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Elliott Kozak

Date of passing: 
July 23, 2011

Elliott Kozak was a producer for Bob Hope for more than three decades and also served as the comedian’s agent and manager.

Kozak, who also worked at the William Morris Agency and ICM, sold to NBC the Motown 25th anniversary special that aired in 1983 and featured Michael Jackson’s performance of “Billie Jean,” with his first televised “moonwalk” dance. Although Kozak moved between his work for Hope and various talent agencies, he was known primarily in the industry as the “go-to guy" for anything Hope-related.

Elliott Kozak was a producer for Bob Hope for more than three decades and also served as the comedian’s agent and manager.

Kozak, who also worked at the William Morris Agency and ICM, sold to NBC the Motown 25th anniversary special that aired in 1983 and featured Michael Jackson’s performance of “Billie Jean,” with his first televised “moonwalk” dance. Although Kozak moved between his work for Hope and various talent agencies, he was known primarily in the industry as the “go-to guy" for anything Hope-related.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Kozak was 15 years old when he started working in the William Morris mailroom, and within three years he became a full-time agent in the television variety department, where he booked such programs as The Milton Berle Show and The Ray Bolger Show. In 1959, Milton Berle mentioned to Kozak that Hope’s longtime agent, Jimmy Saphier, was looking for someone to help book Hope’s NBC specials, so Kozak moved to California for the opportunity. Kozak returned to the variety department at William Morris in 1969, where he mentored future industry powers Michael Ovitz and George Shapiro. During that period, Kozak packaged talent for Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-in and booked The Merv Griffin Show, among other programs. In 1972, Kozak rejoined Hope, partnering with Saphier, and became Hope’s main agent after Saphier’s death in 1974. Kozak’s work included producing Hope’s many NBC specials, coordinating his appearances and running his production office. In 1979, Kozak joined ICM, where he ran its TV-variety department, and recruited renowned producers and directors such as Gary Smith & Dwight Hemion (producers of Baryshnikov on Broadway) and Steve Binder, who produced several Primetime Emmy Awards telecasts.

A high point came in 1982, when Kozak sold to NBC Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever, which marked Jackson’s first television appearance since the release of the smash album Thriller. The production won a Primetime Emmy for outstanding music, variety or comedy program as well as an NAACP Image Award and a Peabody Award. Following the Motown special, Kozak returned to work for Hope, this time also serving as his manager. In 1991, Kozak opened up a West Coast office for Nashville’s Buddy Lee Attractions, where he worked throughout the 1990s.

He entered “semi-retirement” in 2000 and spent the last decade of his life booking personal appearances. Survivors include his wife Marie Kozak, two sons and two daughters.

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