Talent agent Frank Cooper, who discovered Frank Sinatra and Dinah Shore, put one of the first quizshows on radio and was a pioneer in TV packaging, died of natural causes on Jan. 19, four months short of his 100th birthday, in Encino, Calif.
The Sept. 11, 1943, issue of Billboard declared that the ‘forgotten man’ in the “big Sinatra-Dorsey-MCA-GAC deal is Frank Cooper, who is merely the swooner’s personal manager. Cooper is credited as being the first guy to see big money possibilities in Sinatra and swung his first theater dates which started the amazing success story.”
Cooper launched the Frank Cooper Associates Agency in 1945.
He also represented sports icon Joe DiMaggio and procured gigs for heavyweight boxing champ Joe Louis; sold “Strike It Rich” to CBS, thus getting one of the first quizshows on the radio; became a leader in television development and packaging with the first dramatic series, “Man Against Crime,” which starred Ralph Bellamy and began airing on CBS in 1949; worked closely with Ed Sullivan; was involved in the creation of “Dirty Harry”; with writer Dale Wasserman, put “Man of La Mancha” onto the Broadway stage; and represented writer-producer Beth Polson, author Leslie Waller, as well as Clifford Irving’s books and films.
Cooper was born in Harlem. At the age of 10, after losing his father, Cooper had to seek work to help his family. He knocked on doors in office buildings until he won a job as the messenger to Joseph Schenck, one of the founders of 20th Century Fox. Shortly thereafter, Cooper became the personal stenographer to William Paley. By 19 he was working as William Morris’ secretary at the William Morris Agency; soon he was an agent himself. Eventually, to further his career, he moved to Los Angeles.
Cooper was a substantial donor to organizations including the Cleveland Clinic, the U.S. Olympic Committee and the Jewish Federation. His contributions also helped render the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles a reality.
Cooper is survived by his wife of nearly 75 years, Sylvia, a professional sculptor; two sons, Jeff and Martin; daughter Pamela, a theatrical talent manager and Broadway producer; six grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.