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."

People Talking About ...
Highlights
Bernie Brillstein on Jim Henson's death
Manager Bernie Brillstein on Jim Henson's contributions to Sesame Street
Bernie Brillstein on John Belushi's audition for Saturday Night Live
Bernie Brillstein on working with Ike and Tina Turner on The Burns and Schreiber Comedy Hour
Bernie Brillstein on packaging shows and packaging commissions
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
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

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
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

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
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

Chapter 4

On quitting his partnership and starting out on his own; on producing The Burns and Schreiber Comedy Hour
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

Chapter 5

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

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
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 

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
On the state of television and deal-making in 2002; on the business of show business and the economics of production
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

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
On advice to someone starting out; on the highlight of his career; on how he'd like to be remembered
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
Shows

ALF

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

Buffalo Bill

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Executive producer Bernie Brillstein on producing Buffalo Bill

Burns and Schreiber Comedy Hour, The

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Manager Bernie Brillstein on producing The Burns and Schreiber Comedy Hour

Days and Nights of Molly Dodd, The

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

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

Hee Haw

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

It's Garry Shandling's Show.

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

Jack Paar Show, The (1954)

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

Jimmy Dean Show, The

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Bernie Brillstein on getting Muppet Ralph the dog on The Jimmy Dean Show
Bernie Brillstein on Jim Henson as Muppet Ralph on The Jimmy Dean Show

Muppet Show, The

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Manager Bernie Brillstein on Jim Henson and the creation of Kermit and Miss Piggy
Manager Bernie Brillstein on selling The  Muppet Show

Naked Truth, The

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Executive producer Bernie Brillstein on The Naked Truth

New Show, The

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Bernie Brillstein on Lorne Michaels' The New Show

Person to Person

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Bernie Brillstein on promoting Person to Person

Saturday Night Live

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Manager Bernie Brillstein on The Muppets appearance on Saturday Night Live
Bernie Brillstein on meeting Lorne Michaels and the beginnings of Saturday Night Live
Bernie Brillstein on Lorne Michaels assembling the cast of Saturday Night Live
Bernie Brillstein on the production and original cast of Saturday Night Live
Bernie Brillstein on the many casts of and production of Saturday Night Live

Sesame Street

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

Stage Show

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Bernie Brillstein on Elvis Presley on Stage Show
Topics

Censorship / Standards & Practices

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Bernie Brillstein on censorship Lorne Michaels faced on Saturday Night Live

Characters & Catchphrases

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Bernie Brillstein on Kermit the Frog
Bernie Brillstein on Miss Piggy being based on Peggy Lee

Industry Crossroads

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

Media Consolidation

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

Memorable Moments on Television

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Bernie Brillstein on Jim Henson as Muppet Ralph on The Jimmy Dean Show
Manager Bernie Brillstein on The Muppets appearance on Saturday Night Live
Bernie Brillstein on the creation of The Blues Brothers

Television Industry

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Bernie Brillstein on the difference between a manager and an agent

We Laughed

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

Agent

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Bernie Brillstein on the difference between a manager and an agent

Manager

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Bernie Brillstein on the difference between a manager and an agent

Producers

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

Comedy Series

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

Late Night

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Bernie Brillstein on meeting Lorne Michaels and the beginnings of Saturday Night Live
Bernie Brillstein on the many casts of and production of Saturday Night Live

Music Shows & Variety Shows/Specials

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Bernie Brillstein on getting Muppet Ralph the dog on The Jimmy Dean Show
Bernie Brillstein on Elvis Presley on Stage Show
People

Dan Aykroyd

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Bernie Brillstein on the original cast of Saturday Night Live
Bernie Brillstein on the creation of The Blues Brothers
Bernie Brillstein on a photo with the Blues Brothers
Bernie Brillstein on a photo with Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi

John Belushi

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Bernie Brillstein on the original cast of Saturday Night Live
Bernie Brillstein on the creation of The Blues Brothers
Bernie Brillstein on a photo with the Blues Brothers
Bernie Brillstein on a photo with Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi

Jack Burns

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Bernie Brillstein on watching Second City perform
Bernie Brillstein on a photo with Jim Henson, Jack Burns from The Muppet Show

Red Buttons

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Bernie Brillstein on delivering a check to Red Buttons

George Carlin

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Bernie Brillstein on the first episode of Saturday Night Live
Bernie Brillstein on a photo of the TV Guide featuring the first episode of Saturday Night Live

Chevy Chase

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Bernie Brillstein on the original cast of Saturday Night Live

Dabney Coleman

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Bernie Brillstein on a photo of him getting roasted

Joan Ganz Cooney

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

Norm Crosby

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Bernie Brillstein on signing Norm Crosby
Bernie Brillstein on a photo with Norm Crosby and Robert Goulet

Jane Curtin

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Bernie Brillstein on the original cast of Saturday Night Live

Michael Dann

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Manager Bernie Brillstein on selling Hee-Haw

Jimmy Dean

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Bernie Brillstein on getting Muppet Ralph the dog on The Jimmy Dean Show
Bernie Brillstein on Jim Henson as Muppet Ralph on The Jimmy Dean Show

Dick Ebersol

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

Bob Finkel

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

Michael Fuchs

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Bernie Brillstein on how Michael Fuchs of HBO changed television

Robert Goulet

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Bernie Brillstein on a photo with Norm Crosby and Robert Goulet

Lew Grade

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

Brad Grey

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Bernie Brillstein on working with Brad Grey and being an independent producer
Bernie Brillstein on a photo with Brad Grey

Jim Henson

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Bernie Brillstein on Burr Tillstrom of Kukla, Fran and Ollie  introducing him to Jim Henson
Bernie Brillstein on helping to jumpstart Jim Henson's career
Bernie Brillstein on Jim Henson as Muppet Ralph on The Jimmy Dean Show
Bernie Brillstein on Jim Henson leaving William Morris to follow Bernie Brillstein
Manager Bernie Brillstein on Jim Henson's contributions to Sesame Street
Manager Bernie Brillstein on Jim Henson; on the creation of Kermit; on selling the Muppet Show
Manager Bernie Brillstein on not being able to sell what would later become The Muppet Show
Bernie Brillstein on Jim Henson's death
Bernie Brillstein on a photo with Jim Henson
Bernie Brillstein on a photo with Jim Henson, Lew Grade and others from The Muppet Show
Bernie Brillstein on a photo with Jim Henson, Jack Burns from The Muppet Show

Wally Jordan

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Bernie Brillstein on Wally Jordan

Harry Kalcheim

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Bernie Brillstein on agent Harry Kalcheim and brother Nat Kalcheim

Robert F. Kennedy

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

Perry Lafferty

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Manager Bernie Brillstein on selling Hee-Haw

Nat Lefkowitz

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Bernie Brillstein on Nat Lefkowitz, head of the New York William Morris office
Bernie Brillstein on fighting with Nat Lefkowitz and leaving William Morris

Jerry Lewis

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Bernie Brillstein on recognizing the talent of Martin and Lewis
Bernie Brillstein on mouthing along to Martin and Lewis' act
Bernie Brillstein on a photo with Martin Short and Jerry Lewis

Dean Martin

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Bernie Brillstein on recognizing the talent of Martin and Lewis
Bernie Brillstein on mouthing along to Martin and Lewis' act

Lorne Michaels

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Manager Bernie Brillstein on The Muppets appearance on Saturday Night Live
Bernie Brillstein on meeting Lorne Michaels and the beginnings of Saturday Night Live
Bernie Brillstein on the original cast and production of Saturday Night Live
Bernie Brillstein on censorship Lorne Michaels faced on Saturday Night Live; and on leaving SNL

John Moffitt

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

Garrett Morris

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Bernie Brillstein on the original cast of Saturday Night Live

Edward R. Murrow

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Bernie Brillstein on promoting Person to Person

Laraine Newman

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Bernie Brillstein on the original cast of Saturday Night Live

Frank Oz

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

Jack Palance

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Manager Bernie Brillstein on Jack Palance

Tom Patchett

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Bernie Brillstein on working with writer/producers Tom Patchett and Jay Tarses
Bernie Brillstein on a photo with Jay Tarses and Tom Patchett

Frank Peppiatt

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Manager Bernie Brillstein on selling Hee-Haw

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

Elvis Presley

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Bernie Brillstein on Elvis Presley on Stage Show
Bernie Brillstein on a photo of Elvis Presley on Stage Show

Gilda Radner

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Bernie Brillstein on the original cast of Saturday Night Live
Bernie Brillstein on the original cast of Saturday Night Live
Bernie Brillstein on a photo with Gilda Radner

Paul Shaffer

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Bernie Brillstein on the creation of The Blues Brothers

Garry Shandling

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

George Shapiro

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Bernie Brillstein on a photo with George Shapiro and Howard West

Martin Short

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Bernie Brillstein on a photo with Martin Short and Jerry Lewis

Jay Tarses

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Bernie Brillstein on working with writer/producers Tom Patchett and Jay Tarses
Bernie Brillstein on a photo with Jay Tarses and Tom Patchett

Brandon Tartikoff

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Bernie Brillstein on Brandon Tartikoff wanting to cancel Saturday Night Live

Burr Tillstrom

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

Grant Tinker

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Bernie Brillstein on Grant Tinker and MTM

Lew Wasserman

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

Lou Weiss

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Bernie Brillstein on meeting with Lou Weiss at William Morris

Sandy Wernick

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Bernie Brillstein on a photo of business partner Sandy Wernick

Howard West

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Bernie Brillstein on a photo with George Shapiro and Howard West

Larry White

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

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