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Robert Lasky, the motion picture attorney and co-founder of the Agency for the Performing Arts who represented such clients as Liberace, Johnny Cash, Brigitte Bardot and Harry Belafonte during his long career, has died. He was 91.
Lasky died Sept. 16 of complications from sepsis at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, his family announced.
In 1962, Lasky played an integral role in the launching of APA in New York alongside fellow co-founders David Baumgarten, Roger Vorce and Harvey Litwin. The agency went on to open offices in Los Angeles, Nashville, Atlanta, Toronto and London and today represents a roster of clients that includes Gary Oldman, Mary J. Blige, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson and Famke Janssen.
A native of Brooklyn, Lasky worked with Italian writer and director Lina Wertmüller on such films as Seven Beauties (1975), for which she became the first woman to receive an Oscar nomination for best director.
He also provided advice to Italian producer Marcello Danon for La Cage Aux Folles (1978) and its Hollywood adaptation, The Birdcage (1996); to the producers of the Academy Award-winning documentary Hotel Terminus: The Life and Times of Klaus Barbie (1988); and to the producers behind the popular ABC sitcom Home Improvement.
Lasky was a longtime friend and legal adviser to leading Italian film executive Adriana Chiesa Di Palma — who headed up Medusa Distribuzione until the 1990s before launching her own company — as well as to her husband, late cinematographer Carlo Di Palma, who shot such films as Woody Allen’s Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) and Bullets Over Broadway (1994).
“He was elegant from the inside out,” Di Palma said in a statement. “He always had a solution and offered a straightforward answer.”
Lasky also contributed to the founding of the advertising agency Lois Holland Callaway and worked on a range of innovations including the 1968 launch of its employment agency, Mantle Men & Namath Girls, featuring New York sports legends Mickey Mantle and Joe Namath.
Born Robert Lawrence Lasky of Russian and Hungarian descent, he attended Harvard University, where he was elected Phi Betta Kappa and graduated magna cum laude in 1951.
He received his bachelor of laws degree from Yale School of Law in 1955 and was one of four individuals awarded the coveted Henry Fellowship to Oxford University. In between his studies, he was recruited by the War Department as an “analyst” during the Korean War.
Lasky began his legal career at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind & Garrison before opening his own practice on Madison Avenue in New York at age 32. He worked with Brigitte Bardot, Josephine Baker, Tony Bennett, Italian writer-producer Franco Cristaldi (Cinema Paradiso, Amarcord), Marcello Mastroianni and Belafonte, who once quipped, “Lasky, you are classy from coast to coast!”
Lasky had personal and professional relationships with Sophia Loren, Les Paul, Philippe Petit (Man on Wire) and From Here to Eternity novelist James Jones, who according to the family, once reminisced in a letter about an evening in Paris: “I immensely enjoyed that night that you and I sat up somewhat stoned, talking about all those multitudinous things which people somehow seem to feel they will be penalized by God, or Someone, if they even mention them. I have not forgotten that night.”
He also worked with The Paris Review founders Peter Matthiessen and George Plimpton in an effort to ensure that robust legal representation be available to emerging writers.
Lasky continued practicing law into his late 80s. One of his more recent dealings was helping to facilitate the acquisition of the Les Paul music archives by the Library of Congress in 2013.
Survivors include his wife of 55 years, Astrid, and their children, Alexander and Clarissa. A memorial is planned for the spring, pending the COVID-19 situation.
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