A high-wattage mix of showbiz talent, execs, agents and managers packed UCLA’s Royce Hall on Monday evening to remember Bernie Brillstein as a friend, mentor and industry icon.
Emcee Martin Short set a light but loving tone at the outset of the tribute to the pioneering manager and producer, who died Thursday at age 77.
“He used to say to me, ‘Kid, I’m going to get you a gig at Royce Hall if it kills me,’ ” Short quipped, to hearty applause.
Brillstein’s longtime business partner, Brad Grey, choked up as he recalled their “25-year love affair.”
Brillstein’s loyalty and respect for clients was highlighted by comic Jack Burns, who told the story of how Brillstein arranged an intervention when Burns was at the depths of his alcoholism.
“He told me, “I will stick by you, jobs or no jobs, as long as you try your very best (in rehab),’ ” Burns recalled. “It’s been 6,982 days since that meeting.
“I can literally say, I owe my life to Bernie. Not a career — my life.”
Jim Belushi and Dan Aykroyd gave a surprise perf as the Blues Brothers. (Brillstein exec produced the 1980 pic featuring his clients, John Belushi and Aykroyd.)
Other speakers included Bill Maher, Jennifer Aniston, Norm Crosby, Jon Lovitz, Lorne Michaels, Sandy Wernick, Abe Hoch, Jerry Weintraub, John Larroquette, Rob Lowe, Alan Zweibel and Brillstein Entertainment Partners’ CEO Jon Liebman.
“The two-hour memorial closed on an emotional note with a nod to Brillstein’s legacy as a prime force in the career of the late Muppet master Jim Henson. Kermit the Frog, accompanied by a solo banjo, gave a heartfelt rendition of the signature “Muppet Movie” ballad, “Rainbow Connection.”