Harry Colomby, longtime collaborator with Michael Keaton, died on Christmas Day of complications resulting from a fall, his brother, Bobby Colomby, confirmed to TheWrap. Harry was 92.
Harry Colomby, who served as Keaton’s manager, writer and producer, created the sitcom “Working Stiffs” for Keaton, then went on to produce Keaton’s films “Johnny Dangerously,” “Touch and Go” and “Mr. Mom.”
Wrote Keaton in an Instagram post: “My former mgr/biz partner and most of all, friend, The great Harry Colomby has moved on. Unlikeliest of matches, we thought the same, felt the same and laughed at the same things. He was kindhearted, curious, thoughtful and man, was he funny. Forget “was”. To me he still is. I loved him and so did all who met him.”
Bobby, who is best known as the original drummer for Blood, Sweat & Tears, is 16 years younger than Harry. Bobby told TheWrap his big brother was “the smartest, kindest, most generous and unique individual I have ever come across in my life. I am lucky enough that this person I just described happened to be my brother.”
Bobby added that his brother also managed the career of jazz pianist Thelonious Monk, and as such played a seminal role in the careers of two geniuses from different creative fields. “Thelonious Monk was the Bach of jazz. Without my brother he might just have been an obscure guy, and Michael Keaton could easily have been just another comic,” Bobby said. “My brother always had a long game. He had a vision for things, he saw the uniqueness in these two (artists). As a manager, he tried to bring the other aspects of their uniqueness out, and that’s not easy to do.”
According to a family statement, Harry Colomby was born in Berlin Germany, where he spent the first nine years of his life escaping Nazi oppression. In April 1939, along with his parents and older brother Jules he arrived in NYC on the Queen Mary.
After getting a teaching degree at Columbia University, he taught English and History at Bay Ridge, Far Rockaway and Plainview high schools. Wanting to share his love of Jazz music with his students, he booked a concert featuring Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers in the 1950s.
The night before the concert he went to meet with Blakey at a jazz club to make sure Art had directions to the school. It was there he ran into Thelonious Monk who asked Harry if he could give him a ride home. “Out of nowhere Monk, believing Colomby, a high school teacher was most likely honest and smart, asked Harry if he would have interest in managing him,” the statement reads. It continues:
“At the time Monk was mostly an obscure jazz artist. When Harry accepted Monk’s offer he didn’t promise wealth and fame, but he did say that he would make sure that Thelonious would be taken seriously as an artist. For the next 14 years he was the jazz icon’s personal manager.
Harry moved to Los Angeles where he began working with and managing comedian John Byner. He wrote and produced television shows for John.
A few years later a friend suggested that he meet an upcoming stand-up comic named Michael Keaton. He immediately saw the potential that Michael possessed and agreed to collaborate with and manage him. They teamed up and began in incredible journey together.”
Harry is survived by his wife Lee, son Scott and brother Bobby.