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Their Hollywood romance is cut short by COVID-19

Larry and Lynne Lerner became sick in mid-March. Just days after their positive COVID-19 test results, Larry died from the virus.
Larry and Lynne Lerner became sick in mid-March. Just days after their positive COVID-19 test results, Larry died from the virus.
(Lynne Lerner )

More than 25 years ago, Lynne Lerner walked onto the set of “China Beach,” an ‘80s television show about medics in the Vietnam War, to check in for work as an extra. There, she met the man who would become her husband, Larry Lerner, an assistant director on the show.

Over the years, the two would share beautiful moments as a married couple. They loved to rescue pit bulls together, attended Emmy events and watched TV shows in their Van Nuys home.

She acted in “General Hospital,” “Married With Children” and “Days of Our Lives.” He worked on shows that included “The Man in the High Castle,” “Ambitions” and “Drop Dead Diva.” Sometimes they worked together.

These are some of the unusual new scenes across the Southland during the coronavirus outbreak.

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On April 1, their decades-long Hollywood romance was cut short when Larry Lerner died from COVID-19 at the age of 71.

“We were best buddies,” said Lynne Lerner, 67. “We did everything together — everything. We were joined at the hip. I thought he’d be here forever.”

Lynne said she and her husband got sick around the same time in mid-March, but they were never too worried. They were healthy, their symptoms didn’t match with the most severe cases of COVID-19, and they followed all the safety protocols to protect themselves against the virus.

He developed a low fever and a cough, but it wasn’t a dry cough. She was weak but had no other symptoms. Their doctor told them to go to the hospital only if they reached a fever of over 102 degrees. They felt they could battle it out at home.

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Lynne said her husband appeared to be less sick than she was. All she could do was stay in bed, but he watched TV on their living room couch.

She teared up at the thought of not having been able to make him tea or lunch. “I could hardly make it fast enough to sit back down,” she said.

On the evening of March 22, she heard her husband bump into something in the living room. She found him on the floor. When the paramedics arrived, Larry’s fever was 104 degrees.

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He was admitted to the intensive care unit at Valley Presbyterian Hospital and put on a ventilator. Because she felt so weak, she was also hospitalized.

The following day, the couple called each other on FaceTime from their hospital beds.

“Hi, baby, everything’s fine,” she recalled her husband saying. “I’m fine. I love you.”

That was the last time she saw him.

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More than a week later, a doctor called Lynne, who had already returned home, to tell her that her husband had died.

“Neither one of us thought it was going to turn into what it turned into,” Lynne Lerner said. “It just happened so fast.”

On social media, friends from the Directors Guild of America remembered Larry Lerner as a kind man and talented assistant director.

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He was on several committees for the guild, and was always helpful to anyone who needed it, his wife said. When he wasn’t making TV shows or movies, he was listening to music, often on vinyl records, she said.

Now Lynne worries about who she’ll turn to for help now that her best friend is gone, and what she’ll do with the insurance bills that have piled up.

She is still trying to get a refund for a European cruise booked for June. It was meant to be the cruise of a lifetime, and the celebration of their 25th anniversary, she said.

“We lived for each other.”


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