Paul Wasserman, 73, of Los Angeles, a music industry publicist whose clients included rock royalty such as the Rolling Stones, the Who, Linda Ronstadt, Bob Dylan and Neil Diamond, died Sunday, Nov. 18, 2007, of respiratory failure.
Along with his rock musician clients, Wasserman represented the cream of late-20th century Hollywood, including Lee Marvin, Dennis Hopper, Jack Lemmon, Jack Nicholson and George C. Scott. He publicized such films as “Cat Ballou,” “Easy Rider,” “Annie Hall” and “Star Wars.”
Wasserman may have hit his peak in 1987, when he landed the Irish rock group U2 on Time magazine’s cover, and music reporters and critics for The Los Angeles Times named him a member of “Los Angeles rock’s royal court” – “the people whose telephone calls are always returned.”
“He was the most important rock publicist in town,” Robert Hilburn, the L.A. Times’ former pop music critic, told his former newspaper. “He was a brilliant media strategist who helped usher rock ‘n’ roll into an era of new respectability. Rock ‘n’ roll was this rowdy kind of thing, and he was somehow able to make the mainstream press more interested in them and make the artists available for interviews and stories.”
Wasserman’s career unraveled in 2000 when he was convicted and ultimately jailed for for using the names of famous clients to swindle his non-celebrity friends. He pleaded guilty to felony grand theft and was sentenced to six months in jail. He falsely claiming to be selling shares in investment schemes he said were backed by clients.
Wasserman told the L.A. Times in a 2000 jailhouse interview he “cajoled friends and acquaintances out of cash, usually in $10,000 and $25,000 chunks.”
In the interview, Wasserman said he had battled alcoholism and cocaine addiction.
He had been sober for more than more than 20 years and was an advocate for AA and a sponsor for others.
Wasserman was born in The Bronx, N.Y., July 30, 1934, to a family of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. He moved to Los Angeles with his family when he was 3. An early career in journalism led him to the publicist’s side, where he worked with Frank Sinatra, Andy Williams, the Beach Boys, and others. After working with major firms, he launched his own firm Wasserman Group, in the 1990s.