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Lou Weiss, pioneering TV agent and former William Morris executive, dies

David Ng, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

LOS ANGELES -- Lou Weiss, a pioneering Hollywood agent who helped establish William Morris Agency as a major player during the rise of the television industry, has died.

The chairman emeritus of William Morris was 101. He died Tuesday at his home in Los Angeles, his family said in a statement. No cause of death was given.

During his long career, Weiss represented numerous TV clients, including Barbara Walters, Larry Gelbart, Howard Cosell and Danny Thomas.

He was an early practitioner of packaging -- the bringing together of talent for a TV show using clients pulled from the agency's rosters.

Packaging has since become a lucrative practice for talent agencies but it is currently at the center of a feud with Hollywood writers who are pressuring agencies to drop the practice, arguing that agents are prioritizing packaging over client representation.

William Morris Agency merged with Endeavor Talent Agency in 2009 to form WME, now the largest talent agency in Hollywood.

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Weiss was born in 1918 in Brooklyn. His father was a Polish immigrant, and his mother was a sister of comedian George Burns.

The family connection helped Weiss get his foot in the door as an office boy for William Morris in New York, making $12 a week.

"My job was: deliver mail, deliver packages, learn shorthand and typing," he recalled in an interview with the Television Academy in 1998.

"I even worked the switchboard when the switchboard operator was out."

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