Bernie Brillstein

Manager


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his nearly four-hour Archive interview, Bernie Brillstein (1931-2008) talks about his experiences growing up in the entertainment world of New York City, and how he eventually landed a job in the mailroom at the William Morris Agency. He discusses his meeting with WMA client Elvis Presley, and fondly remembers his first meeting with eventual client, puppeteer Jim Henson. He explains his reasons for leaving the agency to become a personal manager, and the work that he did on behalf of his various clients. He describes his role in creating the long-running syndicated series Hee Haw, and his efforts at getting The Muppet Show on the air. He also speaks about his representation of writer/producer Lorne Michaels, and his involvement in the early years of Saturday Night Live. Brillstein reminisces about clients including John Belushi and Gilda Radner, and later explains his move into the executive suites at Lorimar. Finally, he talks about his partnership with Brad Grey, and the clients and programs the pair have represented. Dan Pasternack conducted the interview on November 14, 2001 in Beverly Hills, CA.

"I couldn't write a job description for what I do. But, I'm saying it all comes down to talent -- you liking talent, and talent trusting you. If you don't lie, and if you give it to them straight, they'll stay with you forever."

Highlights
Bernie Brillstein on Jim Henson's death
08:01
Manager Bernie Brillstein on Jim Henson's contributions to Sesame Street
03:23
Bernie Brillstein on John Belushi's audition for Saturday Night Live
01:49
Bernie Brillstein on working with Ike and Tina Turner on The Burns and Schreiber Comedy Hour
01:45
Bernie Brillstein on packaging shows and packaging commissions
03:24
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his childhood and early influences; on growing up in New York City; on college at NYU and getting drafted into World War II
12:05
On meeting with Lou Weiss at William Morris in New York and his first job in the mailroom; on recognizing the talent of Martin and Lewis; on attending shows at comedy and cocktail clubs; on getting a job in the William Morris publicity office
15:56

Chapter 2

On getting promoted from the William Morris mailroom in 3 months and publicizing nightclubs; on publicity for Person to Person and "How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying;" on the Kalcheim brothers; on getting J. Walter Thompson and BBDO as clients
12:11
On Wally Jordan; on fighting with Nat Lefkowitz - head of the New York Office; on Elvis Presley on Stage Show; on Burr Tillstrom introducing him to Jim Henson; on jumpstarting Jim Henson's career
16:43

Chapter 3

On Jim Henson as Muppet Ralph on The Jimmy Dean Show; on leaving William Morris in 1964; on the break up of MCA and Lew Wasserman becoming a producer; on packaging shows and commissions
10:10
On life after William Morris - joining Marty Cumber & Associates as a partner; on Jerry Weintraub, Management Three, and moving to the West Coast; on taking driving lessons
18:47

Chapter 4

On quitting his partnership and starting out on his own; on producing The Burns and Schreiber Comedy Hour
15:37
On the creation and merchandising of Sesame Street; on Kermit and Miss Piggy; on his friendship with Jim Henson; on the creation of The Muppet Show and the Muppets appearance on Saturday Night Live
12:21

Chapter 5

On Jim Henson's illness and death; on meeting Lorne Michaels and putting together what would become Saturday Night Live
22:19
On the liveness of Saturday Night Live; on the first ensemble cast of Saturday Night Live
06:11

Chapter 6

On the original cast and production of Saturday Night Live; on being on set for the first shows; on the Muppets on Saturday Night Live
13:21
On the creation of The Blues Brothers; on the movie for The Blues Brothers; on censorship on Saturday Night Live; on Lorne Michaels leaving Saturday Night Live in 1980 and then returning 
15:05

Chapter 7

On producing Buffalo Bill, The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd, ALF, and It's Garry Shandling's Show; on how HBO changed television
12:10
On the state of television and deal-making in 2002; on the business of show business and the economics of production
09:11
On bringing Brad Grey into the Brillstein Company; on producing shows for Columbia and ABC, forming Brillstein/Grey, and selling his portion of the company
06:32

Chapter 8

On coming to a crossroads at age 64 and writing a book; on producing in 2002; on the difference between a manager and an agent; on the controversy of defining the role of manager
08:10
On advice to someone starting out; on the highlight of his career; on how he'd like to be remembered
05:23
On photos from his career and of people with whom he's worked: Elvis Presley, Sandy Wernick, Dabney Coleman, Tom Patchett, Jay Tarses, Norm Crosby, Jim Henson, John Belushi and more
11:02
Shows

ALF

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Executive producer Bernie Brillstein on being approached by Paul Fusco for ALF and the pitch to NBC
01:42

Buffalo Bill

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Executive producer Bernie Brillstein on producing Buffalo Bill
01:28

Burns and Schreiber Comedy Hour, The

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Manager Bernie Brillstein on producing The Burns and Schreiber Comedy Hour
03:44

Days and Nights of Molly Dodd, The

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Executive producer Bernie Brillstein on producing Days and Nights of Molly Dodd
01:09

Ed Sullivan Show, The aka Toast of the Town

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Bernie Brillstein on Robert Precht booking Kermit the Frog and others of Brillstein's clients as a summer replacement for The Ed Sullivan Show
05:42

Hee Haw

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Bernie Brillstein on the creation, development and syndication of Hee Haw
07:20

It's Garry Shandling's Show.

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Manager Bernie Brillstein on the start of It's Garry Shandling's Show
01:12

Jack Paar Show, The (1954)

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Bernie Brillstein on getting Jack Burns and Avery Schreiber The Jack Paar Show
01:22

Jimmy Dean Show, The

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Bernie Brillstein on getting Muppet Ralph the dog on The Jimmy Dean Show
02:16
Bernie Brillstein on Jim Henson as Muppet Ralph on The Jimmy Dean Show
00:48

Muppet Show, The

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Manager Bernie Brillstein on Jim Henson and the creation of Kermit and Miss Piggy
04:43
Manager Bernie Brillstein on selling The  Muppet Show
03:56

Naked Truth, The

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Executive producer Bernie Brillstein on The Naked Truth
00:25

New Show, The

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Bernie Brillstein on Lorne Michaels' The New Show
00:58

Person to Person

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Bernie Brillstein on promoting Person to Person
02:14

Saturday Night Live

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Manager Bernie Brillstein on The Muppets appearance on Saturday Night Live
00:44
Bernie Brillstein on meeting Lorne Michaels and the beginnings of Saturday Night Live
07:40
Bernie Brillstein on Lorne Michaels assembling the cast of Saturday Night Live
02:08
Bernie Brillstein on the production and original cast of Saturday Night Live
09:16
Bernie Brillstein on the many casts of and production of Saturday Night Live
28:02

Sesame Street

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Manager Bernie Brillstein on Jim Henson's contributions to Sesame Street
03:23

Stage Show

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Bernie Brillstein on Elvis Presley on Stage Show
04:23
Topics

Censorship / Standards & Practices

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Bernie Brillstein on censorship Lorne Michaels faced on Saturday Night Live
01:47

Characters & Catchphrases

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Bernie Brillstein on Kermit the Frog
00:59
Bernie Brillstein on Miss Piggy being based on Peggy Lee
00:18

Industry Crossroads

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Bernie Brillstein on the break up of MCA and Lew Wasserman becoming a producer
06:41

Media Consolidation

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Bernie Brillstein on the state of television and deal-making in 2002; on the business of show business
09:11

Memorable Moments on Television

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Bernie Brillstein on Jim Henson as Muppet Ralph on The Jimmy Dean Show
00:48
Manager Bernie Brillstein on The Muppets appearance on Saturday Night Live
00:44
Bernie Brillstein on the creation of The Blues Brothers
05:45

Television Industry

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Bernie Brillstein on the difference between a manager and an agent
00:56

We Laughed

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Bernie Brillstein on getting Muppet Ralph the dog on The Jimmy Dean Show
02:16
Professions

Agent

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Bernie Brillstein on the difference between a manager and an agent
00:56

Manager

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Bernie Brillstein on the difference between a manager and an agent
00:56

Producers

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Bernie Brillstein on working with Brad Grey and being an independent producer
06:32
Genres

Comedy Series

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Bernie Brillstein on the creation, development and syndication of Hee Haw
07:20
Manager Bernie Brillstein on Jim Henson's contributions to Sesame Street
03:23
Manager Bernie Brillstein on selling The  Muppet Show
03:56
Executive producer Bernie Brillstein on being approached by Paul Fusco for ALF and the pitch to NBC
01:42

Late Night

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Bernie Brillstein on meeting Lorne Michaels and the beginnings of Saturday Night Live
19:20
Bernie Brillstein on the many casts of and production of Saturday Night Live
28:02

Music Shows & Variety Shows/Specials

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Bernie Brillstein on getting Muppet Ralph the dog on The Jimmy Dean Show
02:16
Bernie Brillstein on Elvis Presley on Stage Show
04:23
People

Dan Aykroyd

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Bernie Brillstein on the original cast of Saturday Night Live
00:28
Bernie Brillstein on the creation of The Blues Brothers
05:45
Bernie Brillstein on a photo with the Blues Brothers
00:24
Bernie Brillstein on a photo with Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi
00:20

John Belushi

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Bernie Brillstein on the original cast of Saturday Night Live
03:49
Bernie Brillstein on the creation of The Blues Brothers
05:45
Bernie Brillstein on a photo with the Blues Brothers
00:24
Bernie Brillstein on a photo with Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi
00:20

Jack Burns

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Bernie Brillstein on watching Second City perform
02:50
Bernie Brillstein on a photo with Jim Henson, Jack Burns from The Muppet Show
00:25

Red Buttons

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Bernie Brillstein on delivering a check to Red Buttons
00:42

George Carlin

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Bernie Brillstein on the first episode of Saturday Night Live
00:52
Bernie Brillstein on a photo of the TV Guide featuring the first episode of Saturday Night Live
00:25

Chevy Chase

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Bernie Brillstein on the original cast of Saturday Night Live
00:20

Dabney Coleman

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Bernie Brillstein on a photo of him getting roasted
00:35

Joan Ganz Cooney

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Manager Bernie Brillstein on Jim Henson's contributions to Sesame Street
03:23

Norm Crosby

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Bernie Brillstein on signing Norm Crosby
00:18
Bernie Brillstein on a photo with Norm Crosby and Robert Goulet
00:31

Jane Curtin

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Bernie Brillstein on the original cast of Saturday Night Live
00:26

Michael Dann

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Manager Bernie Brillstein on selling Hee-Haw
01:46

Jimmy Dean

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Bernie Brillstein on getting Muppet Ralph the dog on The Jimmy Dean Show
02:16
Bernie Brillstein on Jim Henson as Muppet Ralph on The Jimmy Dean Show
00:48

Dick Ebersol

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Bernie Brillstein on meeting Lorne Michaels and the beginnings of Saturday Night Live
03:20

Bob Finkel

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Bernie Brillstein on meeting Lorne Michaels and the beginnings of Saturday Night Live
03:20

Michael Fuchs

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Bernie Brillstein on how Michael Fuchs of HBO changed television
04:17

Robert Goulet

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Bernie Brillstein on a photo with Norm Crosby and Robert Goulet
00:31

Lew Grade

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Manager Bernie Brillstein on Lew Grade wanting to make a show for The Muppets
02:06
Bernie Brillstein on a photo with Jim Henson, Lew Grade and others from The Muppet Show
00:35

Brad Grey

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Bernie Brillstein on working with Brad Grey and being an independent producer
06:32
Bernie Brillstein on a photo with Brad Grey
00:21

Jim Henson

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Bernie Brillstein on Burr Tillstrom of Kukla, Fran and Ollie  introducing him to Jim Henson
02:41
Bernie Brillstein on helping to jumpstart Jim Henson's career
04:27
Bernie Brillstein on Jim Henson as Muppet Ralph on The Jimmy Dean Show
00:48
Bernie Brillstein on Jim Henson leaving William Morris to follow Bernie Brillstein
00:48
Manager Bernie Brillstein on Jim Henson's contributions to Sesame Street
03:23
Manager Bernie Brillstein on Jim Henson; on the creation of Kermit; on selling the Muppet Show
08:39
Manager Bernie Brillstein on not being able to sell what would later become The Muppet Show
00:28
Bernie Brillstein on Jim Henson's death
09:10
Bernie Brillstein on a photo with Jim Henson
00:22
Bernie Brillstein on a photo with Jim Henson, Lew Grade and others from The Muppet Show
00:35
Bernie Brillstein on a photo with Jim Henson, Jack Burns from The Muppet Show
00:25

Wally Jordan

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Bernie Brillstein on Wally Jordan
04:42

Harry Kalcheim

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Bernie Brillstein on agent Harry Kalcheim and brother Nat Kalcheim
03:01

Robert F. Kennedy

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Bernie Brillstein on the break up of MCA and Lew Wasserman becoming a producer
06:41

Perry Lafferty

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Manager Bernie Brillstein on selling Hee-Haw
01:46

Nat Lefkowitz

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Bernie Brillstein on Nat Lefkowitz, head of the New York William Morris office
04:24
Bernie Brillstein on fighting with Nat Lefkowitz and leaving William Morris
02:20

Jerry Lewis

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Bernie Brillstein on recognizing the talent of Martin and Lewis
01:48
Bernie Brillstein on mouthing along to Martin and Lewis' act
02:14
Bernie Brillstein on a photo with Martin Short and Jerry Lewis
00:28

Dean Martin

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Bernie Brillstein on recognizing the talent of Martin and Lewis
01:48
Bernie Brillstein on mouthing along to Martin and Lewis' act
02:14

Lorne Michaels

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Manager Bernie Brillstein on The Muppets appearance on Saturday Night Live
00:44
Bernie Brillstein on meeting Lorne Michaels and the beginnings of Saturday Night Live
19:20
Bernie Brillstein on the original cast and production of Saturday Night Live
13:21
Bernie Brillstein on censorship Lorne Michaels faced on Saturday Night Live; and on leaving SNL
08:56

John Moffitt

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Manager Bernie Brillstein on producing The Burns and Schreiber Comedy Hour  (directed by John Moffitt)
03:44
Bernie Brillstein on a photo with the cast of Friday
00:39

Garrett Morris

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Bernie Brillstein on the original cast of Saturday Night Live
00:23

Edward R. Murrow

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Bernie Brillstein on promoting Person to Person
02:14

Laraine Newman

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Bernie Brillstein on the original cast of Saturday Night Live
00:22

Frank Oz

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Bernie Brillstein on a photo with Jim Henson, Lew Grade and others from The Muppet Show
00:35

Jack Palance

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Manager Bernie Brillstein on Jack Palance
00:35

Tom Patchett

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Bernie Brillstein on working with writer/producers Tom Patchett and Jay Tarses
06:44
Bernie Brillstein on a photo with Jay Tarses and Tom Patchett
00:21

Frank Peppiatt

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Manager Bernie Brillstein on selling Hee-Haw
06:48

Robert Precht

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Bernie Brillstein on Robert Precht booking Kermit the Frog and others of Brillstein's clients as a summer replacement for The Ed Sullivan Show
05:42

Elvis Presley

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Bernie Brillstein on Elvis Presley on Stage Show
04:23
Bernie Brillstein on a photo of Elvis Presley on Stage Show
01:17

Gilda Radner

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Bernie Brillstein on the original cast of Saturday Night Live
00:11
Bernie Brillstein on the original cast of Saturday Night Live
01:36
Bernie Brillstein on a photo with Gilda Radner
00:26

Paul Shaffer

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Bernie Brillstein on the creation of The Blues Brothers
05:45

Garry Shandling

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Bernie Brillstein on the start of It's Garry Shandling's Show
00:34

George Shapiro

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Bernie Brillstein on a photo with George Shapiro and Howard West
00:24

Martin Short

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Bernie Brillstein on a photo with Martin Short and Jerry Lewis
00:28

Jay Tarses

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Bernie Brillstein on working with writer/producers Tom Patchett and Jay Tarses
06:44
Bernie Brillstein on a photo with Jay Tarses and Tom Patchett
00:21

Brandon Tartikoff

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Bernie Brillstein on Brandon Tartikoff wanting to cancel Saturday Night Live
01:00

Burr Tillstrom

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Bernie Brillstein on Burr Tillstrom of Kukla, Fran and Ollie  introducing him to Jim Henson
02:41

Grant Tinker

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Bernie Brillstein on Grant Tinker and MTM
00:34

Lew Wasserman

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Bernie Brillstein on the break up of MCA and Lew Wasserman becoming a producer
06:41

Lou Weiss

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Bernie Brillstein on meeting with Lou Weiss at William Morris
00:49

Sandy Wernick

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Bernie Brillstein on a photo of business partner Sandy Wernick
00:30

Howard West

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Bernie Brillstein on a photo with George Shapiro and Howard West
00:24

Larry White

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Bernie Brillstein on meeting Lorne Michaels and the beginnings of Saturday Night Live
03:20

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