Valenti 'ultimate leading man'


The death of Jack Valenti, whose career spanned nearly four decades and covered two of America's most important power centers — Hollywood and Washington — was marked with an outpouring of support and condolences from some of the most recognizable names in entertainment and politics.

"In a sometimes unreasonable business, Jack Valenti was a giant voice of reason," said Steven Spielberg. "He was the greatest ambassador Hollywood has ever known, and I will value his wisdom and friendship for all time."

Spielberg's was a sentiment that reverberated through many of the lives Valenti touched.

"Jack's love for his country and the entertainment industry was only overshadowed by his love for his family and the many charitable organizations to which he was devoted," Warner Bros. chairman and CEO Barry Meyer said. "On behalf of all my colleagues at Warner Bros., our heartfelt condolences are with Mary Margaret, his children, grandchildren and the millions and millions of people who were directly or indirectly touched by Jack."

Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., who sparred with Valenti over numerous policy disputes, called him a "class act."

"Though short in stature, Jack Valenti was a giant," Markey said. "He moved from the White House to 'Casablanca' without blinking an eye. He traveled through life across the arc of politics and entertainment, from Texas to Washington to Hollywood, in a way never achieved before and unlikely to be seen again."

Valenti's successor, MPAA chairman and CEO Dan Glickman, who dealt with him as a congressman and a cabinet secretary, said he embodied the spirit of the industry.

"Jack was a showman, a gentleman, an orator and a passionate champion of this country, its movies and the enduring freedoms that made both so important to this world," Glickman said. "He also embodied the theatricality of our industry with his conviction, quick wit and boundless energy. In a very real sense, he was the ultimate leading man."

Paramount Pictures chairman and CEO Brad Grey called him a "dear friend." "A great American, Jack leaves behind an extraordinary legacy and will be deeply missed," he said.

Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., one of the critical players on copyright policy in Washington, said Valenti's fame and power never overinflated his ego.

"I can't think of another industry that has had a representative so well known and so highly regarded or one so accessible in spite of his considerable fame," Berman said. "A call to Jack was often returned from Geneva or China or Cannes, but it was always returned within hours. He was much more, though, than a lobbyist."

DGA president Michael Apted called him "fearless and eloquent."

"Movies meant more to Jack than just boxoffice and balance sheets," Apted said. "He was a true fan of the art form, and he cherished his kinship with directors and other creative artists."

News Corp. president and COO Peter Chernin said Valenti's bravado never hid his humility.

"He was known the world over for his keen intelligence, steely confidence and infallible style," Chernin said. "But to those of us who knew him well, he will be remembered as a man of enormous passion and humility. A man who genuinely cared about doing the right thing and who never looked away when someone was in need."

NATO president John Fithian called him "the best leader the movie industry ever had."

"He was uniquely gifted in bridging the differences between Hollywood and Washington," Fithian added. "He will be missed by all the theater operators in the world."

Bo Andersen, president of the Entertainment Merchants Assn., praised him, though the industry was built after the studios lost the fight over the VCR.

"Although home video retailers are one of the few groups that can claim they beat Jack Valenti in a legislative fight, he carried no animus," Andersen said. "He was much more than a master of the phrase. He gave shape to ideas and masterfully shaped the posture of an industry."

Valenti's lives touched many, and a close associate said the caddies at Burning Tree Country Club were mourning Valenti's death.

"They told me they are all sad out there," the associate said. "They all thought he was a great guy."

Added Independent Film & Television Alliance president and CEO Jean Prewitt: "I've known Jack for more than 25 years as a colleague, friend and mentor. He was the absolute consummate gentleman who loved every facet of our industry and its people — no matter what their role in the business. We'll never forget Jack and his legacy. There will never be anyone like him."