Sue Mengers, Top Hollywood Talent Agent, Dies

10/17/2011 01:13 PM ET

Sue Mengers was a pioneer for women and the top talent agent in Hollywood. Mengers represented some of its biggest stars including Barbra Streisand, Michael Caine, Ryan O'Neal, Faye Dunaway, Gen Hackman, Cher, Joan Collins, Burt Reynolds and Nick Nolte. Mengers died Saturday at the age of 71.

She entered the agency business in 1955 as an MCA receptionist. Eventually, she moved onto William Morris talent agency as a secretary, remaining there until a former colleague, Tom Korman, formed his own agency and hired her as a partner. Her first big client was Julie Harris, a Broadway star who wanted to appear on the TV show "Bonanza."

The L.A. Times wrote about Mengers in 1987, "Even her detractors admit she was the first female to play hardball in the boys club. And not only with movie-star careers: Apart from actors, Mengers was negotiating with the careers and the lives of directors like Lumet and Nichols and Brian De Palma, talents who know what they want -- and are used to getting it."

Her parties were considered key networking opportunities, and even after she retired, her home was a center of the Hollywood social scene. She brought out the town's top talent, "single-name stars" like "Warren, Jack, Barbra, Elton, Ali, Anjelica, Bette, Sting and Trudy, along with friends with last names like Geffen, Diller, Poitier, Lansing, Friedkin, Semel, Lourd and Zanuck", as her friend Graydon Carter recalled in a remembrance on

Mengers died in her Beverly Hills home after a long fight with an illness. she was surrounded by friends, Ali MacGraw, Joanna Poitier, and Boaty Boatwright. She left no surviving members of her family.

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