Celebrities

Ed Limato: A tribute to the iconic agent to the stars

by Tova Laiter

“Great legends,” Ed Limato was quoted as saying “are usually people who die young because they didn’t live long enough to spoil their image.”

How prescient. Ed Limato, who with his abundant energy and envious vitality was going to outlive us all, died young enough to cement his reputation as a legend and leave the people in his life still mourning his passing 4 years later. At his memorial, a friend said to me: “Ed left and he took his world with him.”

I couldn’t agree more. Those larger than life personalities don’t just walk among us but instead create a world that is singular, exciting, fun and rewarding. And I’m not talking about his legendary Oscar parties or the incredible roster of stars that he represented: Richard Gere, Michelle Pfeiffer, Mel Gibson, Denzel Washington, Steve Martin, Faye Dunaway, Sharon Stone, among others. What I’m talking about is Ed Limato, a friend of 35 years and a man of exceptional character.

A normal Sunday evening after a screening at Ed’s would find us having a drink in the living room, graced by the exquisite Fortuny wallpaper, surrounded by beautiful antiques he picked up himself and listening to artists nobody listens to anymore, like Marlene Dietrich.

Say what?

I saw Marlene in concert when I was a child in another country – she was alone on stage wearing elegant black, orchestra heard but not seen, captivating an audience for two hours without the help of gyrating dancers or amplified sound. Where else in Los Angeles can one listen to the likes of Marlene Dietrich?

Ed-Limato's-Oscar-Invite
When Ed gave his famous pre-Oscar parties at his house on Plymouth, he had his elderly Italian parents front and center in the open kitchen, not to be missed by all the stars, power brokers and friends who stopped by to say hello and chat. Mom was draped with all the jewelry he kept bestowing on her, and Dad, not quite the same apparently since falling off a roof decades before, smiled his beatific smile. Yes it was a jaw-dropping array of stars (and when those party veterans Jack Nicholson and Warren Beatty dropped by, you knew the party had a seal of approval), but Ed’s parents in the kitchen set the mood for an intimate gathering. No ’event’ here, thank you very much!

Who in L.A. has their elderly Italian parents live with them in their mansion? Who makes their stars feel that the biggest honor they can have is be invited home to eat his mother’s meatballs? He never failed to throw them elegant birthdays, anniversaries and holiday parties and treated them like royalty, while simultaneously working 24/7 to attend to his starry clients demanding careers.

When I ran Freddie Fields‘ company (we produced Glory with Ed’s client Denzel Washington), my office was across the street from ICM and sometimes, after a really challenging day, I would pop by his office after work (since he always worked later than all of us) for a needed adrenaline shot.

One time, I witnessed a ‘bomb’ dropped into his lap: A star client brought on another star client on a project that he was intending to produce. Together they hired a director client, but now the second star and the director called to declare that the original star is ‘not right for the role’. I saw Ed cover his face with his hands in desperation. This is not solvable without detonating an explosion, I thought, barely breathing from the tension. It seemed a hopeless mess but after a few minutes, Ed sprung to action: “Get me the managers of everyone involved,” he asked his cadre of just as traumatized assistants.

I respectfully tiptoed out of the room and I never heard anything more about it again. All the clients involved were still friends and colleagues and if you weren’t in that room that evening, you would never have known there was a problem.

Needless to say that is not how most conflicts get resolved on a daily basis in Hollywood.

Over the years, I used to ask the different sets of #1, #2 and #3 assistants (as they were affectionately and functionally known), what they thought made Ed such a good agent? The answer was always the same: ‘He cares’.

He cared about his clients, his family, his friends… about the cultural history of the movies and L.A.’s architectural heritage. He cared enough about the first-mentioned to personally buy each one of them Christmas presents (no personal shopper here!).

This explains why his legions of assistants, whom he used to yell at and demand from when frustrated and stressed, still get together on his birthday and swap funny and loving stories about him. Stories that we, friends and colleagues, also share. Yes, he could be imperious and grand, demanding and impossible, but ultimately, it was all about him wanting to elevate everybody’s game professionally and personally.

To that end, he also gave us his love, generosity and unwavering loyalty. We all felt privileged to be included in Ed Limato’s world… it was glamorous, educational, fun and safe… and outside of this bubble, it was mostly Hollywood business as usual.

Ed and Tova

Ed and Tova

Here’s to you Ed… we miss you and would have loved to celebrate your birthday today. Just us — friends, clients, #1, #2, #3, mom and dad — enjoying home cooked meatballs served in gleaming, antique silver plates, below the romantically lit chandelier in the elegant dining room, surrounded by the silver framed pictures of all your beloved stars.

Images: Richard Gere; Denzel Washington Everett Collection / Shutterstock.com; Denzel Washington Everett Collection / Shutterstock.com; Warren Beatty & Jack Nicholson Featureflash / Shutterstock.com; Michelle Pfeiffer s_bukley / Shutterstock.com; Faye Dunaway Jaguar PS / Shutterstock.com; Steve Martin Everett Collection / Shutterstock.com

Tova Laiter

About Tova Laiter

Tova Laiter is a producer (VARSITY BLUES) and has held executive positions at Warner Bros., Imagine Entertainment and Cinergi. She blogs for Huffington Post and Indiewire, and is curating a Q&A series for the New York Film Academy. Please follow on Twitter: @realtovalaiter

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