Passages: Roger Richman, JD’68

The Dead Celebrity’s Best Friend

BOB GALBRAITH

 

Roger Richman, a celebrity agent who represented the heirs of Marilyn Monroe, Albert Einstein, Mae West, Sigmund Freud, the Marx Brothers and many others, died Oct. 9, 2013, in Los Angeles. He was 69.

“Back in 1979 the heirs of W.C. Fields came to [Richman] and complained about the way the actor’s image was being used in several offensive ads, including one in which Fields’ head was grafted onto a nude body,” NPR reported in a 2005 profile. “[Richman] soon came upon dozens of other unauthorized celebrity products in ads, including rolls of John Wayne toilet paper and vials of Elvis Presley’s sweat marked with the slogan, ‘May his perspiration be your inspiration.’”

Richman went on to become a pioneer in celebrity licensing, fighting for legislation protecting the images of deceased celebrities and co-authoring the 1985 California Celebrity Rights Act. He frequently lectured about the right of publicity and through the years was featured in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, People and Time, as well as on many television shows, including Good Morning America and Entertainment Tonight.

His experience in the entertainment industry began when he was a staff attorney for the American Society of Composers, Authors & Publishers (ASCAP). He later entered private practice in entertainment and commercial law in New York City. In 1978 he founded The Roger Richman Agency. He was an associate producer and financier of several major motion pictures with Rockefeller Industries, and later was executive vice president of Sandy Howard Film Productions.

The digital image company Corbis purchased Richman’s business in 2005, according to the Los Angeles Times. “At the time he represented more than 50 ‘legends,’ as he called them, and over the years retained as many as 14 law firms at a time to scout out cases of suspected trademark infringement.”

Survivors include his wife, a son and two grandchildren.