And after at the William IV Pub, 786 Harrow Road, London NW10 5JX.
In accordance with what we think Richard would have liked there is no dress code (formal/informal/black/polkadot – whatever you feel comfortable with) and we would prefer that, instead of floral tributes, donations are made to the Marie Curie Hospice in Hampstead. Please click on this link for details of how to donate.
Taryn & Josh Larcombe
And all at The AssociatesTags: Richard Larcombe, The Associates
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