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Big Names to Pay Homage to an Entertainment Titan

July 15, 2002|ANITA BUSCH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Top players from the worlds of Hollywood and politics will say goodbye today to Lew R. Wasserman, who transformed Universal Studios into an international conglomerate, at a memorial service distinguished by two things the late mogul valued highly in life: power and secrecy.

Although about 3,000 to 4,000 people are expected to attend the gathering at Universal Amphitheatre this afternoon, including some of the biggest names in entertainment, the event is taking place under a news blackout, with no working reporters or cameras allowed. The studio will be closed at 2 p.m. so employees can attend.

Scheduled to speak are former President Bill Clinton; Vivendi Universal Entertainment Chairman and Chief Executive Barry Diller; former MCA President Sidney Sheinberg, who ran the company with Wasserman; Jack Valenti, president of the Motion Picture Assn. of America; DreamWorks co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg; and actress Suzanne Pleshette, a longtime family friend.

Steven Spielberg is scheduled to present a short film he made that features an interview with the notoriously private Wasserman. The film previously was shown at a company retreat about a year ago.

Former Vice President Al Gore also is expected to attend, as is former First Lady Nancy Reagan.

Wasserman's widow, Edie, helped plan the memorial during the six weeks since her husband's death.

Finishing touches, including whether Reagan would address the gathering, still were being worked out Sunday.

"Mrs. Wasserman wanted a very low-key memorial, but now you can't even get a ticket to the event," said one close friend of the family.

Guests will have to pass a security check before entering the amphitheater for the memorial service, which is expected to run about two hours.

Wasserman, a onetime theater usher and talent agent who became the most powerful mogul in post-World War II Hollywood, died June 3 at his Beverly Hills home at the age of 89.

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