|Born||Bernard Jules Brillstein
April 26, 1931
Manhattan, New York, U.S.
|Died||August 7, 2008
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Cause of death||Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease|
|Resting place||Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery|
Deborah Ellen Koskoff
Carrie Winston Brillstein
(1998–2008; his death)
Bernard Jules "Bernie" Brillstein (April 26, 1931 – August 7, 2008) was an American film and television producer, executive producer, and talent agent. He began his career in the 1950s at the William Morris Agency before founding his own company in 1969 and later joining forces with Brad Grey to helm Brillstein-Grey Entertainment, one of the most important and influential Hollywood talent and production companies. He is remembered for producing successful TV programs like Hee Haw, The Muppet Show, and The Sopranos, and hit films including The Blues Brothers, Ghostbusters and Happy Gilmore.
Brillstein was born to a Jewish family in Manhattan, to Moe Brillstein and Tillie Brillstein, who all shared the Manhattan home of his uncle, the vaudeville and radio performer Jack Pearl. Brillstein's father, a milliner, was the guiding force behind the building of the Millinery Center Synagogue, a synagogue located in the Garment District in Manhattan.
Brillstein earned his way into show business in the mailroom at the William Morris Agency (WMA) in New York. He worked his way up to talent agent and by the 1960s he was a manager-producer of television programming for the company. Still associated with WMA, in 1964 he joined Management III to continue talent management. In the 1960s, he also co-founded the vocal group The Doodletown Pipers.
The Brillstein Company
By now living in Los Angeles, Brillstein formed The Brillstein Company in 1969. There, he continued to manage stars and develop television programming. He produced such popular television hits as Hee Haw, The Muppet Show and Saturday Night Live.
Brillstein later became manager of SNL alums Gilda Radner, John Belushi, Martin Short, and Lorne Michaels, as well as Jim Henson (of Muppets fame) and Paul Fusco (voice and operator of ALF). He produced such other television shows as Alf: The Animated Series, and Normal Life. He was also exclusive producer to the animation sequel The Real Ghostbusters (based on the hit movie).
In the 1980s, he met Brad Grey at a television convention in San Francisco. In 1991 the two formed a production company, Brillstein-Grey Entertainment, which packages programming and manages talent. They were responsible for such shows as NewsRadio, Just Shoot Me!, The Larry Sanders Show and The Sopranos. As executive producer, Brillstein has been responsible for such successes as The Blues Brothers, Ghostbusters, Dragnet, Ghostbusters II, Happy Gilmore and The Cable Guy. Brillstein sold his shares in the company to Grey, his one time protégé, in 1996. Grey sold his interest in the company in 2005. He also represented Nick Swardson for six years prior to his death.
Brillstein's 1999 memoir, Where Did I Go Right?: You're No One in Hollywood Unless Someone Wants You Dead, was co-written with David Rensin. Two years later, he received the honor as recipient of a star on Hollywood Walk of Fame, on April 18, 2001. His second book The Little Stuff Matters Most, a humorous advice collection, was published in 2004.
In 1967, Brillstein married Laura Smith. In 1975, he married Deborah Ellen Koskoff. Then in 1998, Brillstein married Carrie Winston Brillstein, who he remained married to until 2008, the time of his death.
On the evening of August 7, 2008, around 9:00pm, Brillstein died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease at a Los Angeles hospital. He is survived by his wife Carrie, daughters Leigh and Kate Brillstein, and three sons, Michael Brillstein, and David and Nick Koskoff.
- Bernie Brillstein with David Rensin (1999). Where Did I Go Right?: You're No One in Hollywood Unless Someone Wants You Dead!. Little Brown Inc. ISBN 978-0-316-11885-9 (Chapter One online)
- The Little Stuff Matters Most (2004). Bernie Brillstein with David Rensin ISBN 1-59240-079-5
- Jewish Journal: "The Heroes of Jewish Comedy" by Tom Teicholz July 3, 2003
- Brillstein, Bernie; Rensin, David (1999). Where Did I Go Right?: You're No One in Hollywood Unless Someone Wants You Dead! (1st ed.). Boston: Little, Brown. ISBN 978-0-316-11885-9. OCLC 40954091. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
- "Bernie Brillstein Biography" (PDF). Retrieved November 1, 2007.
- Rose, Frank (1995). The Agency: William Morris and the Hidden History of Show Business. New York: Harper. pp. 261, 415.
- "Brillstein-Grey Entertainment". Hoovers. Retrieved November 1, 2007.
- "WTF with Marc Maron Podcast: Episode 88 – Nick Swardson / Joshua Tree". Wtfpod.libsyn.com. July 8, 2010. Retrieved April 18, 2013.
- "Marriage Announcement 15: Brillstein-Smith". The New York Times. 25 June 1967. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
- Cieply, Michael (August 8, 2008). Bernie Brillstein, Film Producer, Dies. New York Times