Monday, July 6, 2015

RIP Jerry Weintraub

Producer Jerry Weintraub Dies at 77

The Hollywood Reporter
By Duane Byrge
July 6, 2015

A steely, hard-charging personality, he was wildly successful in a wide-ranging entertainment career that spanned more than 50 years.

Jerry Weintraub, who produced such hits as the Karate Kid and Ocean's series, died at his Palm Springs home on Monday, according to TMZ. He was 77.

No further details of his death were immediately available.

A promoter and impresario in the old sense, Weintraub was a larger-than-life, Damon Runyon-esque character. A steely, hard-charging personality, he was wildly successful in a wide-ranging entertainment career that spanned more than 50 years.

Before his success as a motion picture producer, Weintraub was a force in the management and musical fields. Weintraub spent more than two decades promoting concerts and some of the top musical acts in the world: Frank Sinatra, Bob Dylan, Dolly Parton, the Beach Boys, the Pointer Sisters and John Denver, among them.

His foray into movies came after a Weintraub-produced John Denver performance where he met director Robert Altman, who sent him a prospective project: Nashville. The 1975 film went on to garner five Oscar nominations, including best picture.

In 1983, Weintraub signed a three-year, right-of-first refusal pact with Columbia Pictures. He also produced TV programs and a wide range of films, beginning with Nashville, which he executive-produced. He films also included: Diner; Oh, God!; September 30, 1955; Cruising and three sequels to The Karate Kid.

At one brief juncture in 1985, Weintraub served for roughly five months as chairman and CEO of United Artists, but the studio was not big enough for both he and owner Kirk Kerkorian. After being fired, Weintraub rebounded to form his own film and TV production company, Weintraub Entertainment Group.

At the time, WEG was the largest privately financed start-up in motion picture-industry history. However, it folded ignominiously in 1990 after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. In 1992, the company settled a lawsuit alleging its brokerage firm had misrepresented the amount of money pledged to it by Columbia.

He founded Jerry Weintraub Prods., based at Warner Bros. Studios. His first film was Pure Country, starring country singer George Strait. He subsequently produced an array of feature films, including The Specialist, Vegas Vacation, The Avengers and Soldiers.

The company produced such megahits as Ocean's Eleven, Ocean's Twelve and Ocean's Thirteen. He produced the family film Nancy Drew and the remake The Karate Kid.

Weintraub always maintained a perspective as a “kid from the Bronx” and reveled in associating with celebrities, world leaders and industrialists, including George W. Bush, who was a neighbor and friend in Kennebunkport. Engagingly immodest, Weintraub had acquaintances and cronies across all demographic and cultural lines.

His business ventures were similarly eclectic. In addition to his entertainment industry endeavors, he held large real- estate investments and such ventures as an Elvis Museum in Tokyo, as well as a spa in Beverly Hills.

He dismissed dealmaking, insisting he was a filmmaker. Hypothetically, he noted if he booked a suite at Cannes, “I'll sit there with a suitcase and people will come and throw money into it. That that's not making moves, that's making deals. I want to make films.”

In 2001, he was honored with the Kodak Award for Extraordinary Achievement in Filmmaking. In June 2007, he became the first producer to be “cemented” in the courtyard of Grauman's Chinese Theatre. An arts patron, Weintraub was actively involved in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Museum of Contemporary Art, the Music Center and the Children's Museum. He also received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Jerome Charles Weintraub was born Sept. 26, 1937 in Brooklyn, the son of a traveling gemstone salesman, and raised in the Bronx. As a teen, he sneaked into the palatial Loew's Paradise Theater so often that the manager gave him a job as an usher. Bored with high school, Weintraub joined the Air Force at 17. He was posted in Alaska, where he moonlighted “selling clothes to prostitutes, that kind of stuff.”

After serving his country, Weintraub used his GI Bill to study at Sanford Meisner's Neighborhood Playhouse. Weintraub moved into show business: He had brief stints as a page at NBC and in the mail room at William Morris. He became an agent with MCA in the mid 1950s. Restless and driven, Weintraub veered into personal management, hustling for clients on the club circuit. In 1959, he worked briefly as an advance man for John F. Kennedy's presidential campaign.

 In 1960, he founded Management III with two young managers, Bernie Brillstein and Marty Kummer. He called Colonel Tom Parker every day, badgering him to promote an Elvis tour. After a year, Parker relented. Weintraub's promotion was a huge success, and other artists flocked to his company. His client list swelled. Weintraub broke new promotion ground when he presented Frank Sinatra at Madison Square Garden in the “first around the world by satellite” concert, titled “The Main Event.”

In his multi-faced career, Weintraub produced a number of TV specials, many starring the musician artists with whom he worked. He produced "An Olympic Gala,” the telecast of the opening ceremonies of the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. He was executive producer of John Denver's TV specials, including “John Denver's Rocky Mountain Christmas,” which received the highest ratings in ABC history at the time for a special with a single host.

 Weintraub occasionally showed up on screen, perhaps most auspiciously in The Firm, where he played convincingly an intimidating Chicago “businessman."

 In 1988, Weintraub and his wife, Jane, were recipients of the Scopus Award from the American friends of the Hebrew University. Their awards gala provided more than 400 scholarships for students at the Hebrew University, where a new facility was named after the couple: The Jane & Jerry Weintraub Building for Music and Fine Arts. He was also involved with the Variety Club Foundation, the American Parkinson Disease Foundation, and the Muscular Dystrophy Physical Assn.

 Weintraub was married to Janice Greenberg for roughly one year when a young man. They had a son, Michael. Weintraub was married to former singer Jane Morgan, and had four children: Michael, Julie, Jamie and Jody.

Born: 9/26/1937, Brooklyn, New York City, New York, U.S.A.
Died: 7/6/2015, Palm Springs, California, U.S.A.

Jerry Weintraub’s westerns – producer:
The Cowboy and the Ballerina (TV) - 1984
Pure Country - 1992
Westworld – 2015
The Wild Bunch - 2015

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