Aaron Russo, who managed Bette Midler and went on to produce such films as “Trading Places,” died Friday in Los Angeles of cancer. He was 64.
Born in Brooklyn and raised in Long Island, Russo began promoting rock ‘n’ roll shows at a local theater while still in high school, according to a biography he wrote and posted on his website. When he later opened his own nightclub in Chicago, Russo said he promoted some of the most successful rock acts of the 1960s including Janis Joplin and the Grateful Dead.
In the 1970s, Russo managed Midler, producing “Clams on the Half-Shell Revue” starring the singer. During that time he also managed the Manhattan Transfer.
Russo eventually turned to producing feature films including “The Rose,” which starred Midler in 1979 as a self-destructive rock star, and later “Trading Places” in 1983, which featured Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd.
Russo also was a longtime political activist, making an unsuccessful run for Nevada governor as a Republican in 1998. In January 2004, Russo declared his candidacy for the Libertarian Party’s presidential nomination but lost.
In 2006, Russo finished work on a documentary titled “America: Freedom to Fascism,” which was billed as an expose of the Internal Revenue Service.
He is survived by two children and his girlfriend, Heidi Gregg.