Harold Brown Honored as Beverly Hills Bar Entertainment Lawyer of the Year

Craig Ferguson roasted everyone nervy enough to speak at the Montage tribute.
Lee Salem
From left: Craig Ferguson, Harold Brown and Beverly Hills Bar Association CEO Marc Staenberg

Prominent transactionalist Harold Brown of Gang, Tyre, Ramer & Brown was honored earlier this week as the 2017 Beverly Hills Bar Entertainment Lawyer of the Year, with Craig Ferguson emceeing in front of a crowd of several hundred lawyers and others at the Montage Beverly Hills hotel.

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter before the ceremony — and constantly interrupted by hugs and handshakes from well-wishers — Brown said, “It’s friends. Your colleagues are friends. It’s a small bar and you have a relationship.”

And the biggest change in his practice in recent years? “Email.” It has shrunk his daily phone load from 120 calls to about 10.

But whatever the medium, the business runs on relationships, and the strength of Brown’s with colleagues and clients was on vivid display during the dinner event. The honoree was feted by lawyers including his partner Bruce Ramer and Rufus-Isaacs, Acland & Grantham’s Alexander Rufus-Isaacs, Howard Fisher, Fox Rothschild’s Los Angeles managing partner Darrell Miller, McPherson Rane’s Pierre Pine and Beverly Hills Bar Association CEO Marc Staenberg. Brown also received accolades from Melvin Oliver, the president of Pitzer College, where Brown is vice-chair of the board of trustees.

A tribute video included such notable clients as Stephen Spielberg, Gwyneth Paltrow, Stephen King, Michael De Luca, Jack Rapke, David Linde and others. Ramer appeared on the video as well, commenting that “If it’s broke, he can’t fix it. If it isn’t, it will be.”

But that gentle roast was no match for Ferguson, who introduced various speakers as “a noted transvestite,” a former “dancer at Spearmint Rhino,” “the inventor of a sneaker,” a “trusted advisor to the Queen” or in other ways too zany to report.

Also better left unsaid is the reason Brown appears shirtless in the tribute video. Suffice it to say that he doesn’t quite measure up to his client Dwayne Johnson, aka The Rock. “Stupid shit has a long life,” said Brown.

When Ferguson later began to recite, “There once was a man from Nantucket,” the crowd laughed as he pivoted to another topic rather than complete the rhyme. But verse was oddly appropriate: Brown had originally wanted to be a poet, not a lawyer. When MFA programs rejected him and law schools didn’t, he instead followed in the footsteps of his late father, an attorney and USC law professor — and even more so in those of his late mother, entertainment attorney Hermione Brown.

Yes, like mother, like son. Today, the most famous Hermione in Hollywood (and the world) is no doubt Harry Potter’s friend Hermione Granger, but for many years in Hollywood, at least, it was Hermione Brown, a trailblazer who represented such clients as Groucho Marx and Marilyn Monroe and was the original “Brown” in Gang, Tyre, Ramer & Brown. She had been first in her class at USC Law School and joined Gang, Tyre in 1947.

The powerhouse firm — ensconced for many years in a horrid concrete blockhouse by the Cinerama Dome, but now more comfortably situated in fashionable Beverly Hills digs — welcomed Harold Brown to its ranks in 1976. It was the only place Brown had ever wanted to practice. Mother and son worked together for a quarter century.

And were she still around, she would probably have echoed their partner, Ramer, who said, “[Harold] has been and will be every year’s entertainment lawyer of the year.”