YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


Seymour Heller, 87; Managed Liberace's Career for 37 Years

October 15, 2001|From a Times Staff Writer

Seymour Heller, a personal manager for leading entertainment industry figures--most notably the flamboyant pianist and showman Liberace--has died. He was 87.

Heller, who signed Liberace in 1950 and represented the performer until his death in 1987, died Monday at his home in Beverly Hills.

Born in Cleveland, Heller worked for MCA during his college years, representing some of the leading names in big band music, including Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Guy Lombardo and Paul Whiteman.

During World War II, Heller served in the Coast Guard and worked as an advance man for the Coast Guard stage show "Tars and Spars," which featured actor Victor Mature, comedian Sid Caesar, and dancers Gower Champion and Bob Fosse.

In 1947, Heller teamed with Dick Gabbe and Sam Lutz to form Gabbe, Lutz and Heller, one of the first bicoastal personal management firms. Their roster of artists included Lawrence Welk, Tex Benecke, Frankie Laine, Al Martino and Skitch Henderson.

Through his long career, however, Heller's most profitable association was with Liberace.

After the entertainer's death from AIDS in 1987 at age 67, Heller and several Liberace associates waged an unsuccessful legal battle to have the entertainer's lawyer, Joel Strote, removed as executor of what Heller had estimated to be a $20-million estate.

The bone of contention was an agreement the entertainer signed with the lawyer, just 13 days before his death, naming Strote sole executor and trustee of Liberace's wills and trusts, with power of attorney and authority over the use of Liberace's name and likeness.

Previous wills had named Heller as executor.

Heller is survived by his wife of 50 years, Billie; two sons, David and Bruce; and a daughter, Elizabeth.

The family asks that any contributions in his name be made to the Beverly Hills Firefighters Assn., 444 N. Rexford Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210; or to Talent Managers Assn., 12358 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, CA 91604.

Los Angeles Times Articles