Memorial services will be held 1 p.m. on Saturday at Forest Lawn in Burbank for Ruth Webb, theatrical talent agent and Broadway actress. She died Dec. 4 at 88 after an extended pulmonary illness.
She began her showbiz career in her early teens with her aunt, Mary Ann Dentler, who was producer of stock company the Bandbox Players. She lied about her age to get cast in her first show, “Behind Red Lights.” Her summer stock credits included roles in productions of “Auntie Mame,” “Kiss Me Kate,” “Wonderful Town,” “Pal Joey,” “The Boy Friend,” “Damn Yankees,” “Naughty Marietta” and “Showboat.” She performed at The Latin Quarter and East Side clubs during the off-season.
She appeared on the covers of Town & Country and On the Town magazines and was featured model for a national Chesterfield ad campaign.
Her Broadway career included roles in “Marinka,” “Early to Bed” and the original production of “On The Town.”
In 1961, she went to work for her agent, Laura Arnold. One year later, she opened the Ruth Webb Agency. Initial clients (and former co-stars) included Broadway’s Nolan Van Way, Dean Dittman and Darrell Sandeen. Claims to fame also include first agenting for such discoveries as Al Pacino, Ben Vereen and Bernadette Peters.
In the 1960s, she married her leading man, Robert Cosden, who remained her partner in the Webb-Cosden Agency for almost a decade. At conclusion of their marriage, her agency expanded to the West Coast and she shifted focus to Hollywood.
She became known as the “Auntie Mame of agents,” and the queen of summer stock, with a focus on dinner theater, repping Kathryn Grayson, Claudette Colbert, Ginger Rogers, Rhonda Fleming, John Carradine, Dorothy Lamour, Donald O’Connor, Gloria Swanson, Gig Young, Ann Sothern, Martha Raye and Mickey Rooney.
In TV, she repped a who’s who of talent too numerous to list here, from Milton Berle to Don Knotts, Don Adams, Steve Allen, Chuck Connors, Patty Duke, Ann Jeffries, Phyllis Diller, Della Reese, Forest Tucker, and so on.
She was a driving force on the creative team for the original Broadway production of “Man of La Mancha” and represented a major portion of the original cast. She was instrumental in getting Yvonne De Carlo into “Follies,” Gene Barry in “La Cage aux Folles,” and Rooney his seven-year Broadway run in “Sugar Babies.”
More recently along with partner Sherri Spillane (who Spillane continues to run the Ruth Webb Agency under the guidance of Webb’s friend and business manager for the past two decades, Harold J. Levy), she was among the first to turn everyday people into reality television stars. She also mentored a number of budding agents.
In addition, she was an animal activist and writer who recently completed her autobiography.
She is survived by two sons, three grandsons, and companion of 35 years Jamie Stellos.