EDUCATION PUT ON HOLD, A FILM MOGUL GETS HIS DUE - The Buffalo News

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EDUCATION PUT ON HOLD, A FILM MOGUL GETS HIS DUE

It was an honor that moved the movie mogul more than any statuette ever could.

So much so that when Harvey Weinstein -- whose Miramax films have received 148 Oscar nominations and 42 Oscars -- received an honorary doctoral degree Tuesday at the University at Buffalo Center for the Arts, the powerful man was visibly shaken.

"I've received some honors in my life. I've been lucky that way," Weinstein said. "But I can't tell you how emotional this feels."

Gripping a diploma that was perhaps 30 years in the making, the former English major toasted his friends while addressing about 80 invited guests in the university's art gallery.

"They've been with me through thick and thin," Weinstein said, referring to the cadre that included State Supreme Court Justice Eugene Fahey, attorney Dennis Ward and Rich Products Co. executive Jonathan Dandes.

"I want to tell you that they also motivated me to be successful, because when I would come into our house and tell them I wanted to make a movie, they would tell me to shut up."

Weinstein's flourishing career may have started with a course in human sexuality, as Fahey explained it.

As young studs in the 1970s, Weinstein, Fahey and Ward discovered the university's nursing curriculum. To further their independent study, the housemates elected to take a course in human sexuality.

Only one thing: Weinstein didn't get in.

"He ended up taking a film course," Fahey recalled. "Dennis . . . went on to a life of perversion, and due to my sleeping habits, I went into politics."

Weinstein was humbled by the degree, but it did little to diminish his swagger. The characteristic jutting walk announced the success of a man who dropped out of college to pursue a career in entertainment.

"If his life experience didn't account for 20 credit hours, I don't know what will," said UB President William R. Greiner, who conferred the degree on behalf of the board of trustees. "Normally we confer honorary degrees in the traditional framework. We all dress up in the funny bathrobes and the crazy hats."

So while this degree ceremony lacked the pomp, the circumstances resembled more of a roast, with friends taking turns lampooning the filmmaker.

"We had this big house on West Ferry (Street)," said Ward. "Our Halloween parties were legendary. I was a new lawyer at the time, and one day I came home and there wasn't any furniture in the house. Eventually I called down to Harvey's office and was told he was having some set problems down in Pennsylvania."

Weinstein, it turned out, was shooting his second film, "Playing for Keeps," in western Pennsylvania.

"As much as I would steal the furniture, I would come home and find my house was a (political) war headquarters," Weinstein shot back, throwing out names like Sedita, Griffin, Crangle and Masiello. "I learned a lot about what makes an entertaining movie and what makes a movie special from the time I spent here."

Earlier in the day, Weinstein addressed about 200 university students who gathered for a film highlight session that chronicled his career. The clips were followed by a question-and-answer session, with at least one student apparently unfazed by the powerful executive.

"Is his name Harvey or Harry?" whispered Leslie Melino, 21, of Rochester.

"Do you think he'd give us a job right on the spot?" asked Ranson "Redd" Brown, 28, of South Carolina. "I thought about bringing my resume."

After lunch, Weinstein -- with his wife, Eve, and a handful of aides -- departed the Arts Center, leaving behind a film preview.

"The Yards," a thriller set in New York's subway yards and starring Mark Wahlberg, Joaquin Phoenix, Faye Dunaway, Ellen Burstyn and James Caan, played in the center's Screening Room.

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