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Originally published August 26, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified August 26, 2007 at 2:08 AM

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Obituary

Roy Gerber, agent inspired character in "Odd Couple," dies at 82

Roy Gerber, a former talent agent and longtime talent manager who was the inspiration for the character of Oscar Madison in Neil Simon's...

Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES — Roy Gerber, a former talent agent and longtime talent manager who was the inspiration for the character of Oscar Madison in Neil Simon's comedy "The Odd Couple," has died. He was 82.

Mr. Gerber died Tuesday of complications of a brain tumor at his home in Beverly Hills, said his son, Bill Gerber.

As head of Roy Gerber and Associates from 1978 to 2002, Mr. Gerber managed a string of entertainers that included Diahann Carroll, Vic Damone, George Gobel, Shirley Jones, Jack Jones, Sid Caesar and Arsenio Hall, among others.

Mr. Gerber, who launched his career as a theatrical agent in New York after World War II — he later recalled driving snake charmers and exotic dancers to jobs — teamed with Norman Weiss to form an agency in the late 1940s.

After they achieved success booking acts into nightclubs, their agency was acquired by Music Corp. of America in the mid-1950s. MCA hired Mr. Gerber and Weiss as agents.

From 1954 to 1960, Mr. Gerber and associate Jim Murray were in charge of MCA's Las Vegas office, where they booked the Rat Pack, Betty Grable and other major entertainers into the city's clubs — as well as entertainers represented by Mr. Gerber, such as Jerry Lewis, Edie Adams and Victor Borge.

In the early 1960s, he and Weiss joined General Artists, where they represented the Beatles, the Lovin' Spoonful, the Mamas and the Papas, Johnny Rivers, Richard Pryor, Tom Jones and others.

Mr. Gerber was newly separated from his first wife in the early 1960s when Neil Simon's brother, comedy writer Danny Simon, also newly separated, moved into his West Hollywood home. Bill Gerber said his father was just like Oscar in "The Odd Couple."

"He was sloppy, he was a womanizer, he was the life of the party," he said.

And like the character Felix Ungar, he said, "Danny was literally anal-retentive; he did the cooking, the cleaning."

One night the two men invited friends over for dinner, an occasion for which Simon cooked a pot roast.

"My dad was late, and it got dry, and Danny never forgave him," Bill Gerber said.

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The next day, as the story goes, Mr. Gerber told Simon: "Sweetheart, that was a lovely dinner last night. What are we going to have tonight?"

To which Simon replied: "What do you mean, cook you dinner? You never take me out to dinner. You never bring me flowers."

Bill Gerber said Walter Matthau, who played Oscar on Broadway and in the 1968 movie version of "The Odd Couple," later told him that in playing the role, "I just did Roy, and it worked out great."

Although Danny Simon originally planned to write a stage comedy about two divorced men who move in together, he stalled after 14 pages. He finally passed the idea to brother Neil, who thought it was a great idea for a play. "The Odd Couple," which opened on Broadway in 1965, won four Tony Awards, including one for Neil Simon as best author.

Born in New York on July 23, 1925, Mr. Gerber launched his entertainment career playing trumpet in a swing band headed by him and Jimmy Komack. Assigned to special services during World War II, he entertained troops with a record act in which he mimed current hits.

In addition to his son Bill, he is survived by his wife of 27 years, Terrie; children Bobby, Pam and Missy; his brother, Jay; and eight grandchildren.

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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