December 18th, 2004

ledbetter tat

Peter, Blake, and Marty

I’ve mentioned my former boss and industry legend, Marty Baum, in passing here a few times. He’s a cranky old goat but I learned more from Marty when I was a young drug-addled agent-on-the-rise than I’ve learned from anyone else in my career. I grew to love Marty in spite of his daily volcanic abuse.

While working for him, I nurtured a relationship with Blake Edwards during the second wind of his career, in the Victor/Victoria days, and eventually Blake hired me to start the management division of his company. Those were hazy days of too much money, too much cocaine, too much power, too much of everything.

I was excited to see HBO’s The Life And Death Of Peter Sellers because I knew both men played key roles in Peter’s life. When I began working with Marty, Peter had already passed away, a tortured man whose young bride fucked his attorney in the limo on the day of his funeral, or so Marty told me.

Marty nurtured Being There for Peter though he wasn’t Hal Ashby’s first choice. He also brokered the deal between Blake and Peter to do The Revenge Of The Pink Panther, each man trying to revive their former glory through a tired franchise. Marty had a well-earned reputation for taste in talent, and as one of the toughest dealmakers in town. He discovered Sidney Poitier and represented him throughout his entire career. He was also responsible for Carroll O’Connor, Richard Attenborough, Dustin Hoffman, Sam Peckinpah, as well as many other difficult, unstable personalities.

After all those years, however, Marty never lost the fire in his belly. He may have been liver-spotted but he was a young street tough when it came to being an agent.

Peter was a master of manipulation. He’d sit up all night long, writing pages and pages of telexes, the predecessor to faxes, words of a madman beautifully constructed in messages only Peter could possibly understand. He would denounce Blake or other targets in conspiracies so elaborate to defy any logic.

One day while going through Marty’s files, I lifted some of those late-night treatises. I believe I lost them with many other early industry mementos I gathered. Along with them, I also lost a drawing of a rabbit that Jimmy Stewart, who shared an office suite with Blake, had drawn for me.

I watched the film, eager to get to Blake’s role, and finally Marty’s, but when a pivotal scene happened in Marty’s office, an inaccurate reproduction, I was very disappointed they gave Marty no lines whatsoever. He was just a guy with over-sized glasses sitting at his desk wearing a bemused smile while Blake and Peter duked it out in front of him. Later, when Peter lambastes Blake at the premiere of The Revenge, there’s one cutaway of Marty looking concerned.

I’m certain Marty couldn’t have cared less, though, that he wasn’t prominent in the film. He was from an era when agents were in the shadows, before agents like Sue Mengers and Michael Ovitz eclipsed their clients’ spotlights. Marty, now in his eighties yet shows up to his office at CAA every single day, probably watched the movie, adjusting his over-sized tinted glasses, and just shook his head at the amazing memories of it all.