Movie Producer Jerry Weintraub Dead at 77
Producer Jerry Weintraub died at the age of 77 on Monday (July 6) in California, following a heart attack. While he is certainly known for his success as a motion picture producer thanks to projects including the Ocean's Eleven series, Nancy Drew and The Karate Kid, his fingerprints are all over the country music world as well.
Weintraub was instrumental in John Denver's career and spent decades promoting some of the biggest stars in the world, including Elvis Presley, Dolly Parton, the Moody Blues, Frank Sinatra, the Beach Boys and more.
Weintraub was born on Sept. 26, 1937, in Brooklyn and was raised in the Bronx. He was a waiter and theater usher (proof that his love for the theater started at a young age) during his formative years, then began a career at MCA; he started out as a mailroom clerk and worked his way into a position as assistant to the company's manager, Lew Wasserman.
Eventually, Weintraub left MCA to form his own management company. In 1970, he signed country singer and actor Denver, after seeing Denver performing in Greenwich Village as he was beginning his solo career. Working with Weintraub, Denver produced hit after hit, including his first Top 10 album, Rocky Mountain High; four No. 1 songs ("Sunshine on My Shoulders," "Annie's Song," "Thank God I'm a Country Boy" and "I'm Sorry"); and an ultra-impressive three No. 1 albums.
"He would be a test case for all my theories on selling and packaging, for everything I had learned since I left home," Weintraub said.
Weintraub was a huge asset to Denver's success, and the country singer bought him a Rolls-Royce as an act of gratitude.
"I couldn't help thinking that it wasn't too long ago that neither of us had bus fare," Weintraub recalled.
Also during that time, Weintraub promoted Presley, Sinatra and, later on, Bob Dylan.
Weintraub was also instrumental in making Denver a notable actor: He produced many television music specials staring the singer (and won an Emmy), and, in 1977, Weintraub produced the film Oh, God!, starring Denver and George Burns, which launched him into his now-exulted career as a motion picture producer.
However, Weintraub's success led to an acrimonious end to his relationship with Denver, both personally and professionally, and they did not reconcile before the singer's death in 1997, which was one of Weintraub's biggest regrets.
“I considered him a great friend,” Weintraub wrote in his autobiography, When I Stop Talking, You’ll Know I’m Dead (quote via Taste of Country). “He was in my will as one of the executors of my estate, taking care of my kids should anything happen to me. We were that close.”
Weintraub is survived by his wife Jane (from whom he was separated but never divorced); his longtime companion, Susan Elkins; four children; five grandchildren; and his brother Melvyn. Funeral services will be private, but a public memorial service will be announced.
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