Ed Limato, 73, one of the most legendary Hollywood talent agents ever, died on Saturday after a long illness. Ed, a bon vivant who lived in splendor in a Beverly Hills mansion with a massive, rolling lawn, was one of a kind.
It was in March 2001 that Ed Limato gave what was probably the best of his famous Oscar parties. I attended as a guest of the great Caroline Graham. We were working on a Talk magazine Oscar issue. Remember Talk magazine?
Anyway, I chronicled the night in two columns. They can be found here:
This is what I remember: in the large party tent set up on Ed’s lawn, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts came in, talked to a small group of people including me and Diana Ross, and told he was definitely running for president in 2004. I reported this in my Fox411 column, but it was Fox News, and no one took it seriously.
I also remember Diana Ross with all her kids, dancing together joyously. And David Selby, the terrific actor, telling me that Ed Limato had been his one and only agent through his whole career. Despite Limato adding Mel Gibson (then sane), Denzel Washington, Michelle Pfeiffer and other movie stars over the years, he’d remained loyal to Selby. And vice versa.
In succeeding years, the Limato party was still a big deal, but his clients were winding down. For the 2001 Talk Oscar issue, I sent writer Ross Johnson (now with PMK-BNC) to interview Ed about his Oscar party.
Ross wrote: “Limato began having friends over to his home for a pre-Oscar party in the early 1990s. It was a small group including Gere, the late Herb Ritts, and top actors who had jetted in from all over the world for Oscar weekend. The cost of the party back then was about $10,000. (Limato has always paid for the party out of his own pocket.)
“But when agent Irving “Swifty” Lazar died in December of 1993, the balance of power in Oscar party politics changed. Lazar had hosted an incredibly popular post-Oscar party for almost three decades, but now the torch was passed to Limato and Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter.
It’s hard to call a party for 400 ambitious showbiz types as “private,” and certainly the tab for Limato’s bash has risen (it now costs him $150,000). But Limato refuses to budge on one very appreciated attribute of his affair: He is dedicated to making sure his guests have fun.
“The secret of having a good party is a good mix of guests,” said Limato. “You need rich people and not so rich people, beautiful people and homely people, successful types and not so successful, and people who like to drink a little too much and people who don’t.”
Certainly, the history of Limato’s John Wolf-designed home is conducive to frivolity. It was built in 1936 as a honeymoon retreat for Dick Powell and Joan Blondell. George Raft and Betty Grable nested here during their mating days. Diana Dors, a later owner, was once tossed into the swimming pool amid a bash that got out of control.
In contrast to today’s button-downed, vertically-integrated, cross-promoted Los Angeles, the concept of things getting a little out of control behind closed doors does not frighten Limato.
Limato is asked how he would have handled one of the most notorious moments in recent Hollywood social history. Back in 1998, Arnold Rifkin was the president of the William Morris Agency, and tried to steal some of Limato’s thunder by hosting a pre-Oscar party at his home.
There was a faux paus. During the party, Michael De Luca, the then-president of New Line Films, received what is known as an indecent oral tribute [update: he was pleasured quite publicly] from a sister of a William Morris agent. The randy act was witnessed by some party goers. When host Rifkin was informed, he had a security guard march De Luca and his date from the premises.
Rifkin’s reign at William Morris, and as an agent, ended shortly thereafter. (De Luca was subsequently bounced out of New Line, but was then hired to a top position at DreamWorks. He’s since gone on to be a much more conservative producer.) According to Limato, one can’t host a Hollywood bash without being a little, er, flexible.
Limato says that, if he was presented with a similar situation as the one presented Rifkin, “I wouldn’t have batted an eyelash. You can’t have a party as successful as my parties and say ‘You can’t do this. You can’t do that.'”
Limato knows a thing or two about creative types and their ways. “I would have never thrown De Luca out of my house,” says Limato.
“I would have just said, ‘Why don’t you go upstairs and use my bedroom?”
Of such decisions Oscar legends are made.
PS Despite the glowing report, neither Ross nor I was invited to the 2002 party. Ed decided he didn’t like the press attention we’d given him.