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Ed Limato was the last of the larger-than-life agents, harkening to those pre-Michael Ovitz days before talent agentry went corporate. He represented, at one time or another, Kevin Costner, Meryl Streep, even Ava Gardner, and longtime clients Denzel Washington, Mel Gibson and Richard
Gere. But what Limato — who died in July at age 73 of complications from emphysema — really represented was the kind of grandness, typically called Old Hollywood, that fused a measure of ethical practice with a penchant for having a damn good time. It’s a passing that’s being marked with a Jan. 11 invitation-only memorial at Paramount (with a screening of George Cukor’s A Star Is Born) as well as the sale of his estate and Beverly Hills house to benefit his foundation.
The French Regency-style house, with a price tag of $15.5 million, was the setting for one of the most star-studded annual Oscar parties of the past two decades. “Ed’s Oscar party was so expressive of his personality and how much he cared about the way things looked and felt for his friends and clients,” says Ellen Ziffren, former vp special projects at ICM. “He really wanted to do something gorgeous and over the top.” True, the 9,000 square feet of Limato’s estate, called Heather House, featured a swirl of gilt furniture, marble bathrooms and crystal chandeliers, but when you arrived on the Friday before the Oscars, Ed was always there to greet you, barefoot, in one of the Versace shirts Donatella made specially for him. “He had multiple passions,” says John Aaroe Group realtor and longtime friend Dan Sullivan, who is selling the property. “The love of film, the love of that old house and the love of his work.”
The proof was on the piano, where pictures of his clients were given family placement; or in his 20-seat “Marlene Dietrich” screening room, where Limato could run a favorite old movie created by the kind of industry people — people like him — who made the kind of movies they don’t make anymore.
Built in 1937 by Dick Powell and Joan Blondell and later occupied by George Raft, Heather House came to Limato with a built-in Hollywood pedigree that he grew, piece by piece, for the rest of his life. The bronze pelican statue (a gift from Washington, est. $1,200-$1,500), a Russian landscape painting (from Michelle Pfeiffer, est. $2,500-$3,500) and other highlights from the collection will be sold at Commerce, Calif.-based A.N. Abell Auction Co. on Feb. 20. Proceeds will benefit the Edward F. Limato Charitable Foundation, dedicated to arts education, motion picture preservation and gay youth outreach.
Limato was a real throwback — not just in style but in practice. “It wasn’t the deal that mattered to Ed, it was the client,” good friend and client Michael York says. “He was fiercely protective. They were his family. His life.”
Limato, who grew up in a middle-class Italian-American family in Mount Vernon, N.Y., sailed to the top from the mailroom of Ashley-Famous Agency, which became International Famous Agency, which merged with Creative Management Associates to become, finally, ICM. He transferred to William Morris in 1978, and back to ICM in 1988. Then, after a legal battle with his home agency, Limato, known for his sometimes-ballistic temper, broke from ICM in 2007, returned to WMA and stayed through the Endeavor merger. One thing went unchanged: Ed Limato’s Hollywood was a noble business — sometimes ruthless, but never undignified. If he had to yell at you, he’d send flowers the next day.
At home, money was no object. “When he bought this house,” says co-executor and former assistant Richard Konigsberg, “he turned to his business manager and said, ‘I don’t have to do anything to it. It’s in perfect condition.’ And from the day he bought it, for 15 years, he redid almost every room.” Limato made $6 million worth of renovations that included a billiard room with an aquarium and a wood-paneled walk-in closet, furnished with his collection of die-cast model cars. “He only purchased things he liked,” Konigsberg says.
If he really liked it, he’d get two. Take Limato’s Keeshond dogs, beginning with Duke One and Duke Two, then Duchess One and Two. Cheyenne Two (since adopted by Sullivan) is the last hound standing. Similarly, Limato’s three assistants were, quite famously, referred to by number — 1, 2 or 3 — and always with a twinkle. Says Konigsberg: “That’s his sense of humor.”
— Daniel Miller contributed to this report.
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