Ed Hookstratten, an unapologetically aggressive lawyer and agent for entertainers and sports figures including Elvis Presley, Johnny Carson, Tom Brokaw and the football coach George Allen, died on Tuesday at his home in Beverly Hills, Calif. He was 83.
The cause was congestive heart failure, his son, Jon, said.
Mr. Hookstratten grew up in Southern California and developed a remarkable sense of how the region’s most prominent and successful people eventually became the same complicated species: celebrities. Early on, as a young lawyer at a personal injury firm, he discreetly fixed their traffic tickets. Later, having built relationships and trust, he made many of them more prominent, more successful and richer, not always discreetly.
He was known as “the Hook,” and he was known for being brutally direct, regardless of the context.
“When he was at home, four-letter words were his vocabulary,” his son said.
Over more than four decades in the business, Mr. Hookstratten helped the singer Peggy Lee and top television executives make their driving violations go away. He appeared late in Las Vegas hotel suites to help get Mr. Presley out of paternity claims. In negotiations leading up to Mr. Brokaw’s appointment as the anchor of “NBC Nightly News” in 1982, Mr. Hookstratten helped make him something he never thought he would be: a wealthy journalist.
“I was astonished by it as much as anybody,” Mr. Brokaw said in an interview on Friday. “And I think Ed was, to some degree, by how much money was being thrown around.”
Mr. Hookstratten was among the first agents to recognize and capitalize on the rising financial leverage of sports coaches and television news anchors and reporters. His favorite clients had solid public images and competing suitors, and were unfettered by tedious contracts. His work elevating Mr. Allen presaged an era when coaches make millions on the field or the court and write best-selling self-help books on the side.
In 1970, when the Los Angeles Rams let Mr. Allen go, Mr. Hookstratten negotiated his new contract to coach the Washington Redskins, commanding a $125,000 annual salary, the highest in the league for a coach, and what at the time was a remarkable set of perks, including a chauffeur and an unlimited expense account.
As Hollywood became home to increasingly larger talent agencies, Mr. Hookstratten maintained a very small operation, and was often close to his clients.
He dined regularly with the baseball broadcaster Vin Scully and golfed with the television personality Tom Snyder, advising him on how best to regroup after several public career setbacks in the early 1980s. (Among the tips: Lie low for a while, return to your news roots. Mr. Snyder did, and he eventually returned to national television.) He usually had three televisions on in his office, and he was known to call local news directors to complain about the makeup or lighting for his clients.
“It wasn’t just about negotiating a number, their salary,” said his son, who worked with him for several years and now is an executive vice president at Fox Broadcasting. “It was about creating their brand, before people were creating brands.”
Edward Gregory Hookstratten was born on June 12, 1930, in Whittier, Calif. His father, Edward, worked in an ice cream plant the family owned.
Mr. Hookstratten attended the University of Southern California on a baseball scholarship, graduating in 1962. Five years later he received his law degree from Southwestern School of Law in Los Angeles. He developed his reputation as a celebrity fixer while working in his first job out of law school, in the firm of Raoul Magaña.
In addition to his son, from his first marriage to the actress Pat Crowley, Mr. Hookstratten’s survivors include his wife, the former Aimee Richelieu; a brother, Jim; a daughter, Ann Osher, also from his first marriage; two daughters from his second marriage, Eve and Mae Hookstratten; and five grandchildren.
Mr. Hookstratten had long courted Mr. Brokaw, and Mr. Brokaw long resisted, not seeing himself as needing the services of someone so brash.
“He was always saying, ‘I could make you a lot of money,’ ” Mr. Brokaw recalled. “We came out of different gene pools.”
But in the early 1980s, when Mr. Brokaw decided he was ready to leave his role at the “Today” show to return to hard news, the top news anchors’ salaries were soaring and the bargaining was getting more tense.
“Well,” Mr. Brokaw said to himself, “I think it’s time.”
He called Mr. Hookstratten.
The appearance of Mr. Hookstratten struck a measure of fear at negotiating tables. When things did not go his way, he was known to send his adversaries curt two-word notes (the first word had four letters). But even as he could be ruthless, he was also “winning and roguish,” as Mr. Brokaw put it, and he was usually able to preserve even the most strained relationship.
“Because of his personality, I enjoy negotiating with him,” Ed Joyce, then the executive vice president of CBS News, told The New York Times in 1982. “It is like being in a big poker game.
“I like to play cards with someone else who is good. It is no fun playing cards with a stiff.”
Ed Hookstratten, Hollywood lawyer and agent, dies at 83
Ed Hookstratten, a lawyer and agent whose powerful roster of clients made him a force to be reckoned with in the worlds of sports, entertainment and journalism, died Jan. 22 at his home in Beverly Hills, Calif. He was 83.
He had congestive heart failure, according to his family.
Known as a kingmaker, Mr. Hookstratten had a client list that included Elvis Presley, Johnny Carson, Tom Brokaw, Marcus Allen, Pat Riley and Vin Scully. He was also general counsel of the Los Angeles Rams, holding tremendous sway over the franchise for several years as well as several other National Football League teams because he represented many top head coaches, including George Allen. Allen coached the Washington Redskins from 1971 to 1977.
Nicknamed “The Hook,” Mr. Hookstratten had a reputation for being a ferocious negotiator who wasn’t shy about raising his voice. For many years, he drove a Rolls-Royce with a vanity plate that read “Hook.” He could usually be found at lunch holding court with other power players in the third booth on the right at the Grill, which he owned a piece of at one time, in Beverly Hills.
Mr. Hookstratten was a hands-on agent and lawyer, and little slipped past his sharp eye. He wouldn’t hesitate to call a TV station to complain about the makeup on one of his clients or hang up on an executive if he didn’t like the offer he was hearing.
“He fought for his clients. When you were dealing with Ed, he could be a formidable adversary,” said former NBC president Fred Silverman, who often found himself sitting across from Mr. Hookstratten at the negotiating table. “He was just a terrific agent and lawyer.”
Brokaw said that when he retained Mr. Hookstratten to handle a contract negotiation, the reaction from one NBC executive was extreme. “He literally clutched his chest and said, ‘You hired The Hook? Oh, my God,’ ” Brokaw said.
Mr. Hookstratten was also something of an old-school Hollywood fixer for his clients, getting many out of potentially embarrassing jams and making sure the media were none the wiser.
“He got speeding tickets and DUIs fixed for a lot of people,” Brokaw said.
Mr. Hookstratten also made sure to know anyone who could be of use to a client down the road. While representing Presley, Mr. Hookstratten once had to persuade a Beverly Hills auto dealership to open in the middle of the night so the King could go car shopping.
Edward Gregory Hookstratten was born June 12, 1930, in Whittier, Calif. He was a star baseball player in high school and received a scholarship to the University of Southern California, where he pitched for legendary coach Rod Dedeaux. Mr. Hookstratten, who remained a prominent USC booster throughout his life, played a key role in raising the funds to build Dedeaux Field.
After graduating from Southwestern School of Law in Los Angeles, Mr. Hookstratten worked for Raoul Magaña, a prominent personal injury attorney.
Mr. Hookstratten got his first taste of show business there when he took care of a traffic ticket for singer Peggy Lee. Soon after, he set up shop as an entertainment lawyer and agent.
Before long, he had a list of star athletes including Los Angeles Rams quarterbacks Bill Munson and Roman Gabriel. He developed a close relationship with then-Rams owner Carroll Rosenbloom and his wife Georgia and had an at-times rocky stint as the team’s general counsel.
Mr. Hookstratten continued to represent other head coaches while working for the Rams, which raised eyebrows around the league as a potential conflict of interest. He often represented multiple on-air stars at the same networks and stations, which gave him many cards to play with management.
Unlike today’s agents who usually toil for giant firms such as Creative Artists Agency and William Morris Endeavor, Mr. Hookstratten was something of a lone wolf, albeit one who once employed seven secretaries.
“I don’t think there will ever be anyone like that again — the one operator who can pick up the phone and get anyone he wants to,” Brokaw said.
Survivors include his wife, Aimee Richelieu; two children from his first marriage to the actress Pat Crowley; two children from his second marriage; a brother; and five grandchildren.