The last Hollywood link to Marilyn Monroe, Elvis and dozens of other entertainment icons has died.
Norman R. Brokaw, a “legend” of a talent agent behind the scenes of his famous clients, was said to have introduced Monroe to future husband and baseball star Joe Dimaggio.
Browkaw represented cultural icons such as Clint Eastwood, Gerald Ford, Ivana Trump and Vin Scully. He died Saturday in Beverly Hills at the age of 89 after a long illness, according to his son, David. Private services were pending.
“My father was a legend in his beloved profession, but his greatness rings true by the generous spirit and enormous heart he displayed every day of his life,” said his son, Joel Brokaw.
The sixth of six sons born to Isidore and Marie Brokaw, the talent agent was born April 21, 1927 in New York City and begin his career in 1943 as the William Morris Agency’s first West Coast mail room trainee.
Named the company’s first “junior” agent, he worked under Ben F. Holzman, who represented Al Jolson and Eddie Cantor.
As television was emerging as a new medium in the early 1950s, Brokaw started the agency’s West Coast television department.
As a first step, he made a list of actors who had been important in motion pictures, but were not in as much demand. On another paper, he listed the names of directors who did “10-day wonder” low-budget films, and who knew how to deliver product fast and inexpensively.
From there, “My Little Margie,” “Public Defender,” “Racket Squad” and “Mr. and Mrs. North” became some early television hits.
By then he would drive a young Marilyn Monroe to her auditions and appearances and at one point introduced Monroe to baseball Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio, her future husband.
In the 1960s, Brokaw called television producer Sheldon Leonard and asked him to consider Cosby for the groundbreaking role in “I-Spy,” which also starred Robert Culp.
Over the next four decades, Brokaw co-designed and orchestrated Cosby’s work in film, publishing, commercials, recording and the long-running series, “The Cosby Show.”
His signing of President Gerald Ford and Betty Ford resulted in a new approach for politicians, military leaders and other dignitaries to chart their careers following public service.
Brokaw’s signing of seven-time Olympic gold medalist Mark Spitz following the 1976 Munich Olympics helped started the William Morris Agency’s sports division. And he also helped weather reporter Kelly Lange secure a major broadcast deal with NBC.
His list of clients also included Donna Summer, Brooke Shields, Ivana Trump and Vin Scully.
Brokaw was elected president and CEO of the William Morris Agency in February 1989, becoming its chairman two years later. He served on the board of directors of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center for several decades and was made a Life Trustee.
Brokaw, whose maternal grandparents and their children came to America in 1898 as the Haidaburas, the first Russian acrobatic dance troupe to appear on the American vaudeville stage, is survived by his wife Marguerite Longley, sons David Brokaw, Sanford Brokaw (spouse Katie Gallagher) and Joel Brokaw (Birte Kalz); daughters Barbara Brokaw, Wendy Brokaw Kretchmer (John Kretchmer) and Lauren Brokaw, and five grandchildren.
“He worked up until he could no longer work, all to make sure his family was taken care of,” said his daughter, Lauren. “I get my love of fashion and style from him. I would not be the person I am Saturday if not for his generosity and support.”
Memorial donations can be made to St. Jude Research Hospital or Cedars- Sinai Medical Center.
—City News Service