In an emotionally charged memorial service, the friends and colleagues of Jay Moloney gathered at Paramount Theater in Hollywood to pay their respects to the late CAA agent.
Friday's service did the seemingly impossible: it brought together under one roof the present leadership of CAA with their one-time mentor and now rival Michael Ovitz, all enormously moved by the loss of their 35-year-old friend.
"In 1981, a young man who claimed that he went to USC started working as an assistant to Richard Lovett, who was an assistant to Fred Specktor," Ovitz recalled, referring to two of the key CAA agents. "Somehow, some way, Jay ended up in my office and quickly became part of my family. I remember him brilliantly manipulating David O'Con-nor, who was one of the best assistants I had, so David wound up working for him. He was an extraordinary human being; he was like a sponge-he was an appropriationist, much like Picasso."
He added, like many of those who spoke, that Moloney had a huge heart "in a business that sometimes has no heart." And, coming close to paying tribute to the new CAA leadership, he said, "He was part of a group of young guys who were extraordinarily talented. A lot of people have said that (Ovitz and Moloney) had a student-teacher relationship. I was Jay's student and he was my teacher."
Ovitz was joined by speakers including CAA president Richard Lovett; fellow CAA agents Kevin Huvane, Bryan Lourd, David "Doc" O'Connor, Michael Wimer, and Jessica Tuchinsky; writer Akiva Goldsman; producer-executives Andrew Jarecki, Tom Lassally, and Barry Josephson; Moloney's brothers, Sean and Darren; and his girlfriend, Ginger Williams.
All spoke emphatically of Moloney's passion for life, his humor and his seemingly endless desire to help others.
Even Martin Scorsese, one of Moloney's former clients, paid tribute to those qualities in a letter read during the ceremony, in which he referred to Moloney's "boundless energy and enthusiasm" and gift for always knowing "someone who knew someone else" when he needed them for his clients.
The speakers fondly recalled Moloney's manipulativeness, his charm, his hopelessness on a basketball court and his love of English words that sound like Yiddish-such as "big-event" and "boyish-appeal."
But Lovett, the first of the speakers, also cautioned Moloney's friends against blaming themselves for his suicide last week.
"There are 10,000 people out there saying, "How could I let this happen?' (and blaming themselves). ... And of course, this is not true," he said.
Lovett also took issue with the media for what he deemed a simplistic assessment of Moloney's life and for using it as an emblem of Hollywood excess. "The local news (the other) night told a story of Hollywood excess," he said, noting that the news broadcast overlooked that Moloney was suffering from two diseases, "depression and drug addiction. ... They fed each other and locked into each other with an iron grip (that couldn't be broken) by the very best minds in the whole wide world."
Josephson recounted the Colorado River trip that turned into Moloney's lecture on the environment; O'Connor told the story of an ultra-expensive Caribbean vacation that Moloney tried to cajole his more cautious friends into taking; Wimer imagined aloud how he would recall his erstwhile colleague 35 years from now; and brother Darren spoke of the irony of a life force like Moloney taking his own life.
Perhaps the most irreverent of the speakers was actor Bill Murray, who dissolved his audience into guffaws when he quipped, "Because Jay would have wanted it that way, I'm going to waive my fee today." Then he glanced around and added, "There are so many people here today that I would much rather be eulogizing."
Referring to Moloney's Jewish and Irish roots, he said, "He is the answer to the riddle: What do you get when you (mix) a leprechaun with David Begelman?"
But the riddle that remained unanswered, and largely unaddressed, was why Moloney took his life by hanging last week.
"We've all had a lot of trouble figuring out what to do with (that)," Lourd, the last of the speakers, said. "I don't think I'll ever figure out what this means."
Stephen Galloway writes for The Hollywood Reporter.