Celebrating The Jester’s ‘Pops’ to Help Sick Kids

Joe's 80th Birthday Event
Joe's 80th Birthday Event
Projected invitation of baby Joe and Joe today looms over the Saltzman family ‒ from left, Jennifer, Joe, Barbara and Michael Saltzman ‒ hinting at the toast and roast fun in store.

March 1, 2020 ‒ Phund co-founder Joe Saltzman’s 80th birthday celebration brought together over 150 colleagues, friends, relatives and former students ‒ shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic kept everyone sheltering at home. They came from far and near, then and now to fete the USC Annenberg Professor of Communication and Journalism, who was also marking his 53rd year teaching at USC.

All proceeds from the festive event are being used to donate copies of The Jester Has Lost His Jingle, written and illustrated by his youngest son, David Saltzman, to hospitalized children.

Joe talking at table
Joe Saltzman finds a lot to laugh about with, from left, KNX Radio Senior Money Anchor Frank Mottek, KTTV Newscaster Laura Diaz and NBC-TV San Diego Reporter Rory Devine, a former student.

Celebrants, moving throughout the USC University Club festively decorated with miniature roses and brightly festooned wine glasses, kept bumping into friends they didn’t know were also friends of Joe. Professors, authors, professional TV and print journalists, relatives and over 25 former students couldn’t believe “how many cool people Joe knows.”

Joe's party group photo
Joe smiles in the center, surrounded by many generations of his USC students who came from far and near to toast their mentor.

“Now for those people who’ve only met or known my dad in the last 30 years,” his oldest son, TV producer-writer Michael Saltzman, said in introducing a “video roast” of his dad, “you might spot an unfamiliar face of a young, handsome blond man throughout the video. That would be my brother David, who passed away in 1990. And if he were here today, he’d be expressing the same level of gratitude toward my dad that I am.”

A friendly kiss
Fellow Annenberg professor and former student Dan Birman pops across Barbara’s head to plant a friendly kiss on his mentor’s brow.

He teased the crowd for wondering why they had to make a donation to The Phund to attend such a fun party. “Well,” Michael noted, “David, that book, and all the children it has benefited and will continue to benefit are the reason. Even though his youngest son passed away 30 years ago, Joe is still doing something for him.”

Then, guests did something for Joe ‒ sang “Happy Birthday” and toasted him with miniature doughnuts and sparkling apple cider, among his favorite treats.

Party Table
Joe has a few things to say to USC profs, alums, admins and their significant others. From left, (back to camera, Jennifer Floto), Bill Short, Willa Seidenberg, Serena Cha, Stan Kawakami, Stella Lopez, Ernie Arboles and Stephanie Chavez.

“I taught my first class at USC in 1967,” Joe said, “and I still remember looking at those eager, smiling faces waiting to see if this CBS hotshot had anything of value to teach them. And this January, I walked into my class at USC and saw those same, eager, smiling faces waiting to see if this old professor had anything of value to teach them. When class was over, I heard one student say to another, ‘Boy, am I glad I’m taking this class. For an old guy, he really is energetic and fun to watch.’”


So Many Memorable Moments Celebrating Joe’s 80th
Photos Courtesy of Alan Mittelstaedt

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The Jester & Pharley Phund

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