If you’ve attended any kind of significant charity gala or large, public event in the Santa Clarita Valley during the last decade, it’s likely that Saugus resident Ed Masterson is either the emcee or working behind the scenes.
Masterson, a California native raised in Whittier, is a sales and marketing manager at SOS Entertainment and a 30-year resident of the SCV.
Masterson’s late father was an Irish immigrant, arriving in American in the late 1940s, working as a landscaper in addition to owning an Irish step dancing school.
“He taught Irish step dancing,” said Masterson. “He was well-known in the Los Angeles Irish community at that time.”
The elder Masterson was often asked to bring his dancers to appear on variety television shows, including “The Dennis Day Show.”
“They also appeared on the opening day at Disneyland as part of the cultural tapestry they were showcasing,” said Masterson.
Masterson said his father also taught Irish dancing to children of celebrities. “I think he taught Bob Hope’s kids and Dean Martin’s kids,” he said.
Masterson’s mother, a retired Bell High School math teacher, still lives in the same Whittier house where he grew up.
Masterson earned a bachelor’s degree in film from California State University, Fullerton.
He met his wife, Valerie, in college and the couple wed in May 1985. They have two grown children, Gage and Elizabeth (Lizzy).
After graduation, Masterson moved to Burbank in 1982 and began working as a tour guide at Universal Studios. He was soon promoted to VIP tour guide.
“It was one of the most fun jobs I ever had,” he said.
A self-described “film geek,” one of Masterson’s favorite films is “To Kill a Mockingbird,” which was filmed on the Universal backlot.
“When I was a tour guide, I loved going to Courthouse Square and pointing out the courthouse from ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’” he said. “When I would step on the property every day at Universal, I would feel the gravitas of all the classic films that had been shot there. I had an emotional connection to the property.”
Masterson clearly remembers the moment when he decided he wanted to work in the entertainment industry.
“I was in third grade and my mom took me to Universal Studios for the first time. When the tram pulled up in front of the “Munster” house (known as 1313 Mockingbird Lane and featured on the 1964-66 CBS TV comedy “The Munsters”), I was fascinated at how different it looked in real life from how it looked on TV,” he said.
When he visited a soundstage and saw how filmmakers made it look like it was raining, he was hooked.
“I fell in love with Universal Studios and the entire idea of making movies and television,” he said.
Moving Universal Moment
One of Masterson’s most moving memories involved a young boy given a special VIP Tour of the studio from the Make a Wish Foundation, which arranges special experiences for children battling critical illnesses.
The boy, age 7 or 8, as Masterson remembered, was accompanied by his brother and sister and parents on the VIP tour.
“During the tour, I learned he was a big fan of the show ‘Knight Rider’ that was filmed at Universal,” Masterson said.
“Knight Rider” aired on NBC from 1982-86 and starred David Hasselhoff as Michael Knight, a high-tech modern crime fighter assisted by KITT, an advanced artificially intelligent car.
As he escorted the family around the backlot of Universal on the tour trolley, he saw the KITT car driving past.
“The kids became super excited when they saw the car,” he said.
As the tour continued, the tram rounded a corner and blocking its path was KITT, parked sideways, with Hasselhoff standing outside of the car.
“I hear we have a big ‘Knight Rider’ fan on the tour today,” Hasselhoff said.
Hasselhoff took the boy in KITT and drove him around the lot for 10 or 15 minutes, said Masterson
“Then he invited us back to the set to watch filming,” said Masterson. “That was one of those moments when you realize how cool Hollywood can be. It was such a great, dramatic moment.”
Working as a tour guide had its perks, including networking with people on the Universal Studios lot.
In 1985, he became a production assistant in the television division.
Universal Television once had as many as 40 television shows in production at one time on the studio lot in Universal City, said Masterson.
Many well-known and popular shows were produced at Universal, said Masterson, including “Murder, She Wrote,” “Knight Rider,” “Air Wolf,” “George Burns Comedy House,” “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” and Steven Spielberg’s “Amazing Stories.”
Masterson worked as a PA just six months before being promoted to production coordinator.
For the next 15 years, Masterson worked as a production coordinator on “Simon & Simon,” “Quantum Leap,” “Home Free,” “A Whole New Ballgame,” “Blue Skies” and a variety of television pilots and other productions.
Becoming a scriptwriter
In his spare time, Masterson turned his attention to script writing. He joined forces with his friend Bill Gucwa, who also worked on the lot.
“After work, we would get together in my office and write scripts,” he said.
The collaboration lasted five years and produced two motion pictures (among other projects).
“No Code of Conduct” starred Charlie Sheen. The tense crime thriller was directed by Bret Michels, who rose to fame as lead singer of the rock band Poison. The film also starred Sheen’s father, Martin Sheen.
They also wrote “Storm Catcher” a 1999 action-adventure film, starring Dolph Lundgren.
Moving to the SCV
Masterson and his wife moved to the SCV in 1988.
“It was the height of the housing market and the demand was so high for homes, people would camp out so they could reserve a home before it was even built — or they would enter a lottery,” he said.
The Mastersons got lucky and were able to get into a new development being built in Saugus where they still live.
“We were able to choose our lot and were able to watch it being built over the following year,” he said.
Working in the SCV
After his son was born, Masterson decided to leave the long hours and uncertain paychecks of Hollywood behind and became a key account manager for Golden West K-9 Security in Santa Clarita.
He also signed on with then-Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, R-Santa Clarita, for four years as Smyth’s field representative.
In 2011, Derek Sage, president of SOS Entertainment, hired Masterson to be the public face of SOS in the SCV.
The event-production company furnishes staging, lighting, sound, video, DJs and other services
“I like the job because it is partly public relations, and it lets me be out in the community,” he said. “We are able to help nonprofits with their events and give back to the community.”
The SCV’s emcee
Masterson has become the public face of nearly every nonprofit in the SCV with his frequent appearances as emcee for numerous charity and public events. He credits SOS management with giving him free reign to volunteer his time with the nonprofits.
The first event he remembers emceeing was in 2003 for the Zonta Club of SCV.
“When they asked, I thought, ‘Well, it’s kind of like being a tour guide,’” he said. “I can do that.”
In addition to the Zonta Roast/Tribute dinner, Masterson has also manned the podium at the annual SCV Charity Chili Cook-off, SCV Chamber of Commerce Installation, VIA Bash, Boys & Girls Club of SCV Annual Benefit Auction and Festival of Trees, SCV Man & Woman of the Year dinner, Soroptimist and Henry Mayo Hospital Foundation fashion shows, Taste of the Town to benefit the SCV Child & Family Center, Celebrity Waiter Dinner to benefit the SCV Senior Center and fundraisers for Carousel Ranch, Single Mothers Outreach, Domestic Violence Center and Bridge to Home.
Masterson has been nominated twice (by the WiSH Education Foundation and Carousel Ranch) for SCV Man of the Year, an honor for men and women who have given outstanding volunteer service to the SCV.
“The nonprofits in the SCV serve so many people,” Masterson said. “I like being involved and being able to help. The nonprofits are a huge part of the fabric of our community.”
There is much to love about the SCV, said Masterson.
“I love the fact that my kids had a really cool hometown,” he said. “They were able to have a traditional, all-American childhood. It’s a great place for kids to grow up.”
Masterson said the SCV is special because of the people.
“The people in Santa Clarita are great. It is a wonderfully connected town,” he said. “It is fun to run into people you know when you are out. Everywhere I go I see people that I know. I like that.”