Lew Wasserman and Jules Stein of MCA Talent Agents
The day after we got to California I took a cab to the MCA offices in
Beverly Hills. It was really quite a building. Jules Stein, the founder, had changed the
face of the talent agenting business in Hollywood single-handedly, or rather in concert
with Lew Wasserman. Stein had been a medical student, working his way through college. He
formed a band and soon found himself booked out of time, so he began to book other college
orchestras. When he graduated as an ophthalmologist he never had a chance to enter medical
practice. Hed formed a company called Music Corporation of America and by 1941 it
was the biggest band talent booking agency in the world, so Dr. Stein decided to invade
He went there with a reported ten million dollars. Lew Wasserman had
been with him for several years, and became one of the first of the super agents Hollywood
would ever see. Together, Stein and Lew bought up small agencies with talented agents and
excellent client lists. Just after the war, Stein bought a huge two-story white Georgian
building on Santa Monica Boulevard in Beverly Hills and had a wing added at each end at
about a thirty degree angle.
He and Lew had a definite idea how a talent agency should be run and
how its agents should look and behave. Dr. Stein and his wife went to England for the sole
purpose of buying antiques for the huge expanse of offices that were to make up the new
headquarters of MCA. A broker took them on a tour of various warehouses that held the
antiques the Steins were looking for: desks, chairs, even antique waste baskets. For
ashtrays, he wanted old pewter plates. Only the desk lamps were of later vintage, but many
of them were ancient ones converted to electricity. Standing across the street from a
four-story brick building, the broker gave the good Doctor a list of the contents. Stein
looked at it and said to the broker as he waved his hand toward the building, "Buy
"All of it?" asked the shocked broker.
"All of it," Stein repeated.
"But what about the items that may not fit your plans?"
"Those things I cant use well sell off in the auction
market in New York," said Stein.
Every agent and sub-agent sat behind a beautiful, leather-covered
antique desk with a 200-year-old pewter dinner plate for an ashtray. He was also
instructed to dress as well as any of his top clients, to drive a car that was the equal
of that any star would have. The idea was that heretofore the agent had worked in a
subservient role for the actor. Now he would work alongside the actor, as an equal,
helping to mold careers rather than just find work and hope for the best.
Next: The Saracen Blade with Ricardo