“A celebrity is not often a true star…..”

A fine gentlemen and someone who always had a great piece of advice. Rest in peace, and know you never compromised your dignity.

“Robert Lantz, a talent agent whose clients ranged from Bette Davis to Leonard Bernstein to Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, died Thursday in Manhattan, where he had lived and worked since 1948. He was 93. The cause was heart failure, said his wife of 57 years, Sherlee, who survives him, along with his son, Anthony.

An independent operator in an era of conglomerates, Mr. Lantz worked from a small office overlooking Central Park, filled with his books, photographs by Richard Avedon (who was a client) and caricatures by Al Hirschfeld (an old friend).

His constellation included the writers James Baldwin, Lillian Hellman and Carson McCullers; the actors Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Yul Brynner, Montgomery Clift, Myrna Loy and Liv Ullmann; the photographer Arnold Newman, the film director Milos Forman, the playwright Peter Shaffer and the lyricist Alan Jay Lerner.

Clients begat clients: Ms. Taylor introduced him to Mr. Burton, her fifth husband, and Justice William O. Douglas introduced him to Chief Justice Rehnquist.

“I have been very lucky not to represent anyone crazy,” he told an interviewer for a Czech weekly news magazine in 2003.

“Crazy artists are very difficult. My feeling is that one of the biggest problems of our time is that there are so many celebrities being made, but there are very few real stars, people who are truly extraordinarily talented. A celebrity is often not a true star.”

He consoled and cajoled his clients in person or on the telephone. Many became lifelong friends, and at times he attended their deaths. Like a family doctor who answered house calls, he turned a professional relationship into something deeper.

He learned early on that dealing with creative artists was not for the faint of heart. “Their private lives, their health, their nerves, these are all problems you must deal with, whether they are real or imagined,” he told The New York Times in 1998. “A bad haircut can be a catastrophe of biblical proportions.”

Born in Berlin on July 20, 1914, Mr. Lantz dreamed of being an author like his father, a screenwriter in the silent-movie era. He moved to London in 1935, after Hitler came to power, and worked as a story editor for American film companies. Following World War II he came to New York and began a new life representing creative artists: stars of the stage and screen, literary lions and, occasionally, public figures who thought they had a book in them.

Mr. Lantz was one of the last members of an old school: he did not use e-mail or computers. He took 10 percent of his authors’ earnings, not 15 percent, hewing to a tradition widely abandoned in the late 20th century. He made his deals with handshakes.

“I don’t believe authors and directors or other artists should be tied up by contracts,” he said in the 2003 interview.

“If someone doesn’t like me, I want him to be free to go,” he said. “I don’t want him to be unhappy. This is a Hollywood practice: trap artists into long-term contracts. But slavery was abolished. So blame Abraham Lincoln for my system.”

He showed an early talent for proximity to talent. At 7, he dined with Albert Einstein in Berlin; a colleague of his father had married Einstein’s daughter. As he told the story, he announced that he was studying math at school. “Einstein stood up, opened his drawer, took out his book of mathematics and said: ‘Why don’t you use this book?’”

The next day in class, he raised his hand and said: “As Albert Einstein explained all this to me last night. … ”


~ by aprilemillo on October 20, 2007.

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