Bill Robinson, a veteran talent agent who represented the likes of Robert Duvall, Alan Arkin and Carol Burnett, died on Aug. 6 in Malibu after a long illness, his family announced. He was 93 years old.
“I knew Bill for many, many years…since 1959,” Burnett said. “We met while I was doing the ‘Gary Moore Show.’ Later on, he became my manager when I was doing my show. But not just my manager. He was one of my closest friends in the world. I loved him very much… and I will miss him.”
Over the years, Robinson has represented Judith Anderson, Tony Bill, Peter Falk, James Garner, Glenda Jackson, Waylon Jennings, Jayne Mansfield and Maggie Smith, among others. He also gave Mike Medavoy, currently the chairman and CEO of Phoenix Pictures as well as former chairman of Tri-Star Pictures, his first job as an agent.
Robinson got his start as an agent in the MCA mail room, where he apprenticed under Lew Wasserman. He quickly moved up the ranks, getting promoted to a talent agent and representing small-time musicians. Eventually, the agent jumped to the Kurt Frings Agency, where he represented Audrey Hepburn. Before Robinson later went independent, he also held a role at the Ashley-Famous Agency, where he built a reputation as a stellar agent.
Robinson was born in New Bedford, Mass., in 1929. His family moved to Los Angeles when he was 16 and after graduating from high school he worked as a dress salesman. After a stint in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, Robinson returned home and got a job at NBC. There, he met Ida Lupino, who urged him to become an agent.
As his own boss at the Robinson Agency, his relaxed and kindly demeanor accelerated the agent to the top of his profession. Eventually, he sold the Robinson Agency and joined ICM as a senior vice president, where, in addition to his regular duties, he mentored newcomer agents. He also taught at UCLA and Pepperdine University.
“Unique among agents, he never ‘signed a client’… because he never had a contract with any of them,” client Tony Bill said. “It was an honor, and always fun, to be represented by Bill: a friend to the end.”
He is survived by Mandy Robinson, his wife of 38 years, and their daughter, Hannah Robinson.