Edie Wasserman, Wife of Lew Wasserman, Dies at 95

Edie Wasserman Walk of Fame - P 2011
John M. Heller/Getty Images

Edie Wasserman Walk of Fame - P 2011

UPDATED: She was a philanthropist, patron of education and the arts and for decades the "first lady" of Hollywood.

Edie Wasserman, the wife of the late, legendary Hollywood mogul Lew Wasserman, died Thursday of natural causes in Beverly Hills, a family spokesman said Thursday. She was 95.

A philanthropist, patron of education and the arts and for decades the “first lady” of Hollywood, Wasserman, along with her husband, founded the charitable Wasserman Foundation in 1952. She also demonstrated a steadfast commitment to the Motion Picture & Television Fund, serving for years on its board of directors. Co-chairing a committee that raised $35 million in the early '90s for the expansion of the Fund's Motion Picture Country Home for retired industry workers, she said, "The best thing I've done is to work for the Motion Picture Country Home. It's a marvelous place, and I love the work that is done there."

Her husband, who died at age 89 of complications from a stroke in 2002, arranged for her to have a birthday celebration each year at the Home.

The couple was married for nearly 66 years.

The daughter of a man who was the attorney for Moe Dalitz, head of the Jewish mob in Cleveland, she was born Edith Beckerman on Nov. 4, 1915, in Cleveland. She married Lew Wasserman in 1936 when he was a young agent at the MCA talent agency. She assisted him in his rise to power, first at MCA and then at Universal Pictures, which MCA took over in 1962, and where Lew Wasserman reigned as chairman from 1969-98.

In Hollywood, she became the classic woman behind the man, working outside the spotlight. She formed the first so-called Hollywood Wives Club with such friends as Janet LeighPolly Bergen and Rosemary Clooney. And she played hostess to everyone from movie stars to U.S. presidents.

Lew claimed he didn't make a major move without consulting his "Madame." 

Chris Dodd, CEO and chairman of the MPAA, called Edie and Lew friends who helped him during his years as a U.S. senator and great supporters of the MPAA and his predecessor, Jack Valenti.

“Edie will be especially remembered as a great philanthropist and patron of the arts and education whose generosity was legendary,” Dodd said, “especially when it came to the Motion Picture & Television Fund’s home for retired industry workers. Her commitment and dedication to these causes knew no bounds and serves as a model to us all.”

Survivors include daughter Lynne Wasserman; grandson Casey Wasserman, the head of Wasserman Media Group and the president and CEO of the Wasserman Foundation; granddaughter Carol Leif; and great-grandchildren Emmet and Stella Wasserman and Jake Parker.

E-mail: Mike.Barnes@THR.com