Today was my last day at ICM.
I started at the talent agency in June of 1998, and after almost nine years, I had to say good-bye.
I should clarify a small point. Today was my last day at ICM in Beverly Hills. As of next week, I will be starting at the new ICM.
For the last 15 years, ICM has occupied the building at 8942 Wilshire Blvd. at the corners of Almont on the west and Lapeer to the east – directly across the street from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
A uniquely designed building (that often served as host to architectural students), 8942 is rumored to have been constructed as a bank by Michael Milken. After our expansion with “Broder-Webb-Chervin-Silberman” last year, a larger base of operation seemed necessary. At the end of this five-day weekend, we will return to work on Tuesday February 20th to the 7th, 8th and 9th floors of the MGM TOWER in Century City.
We know very little about the new office space. We were not given tours or shown floor plans, so the general suspense has led to all sorts of rumors and speculation. We have learned that the MGM TOWER has a wide assortment of amenities, offering a library, oil changes and “umbrella service” to name a few. The best thing about the move will be a greater selection of restaurants. Our Beverly Hills district has little to offer within walking distance. The LAZY DAISY is a staple for those who don’t want to venture more than a few steps from ICM, but it’s hardly renowned for its cuisine. Furthermore, there’s only a few tables handled by a lackadaisical waitress for whom the restaurant seems to have been named. KATE MANTILINI’S is two blocks west but it’s loud and overrated (though the sourdough bread is great). The underrated IL BUCO is a few blocks east on Robertson; it’s reasonably priced, recently expanded, and easy to get a table. But across from the MGM TOWER is the Century City Mall (a/k/a Westfield Shoppingtown) – which has recently been revamped. Rumor has it the food court there uses china plates and silverware. The mall will certainly add some convenience, offering more of a selection than the SAV-ON DRUGS we all frequent across from KATE’S. Of course, Century City is also home to the new CAA building, “another” top tier talent agency.
While I am definitely looking forward to new surroundings, I can’t help but feel a loss - leaving behind the building that served as my second home for almost nine years.
Although my office was an unimpressive space to be sure, it was prime real estate. Situated at the gateway to the west end of the floor, anyone who is anyone would have to walk passed my door to visit the agency’s heavy duty power brokers. Julia Roberts once made a cell phone call right outside my office. I wanted to give her privacy but didn’t dare close my door in fear that she’d misinterpret the gesture as my trying to shut out the noise. TV producer David Milch accidentally barged into my office, mistaking it for the men’s room – a common error since I was in the same vicinity as the bathroom and probably emitted a similar odor. We had a brief chat and he considered using my potted palm tree to take care of business. (Somehow, I inherited the tree from Jim Wyatt, former ICM co-CEO, who left in 1999 to serve as the CEO at William Morris. The tree is also making the move with me.)
As I was leaving the building for the last time today, it dawned on me that 8942 Wilshire Blvd. was the setting for several plot points in my life.
When I first started at ICM, Carol Bodie (now heading the ICM Motion Picture Talent Department) had her own management company. She managed Winona Ryder while my boss, Ed Limato, served as Winona’s agent. Since our offices worked closely together, I met Carol’s assistant, Jack d’Annibale, one evening for drinks at the Polo Lounge (in the Beverly Hills Hotel) along with Winona’s personal assistant, Sandra. We all hit it off. When Jack’s gig with Carol dried up (he was the worst assistant in Hollywood), I got him a job as a full-time story analyst at ICM. (Sandra later moved on from Winona, turning over the reigns to pal Sibi, who eventually married Christian Bale.)
Jack and I became best friends – roaming ICM like two school kids on a hall pass. We argued endlessly about story, debating the merits of scripts and talking about story problems and possible solutions. A mutual friend once called Jack and me “professionals,” but we couldn’t understand how it related to us. We were just doing what came naturally. I remember working on Saturdays – often until midnight. Jack would drop in and I’d take a break. We’d go into the third floor conference room and look out the windows, staring into the dark southwest sky lit up by the distant glitter of Century City. It was my favorite view from the building – even though our north vista featured the Hollywood Sign. Perhaps I liked it more because it was a safe perch to keep watch for any civil disobedience amongst apes.
It was during one of those respites that I first pitched Jack the idea of “Story Conference,” a series of free writing workshops I was planning. Those workshops eventually led to our collaboration on “The Inside Pitch” TV show and our Emmy nominations.
When Jack left ICM to work for Jerry Bruckheimer, it was a dark day for me. He has since ventured out on his own (is engaged to be married) and is currently working as a screenwriter (repped by ICM), adapting a book for Fox. He still visits me at work regularly.
While meeting Jack was certainly a landmark of this past decade, I also met another very influential person at ICM.
This happy-go-lucky pro beach volleyball player was also a licensed masseuse. "HOLLYWOOD STORY EDITOR FINDS 'HAPPY ENDING.'" Sarah visited ICM once a week to ease Mr. Limato’s stress and muscle pain. On her very first day, we met at the third floor credenza (eastside).
There was a cake celebration and sugar addicts hovered around hoping to be one of the lucky few to snag a piece. (ICM was constantly serving cake – honoring a birthday, a departure, a facelift. Recently, we’ve limited it to “Cake Day”, the third Friday of the month where we celebrate everything at once with several big cakes.) While "Sweet Lady Jane" was being doled out, Sarah wandered over and we were introduced. She was dressed all in white and had her long blonde hair wrapped up in braids. She looked like the Swiss Miss. I struggled to be charming and witty and when I was done flirting (having missed out on cake – hopefully sacrificing one kind of piece for another), I went down to the Story Department to visit Jack and told him I had just met the girl I was going to marry. (I was being facetious at the time. “Marry” was probably a code word for some salacious sort of business I was imagining.) Anyway, we eventually started dating.
The times were not always good at 8942 Wilshire.
I remember once giving someone a tour of the building and took him into the Voice Over Department – a unique feature of ICM. The ironic thing about “Voice Over” was that if you had an eye for obscure faces, you might recognize a lot of people. Over the years, I had chats with voice over talent like Danny Bonaduce, Eddie Deezen and Patti Deutch. The Voice Over Department was run with an iron fist by Jeff Danis - an odd little man who guarded his halls like the bridge troll in the “Three Billy Goats Gruff.” As my guest and I walked through the area, Danis pounced like Robocop with a blown fuse, demanding to know why I was trespassing. He shouted at us and ordered that we leave. The unprovoked attack was frightening - but all in a day’s work. Like any agent worth his weight in Hollywood, his balls were big enough to expect an apology from me – for which he has yet to receive. To his credit, SHOWTIME did a moving documentary called HE’S HAVING A BABY, which chronicles the efforts of Danis and his partner to adopt a Vietnamese baby. He recently formed his own agency and took the Voice Over Department with him.
Time, confidentiality and human decency prevent me from sharing too much information about life at 8942 Wilshire. Although I threw away an unimaginable amount of detritus (all of which a few days before had precious meaning), I'm taking with me great memories, great friends, a great wife and thousands of stories that revealed themselves to me in that very building.
With two of the industry’s biggest talent agencies having relocated to Century City, it seems the apes have arrived and the conquest has begun.
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