Obituary: Bill Robinson 1929-2022

Bill Robinson, 92, a longtime Malibu resident and a well-known talent agent who represented Audrey Hepburn, Carol Burnett, Robert Duvall, and many more stars, died on August 6 after a brief illness.

“I knew Bill for many, many years . . . since 1959,” Burnett said. “We met while I was doing the ‘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.”

Throughout his career, Robinson also represented Alan Arkin, Peter Falk, James Garner, Glenda Jackson, Waylon Jennings, and Jayne Mansfield, among many more.

Robinson was born in New Bedford, Mass., in 1929. His family moved to Los Angeles when he was 16. When he returned home after serving in the Army during the Korean War, he answered a want-ad for an NBC page, and he got the job. At NBC, he met Ida Lupino, who encouraged him to become an agent. Taking her advice, he worked in the MCA mail room, where he apprenticed under the legendary Lew Wasserman.

Later, he worked at Kurt Frings Agency, where he represented Hepburn. Then, he moved to Ashley-Famous Agency, where he built his stellar reputation before becoming independent, with Ted Ashley’s hearty support and donation of $50,000 to get Robinson started.

In Malibu, where Robinson and his family lived for decades, he was known as an affable, kind man who loved dogs, owning many in his time. Marmalade, a loveable golden retriever, was his constant companion as he went to appointments up and down Rodeo Drive. His last dog, a charming black lab named Daisy, predeceased Robinson by only a few weeks.

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“Of course, Bill’s reputation as one of the best agents in the industry is most impressive, and he was very, very successful,” Animal advocate Sherman Baylin said. “But, most importantly, Bill always asked me about the dogs I had available for adoption, wanting to know their breed and their life history. He was always so caring for animals.”

Many Malibuites say that Robinson was a true, free, and kind-hearted spirit. “Bill was a rare, perfect gentleman and his good demeanor and kindness always made my day,” said Zacarias Marquesas Joaquim Miguel de la Cruz, aka “Cruz,” a cashier at Vintage Grocery Store in Malibu. “His qualities as a man are hard to find these days. He will be very missed.”

Family friend Greta Barlow Clawson also spoke of Robinson’s kindness. “‘Papa Bill’ was the kindest man I ever had the privilege of knowing. Once in a lifetime, you may get an opportunity to meet a man like Bill. He was sincere, caring, and unassuming. He always remained humble, and he never changed. Despite considerable acclaim and notoriety, he was driven to be honest, loving, and true to his word. There are no words to express the love and gratitude I have for him. With unparalleled character and integrity, Papa Bill was a true gentleman. I will treasure all that he gave to me and all that I learned from him forever. In my life, he made all the difference. I am forever indebted.”

In addition to his storied career as a talent agent, Robinson also taught business classes focusing on the movie industry at UCLA and Pepperdine University, delighting students with his career stories and impressing them with his business savvy.

Robinson is survived by Mandy Robinson, his wife of 38 years, and their daughter, Hannah Robinson. Memorial services are private and will be held in Malibu on September 10. Those who are interested in attending the memorial and celebration of life are asked to email: information@billrobinsonfamily.com.

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