Bernie Brillstein was a legendary show business talent manager and producer who guided the careers of such performers as John Belushi, Gilda Radner and Muppets creator Jim Henson and helped bring "Saturday Night Live" and other shows to television.
The white-haired and bearded Brillstein — "he looks and sounds like a raucous Santa Claus," a New York Times writer observed — launched his more-than-50-year career in the mail room of the William Morris Agency in New York in 1956 and rose through the ranks to become a talent agent.
After founding Brillstein Co. in 1969 — the first of three management and production companies to bear his name — he helped launch "Hee Haw," the long-running country music-comedy show.
In 1991, he partnered with Brad Grey to found Brillstein-Grey Entertainment, the high-profile personal management and production company whose clients included Martin Short, Jon Lovitz, Brad Pitt and Nicolas Cage.
Although Brillstein sold his interest in Brillstein-Grey in 1996, Grey said, "he worked with me every day until I left to become chairman of Paramount in 2005."
When his former partner died, Grey said: "He knew the history of show business, his instincts for talent were extraordinary, and he knew people. And so not only was he very talented, he was brilliantly funny and he was fiercely loyal, and obviously he will be missed by our community and everyone that knew him."