Hollywood will never be the same without this legendary producer’s unmistakeable voice and infectious optimism, writes Rich Cohen, who profiled Weintraub for V.F. in 2008.
Life, it turns out, is sort of like summer camp. If you make one really good friend, or meet one really great person, consider yourself blessed. For me and thousands of other lucky people, Jerry Weintraub, street kid, handsome devil, music promoter, film producer, and all-around knock-around pal, was that guy.
He came out of New York in the early 60s with nothing but his wit and charm and wild desire to experience all life has to offer. He ended up with the fame and wealth and property and the rest of it, but mostly the man had friends. He knew everyone. He was everyone’s key guy. He was the guy behind the guy. He was the guy behind the guy behind the guy. And the guy behind that.
The news of his death, at whatever age Jerry was claiming at the time—like his favorite kind of weather, it was usually somewhere in the high 70s to low 80s—comes as a great shock and a sick joke. There will never be another like him. It took the perfect parents in the perfect neighborhood at the perfect moment to create Jerry Weintraub. If you accompanied him on a verbal jag, you never forgot the voice. Yes, there were the flashing eyes and the broad shoulders and the big hands and the huge laugh and the oddly patrician grin, but mostly there was the voice. Funny, wise, sardonic, and warm, it got in your head and stayed there. Even now, when I’m about to cop out or give up or give in, I hear it: “Don’t be a schmuck. Keep going. It’s gonna be great.”
Nothing could defeat him. We were together in 2008 when the stock market crashed. Watching the tumble of numbers, he smiled and said, “Look at that. Billions lost. And, among those billions, some of my millions.”
I’ll never forget driving in his yellow Rolls through Beverly Hills. A guy on a street corner called out, “Jerry, are ya happy?” Jerry sat back and looked around, as if to take inventory. “Hey, if I’m not happy,” he said, “there’s something seriously wrong with me.”
I’ll never forget the way he signed off each phone call: “I love ya, kid.” I’ll never forget the way he could lift you up when you were so low and there was no bottom. I’ll never forget the joy he took at being in the game, any game.
He died, but before he died he lived. I mean, he really lived. No one lived like that. Ask Elvis. Ask Sinatra. The man could sing with the best of them. The neon lights will be blazing above the pearly gates tonight: JERRY WEINTRAUB PRESENTS.
Jerry Weintraub died Monday of heart failure. He was 77.