Sue Mengers - A Woman of Substance

Sue, who passed away on Saturday, 15th October at her home in Beverly Hills, had a tendency to provoke strong reactions in people: some loved her, others hated her - probably pretty much in equal measure.

Sue Mengers is not a household name in the UK, and yet, in Hollywood, she was legendary.

Sue, who passed away on Saturday, 15th October at her home in Beverly Hills, had a tendency to provoke strong reactions in people: some loved her, others hated her - probably pretty much in equal measure. Yesterday, the US news media covered her passing, reporting on her 'super-agent' status and of the many celebrities she'd represented. They spoke of her Hollywood salons and their famous guest lists and, impressive as those things were, there was so much more to Sue than that.

Sue was an immigrant to the US, brought to America from Germany in the 1930's by parents fleeing the Nazi regime. At this point I'd really love to be able to give her exact birth date but, as with everything related to Sue, it remains the subject of some controversy! Some claim she was 79 (Wikipedia gives her birthdate as September 2nd, 1932), but others insist she was 81, Sue herself was vague on the subject! She and her mother moved to The Bronx after her father committed suicide when Sue was just 11 and, it was at this point that her love of the silver screen and movie theatres began. It opened up a whole new world for her.

Her career began inauspiciously as a receptionist at MCA Talent Agency and she moved up the ladder methodically working for a number of different agencies as a secretary and finally, in 1963, she joined Korman and Associates as a partner. From there, she moved to Creative Management Associations (later ICM) and re-located to Los Angeles where her super-agent status was finally cast. Over the years she'd represented more names than you could shake a stick at, Michael Caine, Cybill Shepherd, Faye Dunaway, Burt Reynolds, Nick Nolte, Barbara Streisand, Sidney Lumet, Gore Vidal and Ali McGraw to name but a few.

I'll be honest and say that Sue was not a particularly easy person to get along with and I didn't always agree with her perspective on life, it sometimes seemed a little too harsh and gritty for me but the one thing you could always guarantee with her was that you would get the truth. Truth is not something that goes down terribly well in Hollywood, heaven alone knows I've made multiple faux pas myself by accidentally saying something a little too honest without realizing how fragile some of the ego's in that arena can be! But, first and foremost, Sue believed in herself and therefore, in turn, people believed in her and she seemed able to get away with saying the things that no one else would dare to.

She was a woman in an environment which consisted mainly of men and she didn't so much tap her way through the glass ceiling as smash it into pieces as she went past! When she finally left ICM in 1986 she told others that she simply didn't "like the way that Hollywood was going".

She shuffled about in kaftan's, barely ever leaving her home and yet she was rarely alone. People trooped out to her house to visit her and she held salons which were both famous and infamous! She was an oddball in many ways, she spoke her mind in a world of sycophancy, she stood her ground in an environment mostly made up of very shaky foundations, and she always remained true to herself in a profession where most people prefer to play the popularity game.

But what Sue achieved was far greater than merely making a success of her own life, she made possible the careers of so many people; actors, directors and producers alike have reason to be grateful to her. But, beyond the Hollywood glitz, she also achieved something far greater, she broke into a male-dominated world and made it possible for many other women to follow in her wake.

There were many who didn't like Sue, who didn't appreciate her slightly abrasive attitude and often-barbed observations, but perhaps they never really got to know her for, amidst her less appealing character traits, there was always an honesty about her coupled with genuine integrity. She was loyal to a fault, if you were her friend then heaven help anyone who chose to be your enemy! She was a force to be reckoned with and she let you know that. She never minced her words, she never changed herself to suit others, and she was well aware of some of the less than kind opinions which circulated about her. Sue wasn't trying to be a feminist or torch bearer, she was simply being herself and, by so doing, she paved the way for so many other women to enter into and succeed in the industry.

Saying that someone 'will be missed' seems almost obligatory after their passing. Sometimes we mean it sincerely, other times perhaps not so much so, but with Sue, I can honestly say that I, for one, will truly miss her but I'll remember her regularly from all of the success stories that she has left behind and which will continue to come.


What's Hot