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Jerry Weintraub Remembered as ‘Greatest Showman of His Generation’

The phone calls would come in around 5 a.m., sometimes as early as 4:30. Jerry Weintraub, the legendary producer who died Monday at 77, started most mornings by talking to his longtime confidant and publicist, Paul Bloch of Rogers & Cowan.

Usually they talked about whatever project or cause was front-burner for Weintraub. But some mornings, Weintraub would start by critiquing work Bloch had done for his other clients.

“He’d say ‘You didn’t do that right’ or ‘This is how you should have done it,’” Bloch told Variety, as he reflected on his 40-plus years of working with Weintraub. “He was usually right.”

Weintraub’s unsolicited reviews were a good example of what made the producer-entrepreneur such a force in showbiz for nearly a half-century, Bloch said.

“He could navigate anything,” Bloch said. “He had a great mind. He was very creative. The reason talent liked him so much was that he was on their side. He worked with them and helped them to be their best.”

Weintraub had a habit of calling people in the industry when they were down on their luck. “He would just call them up on the phone and be very positive and try to help them,” Bloch said. “Famous or not famous — he’d call and try to cheer them up. He’d tell them the next day would be a bright day. There was not a negative bone in his body.”

Weintraub loved nothing more than to throw parties for people — “I’m gonna give you a pah-tee,” he would say in his Bronx-ese. He was particularly adept at throwing political fundraisers, whether the recipient was Republican — he was famously supportive of the Bush clan — or Democrat, such as Cory Booker, former mayor of Newark, N.J., who is now a Democratic senator from the Garden State.

As much as he juggled on any given day, Weintraub was fanatical about returning phone calls and emails and maintaining his personal and professional relationships. He’d been out of the concert business for decades, but he remained friendly with two of his superstar clients, Bob Dylan and Neil Diamond. “He had such a wide variety of friends inside and outside our business,” Bloch said.

Weintraub wasn’t all work. He loved to take in Laker games — he had court side season tickets. He loved to escape periodically on his yacht or at his home in Kennebunkport, Maine. He could hold his own at golf and tennis.

As a producer, he was relentless. And he stuck with projects he believed in no matter how many places said “no.”

“When he was working on a movie he was on the set every day,” Bloch recalled. “He worked very hard for his riches.”

HBO’s Emmy-winning “Behind the Candelabra” was a good example of Weintraub’s tenacity. The project stalled more than once as a feature before he was able to corral Michael Douglas, Steven Soderbergh and Matt Damon at the right moment to get the greenlight from HBO.

The last project that Weintraub and Bloch discussed in an early morning phone call was planning for “Tarzan,” due out next year from Warner Bros. Word of Weintraub’s death in Santa Barbara on Monday morning came as a complete shock, Bloch said.

“He wasn’t slowing down at all,” he said. “The calls came in at the same time every day. I think he was the greatest showman of his generation.”

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