Op-Ed: Jerry's Memorial – By Bob Lefsetz

I wish I loved people as much as Jerry Weintraub.

Then Billy Crystal would do shtick about me, George Clooney would imitate me, Matt Damon would tell personal stories about me and Paul Anka would personalize the lyrics of "My Way" for me.

It's a long way to the top if you wanna rock and roll. And that's where Jerry began. Oh, he had traction before that, most famously with his wife Jane Morgan, but Elvis made him a legend. Led Zeppelin too. He promoted both and managed John Denver and ended up in the movie business and then died prematurely and what is left?

An incredible amount of good will.

People loved Jerry. He called Gerry Parsky every day at 6 AM and told him it was his friend on the line. Never mentioned his name. That's when you know someone, when no introduction is necessary. And we're all looking for someone we can count on in this world, who will be there for us, who will make things right…and I heard that story told over and over about Jerry tonight.

I'll be honest, I almost didn't go. How many people would I know? Irving and…

Well, Jerry Greenberg was there. And Joe Smith. And a lot of people you see on the screen who I recognized but wouldn't dare speak to. That's what happens when you're in between fame and famine… You don't speak with anyone you're not introduced to.

And I was introduced to the guy who owns Il Piccolino. He was so sad, he's having a hard time carrying on without the man with his own dish on the menu.

And Jeff Wald. Remember Helen Reddy's husband? He was intense and didn't want to know me but not only did his countenance befit the legend, I could tell why Helen had been successful…we all need an advocate.

A manager, an agent, we need someone to believe in us or we're not gonna make it.

And there's a very thin layer at the tippity-top, those who can get anybody on the phone and make everything happen, like Jerry Weintraub.

"What do you want?"

Household names were constantly asked that. He'd deliver your heart's desire. And you believed him.

Kind of like Matt Damon. They were out playing golf, Jerry, Matt and Matt's dad. And Matt's father was ribbing his son about failing to graduate from college. Jerry asked Matt where he went. I thought this was a set-up for a put-down, the uneducated like to piss on the Ivys. Instead, Jerry said he could arrange a diploma, if that's what Matt wanted. If not Harvard, how about Princeton?

Yes, Jerry had a sense of humor.

After all, he was Jewish. We Jews have been persecuted for 5,000 years. We deflect it, cope via jokes, throw our hands in the air and say WTF. You just laugh and carry on.

And keep talking.

That's another Jewish trait. Jews can hold up their end of a conversation. You may not want to hear what they have to say, but boy do they have material.

So if you come from little and have the gift of gab you can make it all the way to the top.

Jerry was George Bush's consigliere. The first. The one with credibility. Jane read a long missive from the ex-Pres. Who said much, but marveled that Jerry could deliver so many famous names, ones the Pres. had no pull with. Bush wanted that doctor from "E.R." to fly to a devastated town and Jerry got Clooney on the plane. Jerry delivered first run movies, whatever the Pres. wanted, he just had to decide.

And then there was that great story about the Presidential party, at Blue Heaven, Jerry's abode. Barbara Bush was seated at a table with Warren Beatty and a coterie of other famous Hollywood men. Jerry put his hands on Warren's shoulders and insisted he not work his magic on Barbara, that he keep his sword sheathed. Cracked Billy Crystal up.

Who completely cracked us up.

Billy was never cool, never hip. Had two moments of transcendent greatness, with "When Harry Met Sally" and "City Slickers," but thereafter was so busy playing nice that we couldn't believe him.

But we believed Billy Crystal tonight. It was like the Oscars, but he was playing to a room that got the jokes. Instead of playing to tens of millions, Billy was doing his act for a few hundred, and he killed. The best story was about going to the Lakers game, sitting on the floor during Showtime (and if you don't know what I'm talking about…you'll never survive in Hollywood). Billy saw Kirk Douglas approaching and Jerry told him there would be trouble, because Billy had taken his seat. Kirk complained. Billy was star-struck and tongue-tied. Jerry told Kirk that Billy was hotter and deserved the seat. And that settled that.

Fleet on his feet. Quick with a comeback. Some people are born with it.

Like the ability to get along.

Unlike me.

My social anxiety kicks in, I don't think I belong, I'm afraid of saying something dumb or something not at all. I get so uptight I don't go or I leave.

But I'm a secondary player here. I'm not Barry Diller or Les Moonves or Terry Semel. I'm not even Super Dave Osborne. But I know Paul Anka. He closed the show. Am I really gonna leave without talking to him?

So I wander to the front, evade the household names, I don't want to look like a looky-loo in search of his brush with greatness, and I introduce myself to Paul and he says…

I KNOW WHO YOU ARE!

And he insisted we take a picture and he started telling me about his latest venture, a hologram production, and I'm asking his connection to Jerry and he went all the way back to Irvin Feld.

The circus guy? From Ringling Brothers?

Yup, that's the guy. He ruled the arena circuit before Jerry. Paul started out with Irvin, doing one nighters. And they stayed together.

Loyalty. It's about all you've got in show business. Because you've got to count on someone to get the job done.

And it is show BUSINESS! Sure, talent is necessary, but it's not the only thing that gets you to the top, it's rarely even the most important thing! There's perseverance, and the ability to get along with people, and your team. Spearheaded by the one person who can always get it done.

Like Jerry Weintraub.

The king of relationships.

The king of favors.

There's no one he couldn't get on the phone, nothing he wouldn't do. And sure, he got paid, but he let the light shine upon others, and he gave back, the list of charities he supported was endless.

A man's man.

A citizen of the world. Filled with insight, which allowed him to triumph.

It's not what you know so much as how you put it all together.

Not that Jerry lacked information. It's amazing how the giants work the e-mail and phone for bits of gossip.

But it's not just gossip, it's people. Their fantasies and flaws. Figure out people and you can rule the world.

Jerry figured out everybody he came in contact with. And either they were a friend or a foe. You're either with me or against me. It's a jungle out there, I'll treat you right, but I expect to be treated right in return.

Jerry Weintraub treated so many people right, delivered so much, that a who's who of the entertainment business showed up to pay fealty, to watch Steven Soderbergh's movie, to listen to stories told by those who run the culture.

But the truth is Jerry ran the culture, he pulled the strings, the public barely knew him and soon he will be forgotten.

But not by those he propped up, put forward, presented, gave advice to.

Those people know that without Jerry there is no entertainment business.

Do what you do to the best of your ability. Try not to be someone you're not. Put one foot in front of another, unafraid to play the game.

And then if you're lucky someone like Jerry will notice.

Jerry noticed me.

And I still feel the halo upon me.

Related Post