Last Thursday afternoon, on the way to the Emmy Awards, I stopped by the Players Club on Gramercy Park to say goodbye to a great friend. Johnnie Planco, who’d spent 20 years or more at the real William Morris agency and then started his own management agency with Gene Parsheghian, got a beautiful send off.
There were enough famous actors in the room to make a hit movie. Among them: Oscar winner F. Murray Abraham and Tony winner Phylicia Rashad, each of whom spoke eloquently about their friend. Oscar nominee Paul Schrader, actor Arliss Howard, Scott Glenn, and agents Rick Nicita and Kevin Huvane, also eulogized Johnnie along with his two adult children, Alfred and Sarah. Their lovely mother, Lois Planco, helped organize the event with my old pal from publishing, Rich Barber.
Also in the audience: Marlo Thomas, Tony Roberts, Debra Winger (Mrs. Howard), and dozens of old family friends including Jason Weinberg, Fran Curtis and husband Brian Dubin. The only people who weren’t there were Peter O’Toole and Lauren Bacall, but they were there in spirit. Bacall’s son Sam Robards and his beautiful wife, Sidsel, represented their family. The great director and actor Don Scardino and Tony nominee Elizabeth Davis performed.
Murray Abraham, who won the Oscar in 1982 for “Amadeus,” recalled that a few years later his work had dried up and he wasn’t getting calls. Johnnie found him and said: “I don’t know if I can get you work but we can have a lot of fun and good conversation while we try.” After that Abraham never stopped working. Everyone had similar stories. Johnnie was like an actor-whisperer.
Johnnie, like a lot of older pals who’ve passed over recent years, will be in my heart and memory forever. He was a gentle guy, and so sharp and smart. Everyone loved him. His passing at 68 is just tragic. God bless.