The title of this week’s column refers to one Pierre Cossette, a booking agent for Mapes entertainment during Reno’s Golden era. A little over 10 years ago I happened to meet Pierre’s son, one John Cossette, who told me of Pierre’s passing. He noted that two funerals were held for Pierre, one in L.A. and one in his birth place in Canada.
Over the years I had many interactions with Cossette, the two most memorable were working with him to get the Ed Sullivan Show to do a remote from the SkyRoom of the Mapes featuring Olympic weightlifter Paul Anderson and on one occasion booking a young unknown female singer, for whom Cossette paid her salary as we were maxed out on our entertainment budget. That young singer turned out to be Ann Margret.
John Cossette sent me a copy of Pierre’s Obituary and I was impressed with the volume of work he did in the entertainment business. Some of the HighLights of Pierre’s life follow. “Innovative producer, philanthropist and USC alumnus Pierre Cossette, whose career included successes across the entertainment spectrum, died on Sept. 11th 2009. He was 85.”
“Pierre was a remarkable and visionary producer who continually altered the entertainment landscape for the better, throughout his career,” said Elizabeth M. Daley, Dean of the School of Cinematic Arts. “His passion for creating quality entertainment was matched by his desire to celebrate and provide an outlet for as many different voices as possible.”
A longtime supporter of USC, in 2005, Cossette created the Pierre Cossette Endowed Fund for Student Support, a need-based award available to all undergraduate cinematic arts students. Born in 1923 in Valleyfield, Province of Quebec, Cossette moved with his family in 1928 to Altadena, Calif. After graduating from high school, Cossette enlisted in the Army and served in active duty for three years with the 3rd Army 1636 Engineers Battalion during World War II.
Following his military service, he attended Pasadena City College and USC on the G.I. Bill. At USC, along with classmates David L. Wolper and Art Buchwald, he became editor of the Daily Trojan and started his own periodical Campus Magazine, which was syndicated to other universities. He graduated from USC in 1949 with a degree in Journalism.
After beginning his career at MCA, booking acts for concert halls, Cossette worked his way up to become the head of the variety department—bands and acts. He left MCA in the early 1960s to form a personal management firm. In 1971, Cosette initiated the live telecast of the Grammy awards, having negotiated with the National Academy of Recording Arts in Science for two years for the rights to produce the show. Cosette went on to helm the show for 35 years, until 2005, when he handed the reins to his son John Cossette. Since then, Cossette held the position of executive producer emeritus of the awards.
Cossette Productions produced the inaugural Latin Grammys in 2000, and Cosette is the recipient of the Latin Grammy trustees award. Cossette produced the Black Entertainment awards for television, along with 50 stellar specials for assorted networks, the miniseries Alcatraz: The Whole Shocking Story and several madefor-TV movies. In 1989, Cossette obtained story rights to the life of Will Rogers, and he developed and produced the Will Rogers Follies on Broadway, which won six Tony Awards, including one for best musical. His other Broadway productions, the Scarlet Pimpernel and the Civil War, were nominated for Tony awards.
Cossette fulfilled a lifelong dream of becoming a writer with the 2002 publication of his autobiography chronicling his career in entertainment, Another Day in Showbiz: One Producer’s Journey. Cossette’s producing talents were not limited to the screen or the stage. He devoted extensive time to producing charity events such as the Rodeo Drive Block Party for the Concern Foundation for Cancer Research.
Cossette’s constant search for perfection in his own endeavors led to questions from friends, who wondered why he never took vacations. “The truth is that I consider my entire life to have been a vacation,” he wrote. “When all is said and done, the best vacation I can imagine is sitting at my desk watching the phones light up, promising me another day in show business.”