Agent Jim Murray Dies at 85

Jim Murray (left) with singer Paul Williams in the '70s.

He was a big part of the Las Vegas scene for four decades and represented such stars as Tony Bennett, George Burns, Phyllis Diller, Jerry Lewis and Joan Rivers.

Jim Murray, a longtime agent who in the 1970s ran ICM’s offices in Las Vegas and Los Angeles, died Dec. 16 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles after a brief illness, his wife said Wednesday. He was 85.

Among the artists Murray helped bring to Las Vegas marquees were Paul Anka, Tony Bennett, Jack Benny, George Burns, Natalie Cole, Phyllis Diller, Florence Henderson, Tom Jones, Jerry Lewis, Barry Manilow, Liza Minnelli, Dolly Parton, Shirley MacLaine, Joan Rivers and Paul Williams.

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Murray survived the November 1980 fire at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas that killed 85 people. While another one of his clients, country singer Mac Davis, performed at the hotel, Murray was staying on the 20th floor.

Born Murray Fusco to a Sicilian-Catholic father and an Austrian-Jewish mother in the Bronx, Murray began his entertainment career as a drummer in the Army Air Corps and The Glenn Miller Band. At one time, he performed with singer Eydie Gorme.

Murray got a job in the mailroom at MCA in New York in 1943, eventually rising to senior VP. He served his clients through several company mergers that included United Talent Management, General Artists Corp., Creative Management Associates, and finally, ICM, which came together in 1974.

For a period in the 1970s, Murray led ICM’s offices in Las Vegas and Los Angeles at the same time; from 1954-60, he ran the Vegas business with fellow agent Roy Gerber, playwright Neil Simon’s real-life inspiration for the Oscar Madison character in The Odd Couple. Murray retired in 1986.

Survivors include Gloria, his wife of 40 years; daughters Jaci and Ceceli; and sister Gloria. A private burial is scheduled.