NEW YORK -- An international cast of over 200 celebrities has been invited to a private memorial service on Thursday for Irving Paul (Swifty) Lazar.
Lazar, a Hollywood and literary agent who became as much of a celebrity as many of his biggest clients, died last Thursday at his home in Beverly Hills, Calif. The cause of death was kidney failure, according to Teresa Sohn, his social secretary. Lazar, who was 86, was cremated over the weekend.
The service, to be held at an undisclosed location, begins at 1 p.m. A reception is being planned at Spago Restaurant in Los Angeles following the services.
"He choreographed his life, and he choreographed his death," said Barbara Davis, a long-time friend. "He was so in control all the way until the end. He was such a wonderful man and led such a wonderful life."
Lazar was a diminutive man whose bald head and owlish horn-rim glasses were as much a trademark as his ability to strike superb deals for a client roster that ranged from Cole Porter to Jesse Jackson and Richard M. Nixon to Madonna.
He got his nickname from Humphrey Bogart after managing to put together a couple of deals for the actor in extremely rapid fashion. It was not a name he relished. He preferred being called Irving, but that desire generally went unfulfilled.
When Lazar began his career roughly half a century ago, agents were held in low regard.
"In the Forties, agents were totally unacceptable socially," he once recalled. "Flesh-peddlers, they were called. They were kept hidden in closets and garages."
It is ironic, then, that he and his wife, Mary, became the hosts of one of Hollywood's glitziest social perennials, the annual Oscar-night extravaganza. For many people in the movie industry, not being invited to that party would have been even more crushing than failing to win an Oscar.
"It began as a small gathering of friends, and it's always been a success because the guests always had a stake in the winners and losers," he said. "The stars like to come because we give them a good dinner, some caviar, champagne -- and no checks."
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