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Roy Gerber, a former talent agent and longtime talent manager who was the inspiration for the character of Oscar Madison in Neil Simon’s comedy “The Odd Couple,” died Aug. 21 at his home in Beverly Hills of complications from a brain tumor. He was 82.
As head of Roy Gerber and Associates from 1978-2002, Gerber managed a string of entertainers that included Diahann Carroll, Vic Damone, George Gobel, Shirley Jones, Jack Jones, Sid Caesar and Arsenio Hall.
From 1954-60, Gerber and associate Jim Murray were in charge of MCA’s Las Vegas office, where they booked the Rat Pack, Betty Grable and other major entertainers into the city’s clubs — as well as entertainers personally represented by Gerber such as Jerry Lewis, Edie Adams and Victor Borge.
In the early ’60s, Gerber and former business partner Norman Weiss joined General Artists Corp., where they represented the Beatles, the Lovin’ Spoonful, the Mamas and the Papas, Johnny Rivers, Richard Pryor, Tom Jones and others.
Bill Gerber said his father was just like Oscar in “Odd Couple.” “He was sloppy, he was a womanizer, he was the life of the party,” he said. Walter Matthau, who played Oscar on Broadway and in the 1968 movie version, later told Gerber that in playing the role, “I just did Roy, and it worked out great.”
Aaron Russo, who managed Bette Midler, promoted many successful rock acts of the 1960s and went on to produce films including “Trading Places,” died Aug. 24 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles after a six-year battle with cancer. He was 64.
Russo opened his own nightclub in Chicago, where he promoted such ’60s attractions as Janis Joplin and the Grateful Dead.
In the ’70s, Russo managed Midler, producing the Tony-winning “Clams on the Half-Shell Revue” that starred the singer. During that time he also managed the Manhattan Transfer.
Russo eventually turned to producing feature films, including 1979’s “The Rose,” which starred Midler as a self-destructive rock star, and 1983’s “Trading Places,” which starred Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd.
Jon Lucien, a singer whose deep baritone and soulful love songs made him a respected jazz artist for more than 35 years, died Aug. 18 in Poinciana, Fla., of respiratory complications after surgery. He was 65.
Born on the British Virgin Islands’ main island of Tortola and raised in St. Thomas, Lucien began performing in his teens.
His 1970 RCA album “I Am Now” launched a recording career that earned him a loyal following, though his hard-to-categorize style never brought him breakout success.
Among his songs were “Rashida,” “Lady Love,” “Dindi,” “You Don’t Need Me,” “Hello Like Before” and “Sweet Control.” His recordings of “Rashida” and “Lady Love” garnered Grammy nominations for arranger Dave Grusin in 1974.
Chari Shanker, who served as production director of the Los Angeles Opera and more recently of Opera Pacific in Orange County, died Aug. 19 after a severe allergic reaction. She was 55.
As a production manager, Shanker coordinated the dozens of pieces that make up a major opera production.
She joined the Los Angeles Opera as production stage manager in 1989 and rose to become production director before she left in 2005.
During that time, the company attracted wide attention with productions of John Adams’ “Nixon in China” in the 1990 season and Richard Strauss’ “Die Frau Ohne Schatten,” with sets by David Hockney, in the 1993 season, among others. There were a record eight new productions in the 2001 season, when Placido Domingo became artistic director.
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