Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Good Agent

Richard Langsam was once the most powerful agent in Hollywood. Representing superstar clients like Clint Eastwood, Barbra Streisand, and Jim Carrey, he could put a $50-million picture into production or end a career with a single phone call. Langsam's reputation as the ultimate take-no-prisoners negotiator had earned him the nickname Richie Nightmare, a sobriquet of which he was so proud he had it stenciled in gold leaf on his reserved parking spot. He was so powerful, it was said, that owners of restaurants so trendy that no one even knew existed actually made reservations at his house for dinner. Other agents looked to him with admiration for inspiration and followed his every more. If he took his car to a certain car wash, for example, that car wash immediately became the place in town to be seen, and every other agent, producer, director, and actor in Hollywood would soon be found lined up behind him.
But in 1991, Richard Langsam made a left turn into history. Coming out of a shopping center, he turned the wrong way into oncoming traffic. The result was a devastating accident. But his will to survive to deal again was so strong--doctors called it a miracle and the rights to his recovery story were purchased for a TV movie--that within six months he returned to work. But he returned a different man.
Although he proudly wore his scars--causing numerous young agents to visit tattoo parlors for facsimile scars--his brush with death had forced him to look his life squarely in the eye. And he did not like the reflection. And so Richard Langsam decided to change the world.
Within months he had founded The Two Percenters, an organization based on his belief that the top 2 percent of American businessmen could foster significant changes in society by working together to educate this nation's children and to provide assistance to people in need.
To support this program, Richard Langsam announced he would donate 2 percent of all profits earned by his giant talent agency and requested that all other agents in the motion picture and television community follow his example. "It is time," he said, "for those of us who have had the great fortune to be part of this wonderful entertainment industry to give back to the people who have made it possible."
Richard Langsam's unusual request did not go unnoticed. In 1992, in the annual vote by all agents for the prestigious Agent of the Year honors, Richard Langsam finished 14,782nd, directly behind the agent representing Bozo the Clown.

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