Pioneering female agent represented Barbra Streisand, Ryan O’Neal and Faye Dunaway, among other well-knowns
Former agent Sue Mengers, who pioneered behind-the-scenes roles for women in Hollywood, died at her home in Beverly Hills Saturday.
The news was first reported by Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter, who blogged Sunday that Mengers died from a series of small strokes, surrounded by close friends Ali MacGraw, Joanna Poitier, and Boaty Boatwright.
Mengers — who kept her real age secret, although she was widely believed to be around 80 — was one of Hollywood's most powerful agents in the 1970s.
Her clients included Barbra Streisand, Michael Caine, Ryan O'Neal, Faye Dunaway, Gen Hackman, Cher, Joan Collins, Burt Reynolds and Nick Nolte.
Mengers also repped powerful directors like Sidney Lumet, Brian De Palma, Bob Fosse, Mike Nichols and Peter Bogdanovich.
According to biographical data provided by her former employer, ICM, Mengers was born in 1932 in Hamburg, Germany, and immigrated to the United States with her family, all refugees from the Holocaust.
Settling in Utica, N.Y., her father eventually became a traveling salesman. When Sue was about 11 years old, her father committed suicide. Sue and her mother relocated to The Bronx, where her mother took a job as a bookkeeper.
"She was a girlish 70-plus, who never looked her age — and with an ever-present joint in her hand, she didn’t act it either," Carter blogged. "Sue was a Holocaust baby, arriving in upstate New York before America entered the war. Nobody in her family spoke English, and like so many immigrants, she set her sites on a career in show business."
Mengers entered the agency business in 1955 as an MCA receptionist.
She eventually moved onto William Morris as a secretary, remaining there until a former colleague, Tom Korman, formed his own agency and hired her as a partner.
Mengers' first big client was Julie Harris, a Broadway star who wanted to appear on the TV show "Bonanza."
Mengers went ont to represent Anthony Perkins, who had not worked since Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho" (1960). She contacted producer Ray Stark and obtained Perkins a role in director René Clément's film Is Paris Burning? (1966).
Some time in the late 1960s or early 1970s, according to ICM, she was hired by Creative Management Associates (CMA), a boutique agency owned by Freddie Fields and David Begelman, which later became ICM.
On May 5, 1973, Mengers married Belgian writer-director Jean-Claude Tramont. Barbra Streisand was her maid of honor. Tramont died December 27, 1996. Mengers leaves no survivors.
"She loved movie stars — she called them “sparklies” … This was why she came to California," Carter wrote. "And it’s what made her such an integral part of the movie community, if you can still call it that. Sue always wanted to call the autobiography she never wrote, "When I was Alive." Like the great character that she was, that marvelous, never-written book went with her.