Obituary

Jerry Weintraub was a force in show business

Jerry Weintraub (above), whose up-and-down career touched music entertainers as grandly diverse as Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra and Led Zeppelin, and screen artists that included Steven Soderbergh, Robert Altman and Michael Douglas, died on Monday in
Jerry Weintraub (above), whose up-and-down career touched music entertainers as grandly diverse as Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra and Led Zeppelin, and screen artists that included Steven Soderbergh, Robert Altman and Michael Douglas, died on Monday in Santa Barbara, California.

Los Angeles • Jerry Weintraub, whose up-and-down career touched music entertainers as grandly diverse as Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra and Led Zeppelin, and screen artists that included Steven Soderbergh, Robert Altman and Michael Douglas, died on Monday in Santa Barbara, California. He was 77.

The cause was cardiac arrest, his publicist said.

Once best known as a concert promoter and a music manager, Weintraub became a force in the film business with Altman's Nashville (1975), Barry Levinson's Diner (1982) and Carl Reiner's Oh, God! (1977). He joined in producing those movies in the 1970s and 1980s, before a crippling business failure temporarily stopped his Hollywood career.

He returned and found one of the biggest film franchises of the 2000s, pulling together an ensemble of megawatt stars - Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Julia Roberts - for the Ocean's Eleven casino heist trilogy. It earned more than US$1 billion at the worldwide box office.

A long-time intimate of former President George H.W. Bush, Weintraub made himself into a myth by combining his three hallmarks - political access, Hollywood success and relentless charm.

That persona was cemented both in a 2010 memoir, written with Rich Cohen, called When I Stop Talking, You'll Know I'm Dead: Useful Stories From A Persuasive Man, and His Way, a 2011 HBO documentary about his career.

"All life was a theatre and I wanted to put it up on a stage," he wrote in his memoir. "I wanted to set the world under a marquee that read 'Jerry Weintraub Presents'."

He hit a peak in 1984 with The Karate Kid, which spawned three sequels and a spin-off TV series.

"I used to tease him about being a blackbelt name-dropper," Mr Bush said on Monday. "But he did seem to know everyone in showbiz."

Jerome Charles Weintraub was born in Brooklyn on Sept 26, 1937 and grew up in the Bronx. In a story he told over the years, he learnt how to spin facts - or non-facts - from his jeweller father, Mr Samuel Weintraub, who promoted his business with tall tales.

Weintraub skipped college to join the Air Force and then worked as a page at NBC. He then became an assistant to Lew Wasserman at MCA, the talent agency. In 1964, he struck out with a couple of friends to start a management company.

How exactly he got involved with Presley is a story that changed at his own telling and retelling over the years.

This much is true: Weintraub somehow gained the confidence of Colonel Tom Parker, who managed Presley, and helped engineer a successful concert tour. It was so successful that, by 1968, Weintraub was similarly working with Sinatra.

Weintraub found his biggest late-career success in television. Behind The Candelabra, a 2013 HBO movie that starred Douglas as Liberace and was directed by Soderbergh, won 11 Emmys and two Golden Globes.

His survivors include his second wife, torch singer Jane Morgan, and four children.

NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 08, 2015, with the headline 'Jerry Weintraub was a force in show business Obituary'. Print Edition | Subscribe