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Sue Mengers, one of Hollywood’s most influential and colorful agents, died October 15 at her home in Beverly Hills after a series of small strokes.
Her death was first reported by Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter in a blog post at VanityFair.com. Mengers, who claimed to be 78 although some sources list her age as 81, was surrounded by her friends Ali MacGraw, Joanna Poitier and Boaty Boatwright, Carter wrote.
Mengers, who at her peak in the ‘70s represented such stars as Barbra Streisand, Bob Fosse, Michael Caine, Peter Bogdanovich, Ryan O’Neal and Faye Dunaway, blazed a trail for women agents in Hollywood.
“Her name became synonymous with women and what she helped us all to accomplish,” said Boatwright, a talent agent at ICM, “but her legend is really the vitality with which she lived life, and her wit, which will be celebrated in stories throughout our community for years to come.”
The child of German refugees, Mengers began her career as a receptionist at the MCA talent agency before being hired as a secretary at the William Morris Agency. She would go on to become an agent in 1967 at Creative Management Agency, which merged with International Famous Agency in 1975 to become ICM. Mengers stepped down from ICM in 1986, returned two years later for a brief stint at WMA, before permanently retiring.
Famous for her sharp, often caustic wit and her star-studded dinner parties, the larger-than-life Mengers was the inspiration for the character played by Dyan Cannon in the 1973 comedy mystery The Last of Sheila, co-written by Anthony Perkins, who was another of her clients.
“When she wound her career down in the ‘80s, Agent Sue became Hostess Sue—and she was even more successful in her new vocation. Dinner at Sue’s was like stepping into a Hollywood you imagined, but almost never experienced,” Carter recalled.
Looking back on her career in a 1993 Los Angeles Times profile, Mengers said, “Emulating the people I knew in the field–entirely male–I was tactless, contemptuous and made enemies needlessly. If I had to do it over again, I’d take on a bit more of the personality of (Paramount motion picture chief) Sherry Lansing, who has the ability to make people feel good. I rolled in there like a tank . . . but in any revolution you have to do something to get their attention. Women don’t have to act like that these days.”
Her husband, director Jean-Claude Tramont, who she married in 1973, died in 1996.
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