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Old-school Hollywood talent manager isn't ready to call it a wrap

Over the years, Budd Burton Moss' clients have included such A-listers as Rita Hayworth and Bette Davis. 'He's the last of a breed,' one actor says.

October 06, 2012|By Bob Pool, Los Angeles Times
  • Budd Burton Moss: “Can I afford to stop working? Maybe. Retirement? I don’t play golf or tennis and I get seasick on boats. I get pleasure in finding juicy roles for actors.”
Budd Burton Moss: “Can I afford to stop working? Maybe. Retirement?… (Christina House, For The…)

Budd Burton Moss is in his upstairs office at his Westwood Village house, working his computer to find work for actor Maxwell Caulfield.

He signs on to a Hollywood casting service — to which he subscribes for $250 a month — that lists the acting roles that production companies around town are seeking to fill. Moss notices the synopsis of an episodic TV crime show that is looking for someone to play the part of an attorney.

With a few clicks on his computer, he pulls up a photo of Caulfield dressed in a suit and tie and composes a quick note to the show's producers, inviting them to attend the play "Helen," in which Caulfield was performing at the Getty Villa. With a tap of the send button, he makes his pitch — a far cry from the days when he visited studios and knocked on casting directors' doors.

At 82, Moss is one of Hollywood's most seasoned agents and managers. "I'm still working because I want to — and because I need to," he explains.

"Can I afford to stop working? Maybe. Retirement? I don't play golf or tennis and I get seasick on boats. I get pleasure in finding juicy roles for actors."

That attitude doesn't surprise Caulfield. "He's the last of a breed — he's from the old school of representation," Caulfield said. "Budd is no spring chicken, but he works to keep up with the herd. He knows everybody and is determined to stay relevant."

Over the years Moss' clients have included such A-listers as Rita Hayworth, Bette Davis, Robert Vaughn, Tom Bosley and Cliff Robertson. But he's also represented names now largely forgotten in a career that has spanned Hollywood's highs and lows.

These days his Burton Moss Management represents a dozen actors, including Constance Towers, Juliet Mills, Andrew Prine, Edoardo Costa, Shani Pride, Dick Van Patten, Deborah Raffin and Hugh O'Brian, along with Caulfield.

As a child, Moss had a front-row seat to the industry's golden era.

He grew up watching stars like Carole Lombard, Clark Gable, Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy practice their lines around the swimming pool at the Santa Monica home of his uncle, MGM producer Sam Zimbalist.

His father, Fox film editor Lou Moss, wangled summer jobs for him as a busboy at Fox studio's commissary and private dining rooms. There, young Moss rubbed elbows with the likes of Tyrone Power, Betty Grable, Marilyn Monroe, Henry Fonda, Cesar Romero and Hayworth, with whom he was infatuated as a teenager.

In high school he got a part-time job at a Union 76 station across the street from MGM that serviced and washed the cars of stars working on the lot. He delivered vehicles to June Allyson, Esther Williams, Elizabeth Taylor and Cyd Charisse and began working as an extra in films such as "It's a Wonderful Life," "The Ten Commandments" and "The Bridges at Toko-Ri."

After stints in the Air Force and working in his family's restaurant, he began working as a talent agent, joining a company full time in 1960. His workload quickly stacked up.

But Moss says he quit the agent job and opened a talent management agency after a 1968 dust-up over whether Nancy Sinatra should have to audition for a planned MGM TV series. His boss had insisted that Frank Sinatra's daughter didn't have to test for any role. Moss argued that the studio had scheduled auditions and Nancy Sinatra was happy to do one.

Along the way, a first marriage to actress Ruth Roman — to whom he said he was introduced by Anthony Quinn at a Tijuana bullfight — ended in an annulment after four years. He was briefly engaged to actress Carolyn Jones, ex-wife of writer-producer Aaron Spelling, before marrying his current wife, also named Carolyn — whom he met on a blind date, and who had no connections to Hollywood.

Moss recounts those days and tells of his celebrity management experiences in a newly written memoir, "…And All I Got was Ten Percent!" an Amazon e-book co-written by Julie McCarron that soon will be a self-published paperback.

In it he tells of how he introduced a hesitant and nervous Mia Farrow to the producer of "Peyton Place" and then helped create one of Hollywood's bumpiest celebrity marriages by setting up Frank Sinatra's first dinner date with Farrow. He details how he got the Panamanian government to track down actress Hope Lange on a yacht to tell her she had unexpectedly landed the lead role in "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir" and needed to hurry back to Los Angeles to begin filming.

He describes triumphs, such as when he got Dyan Cannon in "Bob & Carol and Ted & Alice" after her on-camera audition for the role of Alice was so convincing that it was spliced into the film's final footage. And he describes his failed attempt to help famed personal injury lawyer Melvin Belli win the part of Don Vito Corleone in "The Godfather."

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