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OBITUARIES : Gerald A. Margolis, 1943 - 2008

L.A. attorney counseled Rolling Stones, R. Kelly

September 25, 2008|Valerie J. Nelson | Times Staff Writer

Gerald A. Margolis, an entertainment lawyer who counseled such high-profile clients as R. Kelly and Robin Williams that controversy inevitably follows fame, has died. He was 65.

Margolis, who was diagnosed six years ago with progressive muscular atrophy, died Sept. 15 at St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica of complications related to pneumonia, his family announced. He lived in Manhattan Beach.

During his 30-year career, his first rule in defending the famous was "don't ignore the media."

"Sometimes you need to tell your client's story, or someone else will," Margolis told The Times in 2002. He followed that rule when he learned in 2002 that a lawsuit alleging that R&B star Kelly had sex with a minor was about to be made public; Kelly was acquitted of the charges in June.

Knowing the story would receive extensive media coverage, Margolis insisted on announcing the lawsuit first.

"People think celebrities catch a huge break in the criminal justice system," Margolis said in 2002. "I think it's the opposite."

In 2005, he represented longtime client Williams when the actor sued a celebrity impersonator for being too convincing; the impersonator agreed to stop.

Margolis also successfully defended Mick Jagger and Keith Richards over alleged copyright infringement by the Rolling Stones members relating to the song "Saint of Me."

As a partner in the Los Angeles law firm of Manatt, Phelps and Phillips, Margolis helped build the firm's music practice.

"He loved that he was one of the last old-timers who did litigation and contractual work because people tend not to do both anymore," said his wife, Cyndi.

Gerald Alvin Margolis was born Aug. 18, 1943, in New York City to Jacob Margolis, an Internal Revenue Service agent, and his wife, Madelyn.

An avid surfer, Margolis became a lifeguard at 15. He earned a bachelor's degree at Harvard University in 1965 and a law degree at New York's Fordham University in 1968.

After joining a New York law firm, Margolis founded a California branch in the mid-1970s.

Trouble was certain to find them, Margolis told his celebrity clients. "It's not if," he would say. "It's when."

Margolis was divorced from his first wife. In addition to Cyndi, his wife of 17 years, he is survived by a daughter, Jacey; a brother, Jeffrey; and a sister, Sara.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. Oct. 6 at the Darryl F. Zanuck Theater at Fox Studios, 10201 W. Pico Blvd.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Challenged Athletes Foundation at www.challengedathletes.org.

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valerie.nelson@latimes.com

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