Colorful producer Jerry Weintraub died of cardiac arrest in Santa Barbara yesterday. The one-time concert promoter and producer of the Ocean’s Eleven film series and the Liberace biopic Behind the Candelabra was a larger-than-life figure in the movie business. He was also a bright spot the party circuit. His pal George Clooney commented on his passing in a statement yesterday:
“In the coming days there will be tributes, about our friend Jerry Weintraub. We’ll laugh at his great stories, and applaud his accomplishments. And in the years to come the stories and accomplishments will get better with age, just as Jerry would have wanted it. But not today. Today our friend died.”
I’ve heard Clooney tell wonderful tales about Weintraub over the last 20 years, including a few about Weintraub’s days in the music biz (he worked with legends like Frank Sinatra, John Denver, and Elvis). I sat at a table adjacent to Weintraub’s at a UNICEF event honoring him as “Man of the Year.” His tablemates included Clooney, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, and Angelina Jolie. Tony Bennett sang to Weintraub and so did Weintraub’s wife, Jane Morgan, even though the producer was seated next to his girlfriend, Susan Ekins. He never divorced Morgan despite taking up with Ekins, and they all seemed to get along famously. They talk about more about that relationship in the HBO docu on Weintraub His Way.
Whenever I’ve found myself in restaurants prior to Weintraub’s arrival, the waiters would practically trip over themselves to get his table ready. Buckets of ice for bottles appeared in seconds. When he did appear, he took over the joint.
Amongst the many roles Weintraub took on over the years (he even started a film studio at one point), playing the editor of Los Angeles magazine in Steven Soderbergh’s film Full Frontal has to be a personal favorite. The movie shot in our offices and used staffers as extras. I signed up for the weekend shoot, and one scene took place in our editor-in-chief’s office. Weintraub’s storyline included him firing David Hyde Pierce’s writer character for liking to “drink beer out of a glass” when he wanted everyone at the magazine to “drink out of the bottle.” Weintraub showed up with a box of things he thought his character would have on his desk. Inside was a pair of boxing gloves.
So here’s to a guy who fought his way up from the William Morris mailroom to having a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Like Clooney, I expect the stories about his life will get better with age.