Bill Clinton Honors Edie Wasserman, Lew Wasserman's Wife

 Courtesy of William J. Clinton Presidential Library

It’s going to be a long time before Hollywood sees a former president and a current secretary of state speaking at the memorial for a studio exec’s wife as happened Oct. 14th for the late Edie Wasserman.

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Bill Clinton was the final speaker of the evening at UCLA’s Royce Hall where he recalled getting the idea while governor of Arkansas that his state should have a film office. He made a cold call to MCA chairman Lew Wasserman who invited him to Los Angeles to discuss the matter.

He went to the Wasserman home; was “much more fascinated with Edie” and her direct way of speaking; and went home thinking, “I was on a fool’s errand but I enjoyed it.”

He also recalled being seated at a dinner at the Wasserman home while president with Rupert Murdoch, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. Edie told him he was being introduced to the local “Judeo-Scientology culture.”

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His wife, Hillary, went into more detail about the times when she and Edie “spoke about life and things.” The secretary of state said Edie loved talking about how they had both married men “people thought would go nowhere.” She would say of Lew, “He was an usher in a movie theater when I found him.

She then praised Edie as “spunky, gritty, graceful and gracious” and who had “a formidable intellect and savvy.”

The evening had begun with remarks by Skirball Cultural Center founder Dr. Uri Herscher who said that though Wasserman had died Aug 18, “She was a powerhouse for good and that power does not vanish.”

Wasserman’s grandson Casey who said his job was to, “say thank you for honoring the most incredible person I ever knew” was followed by UCLA chancellor Gene Block, who said, “When all was said and done, Edie cared.”

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Her granddaughter Carol Ann Leif spoke at length about the many personal moments they shared, including looking for a prom dress and the list of things Edie loved including Stan’s Donuts, the residents of the Motion Picture & Television Home, and the screeners she got during Oscar season. “My grandmother had an amazing 95 years fully lived,” she said.

Jamie Lee Curtis told the story of calling off a wedding so close to the date that the Wasserman’s gift, a full set of flatware, had already arrived; calling Edie with the cancellation news, and being told, “Doll, keep the silver.”

Rep. Nancy Pelosi said she was on hand to “express the sympathy of the United States Congress” and said the Wassermans were committed to the Democratic Party because, “We’re both in the American dream business. They cared about politics because they cared about people.”

Jeffrey Katzenberg, who has followed in the Wassermans’ footsteps by fundraising for the MPTF, said, “Our industry is blessed with strong, accomplished women, but there was only one First Lady.”  He added that, “our First Lady is gone but her legacy lives on.”

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was the final speaker before the Clintons, who ascended to the podium with a standing ovation.

“What will be left with us is the simple gift of friendship,” said the former president.

Among the roughly 300 guests at the memorial were Ron Meyer, Jim Gianopulos, Michael Eisner, Rob Friedman, Les Moonves, Roz Wyman, Bob Daly, Terry Semel and Gil Cates.

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