Longtime talent agent Roy Gerber, who once repped the Beatles, died Tuesday of a brain tumor in Los Angeles. He was 82.
During his long career as an agent and manager, Gerber repped such performers as Jerry Lewis, Richard Pryor, Tom Jones, Al Pacino and Diana Ross. But despite his long career as a rep and manager, he is probably best known as the inspiration for the character Oscar Madison in Neil Simon’s “The Odd Couple,” which was modeled after the period when Danny Simon, (Neil’s brother) and Roy lived together while separated from their wives in 1964.
Born in the Bronx, N.Y., in 1925, Gerber began his entertainment career before WWII playing trumpet in Jimmy Komack’s Swing Band. After spending the war in the Special Services Division entertaining troops, he joined the Beckman/Pransky Agency, driving snake charmers and exotic dancers to gigs around New York.
He formed a talent agency with Norman Weiss, who became his lifelong business partner. Influential agency MCA then acquired their firm and hired them as agents.
While at MCA, Gerber and associate Jim Murray headed the Las Vegas office, booking the Rat Pack and Betty Grable, while Gerber repped Lewis, Edie Adams, Victor Borge, Diahann Carroll and Shirley Jones.
After MCA left the agency business in 1962, Gerber and Weiss joined General Artists Corp. where they represented the Beatles, the Lovin’ Spoonful, the Mamas and the Papas, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, Phyllis Diller, Steve Lawrence and Edie Gorme. Gerber also packaged and served as talent coordinator for “The Hollywood Palace” television series, featuring guests from Bing Crosby and Milton Berle to the Muppets and the Rolling Stones.
In 1970, Gerber and Weiss partnered with Martin Bregman to form the management and production company Artists Entertainment Complex, repping Pacino, Bette Midler, the Manhattan Transfer, Lorna Luft and Raquel Welch. The partnership also produced Pacino’s films “Dog Day Afternoon” and “Serpico.”
Gerber then ran Motown Records’ management division with Shelly Berger, handling the careers of Diana Ross and Thelma Houston as well as Gerber’s longtime clients Vic Damone and Jack Jones.
In 1978, he formed Roy Gerber and Associates, continuing to manage his original stable of clients as well as Arsenio Hall, the Cycle Sluts, Peter Nero and Sid Caesar.
He is survived by his wife, Terrie; sons Bill, a producer, and Bobby, senior VP at Warner Home Video; daughters Pam and Missy, senior VP at Fox Broadcasting; a brother and eight grandchildren.
Donations may be made to UCLA Brain Cancer Research, c/o Timothy Cloughesy, MD, 710 Westwood Plaza, Suite 1-230, Los Angeles, CA 90095.