The name Ed Hookstratten will have no meaning to anyone reading this.
To me, Ed Hookstratten was a second father.
I was recently thinking about Ed, who was popularly referred to as “The Hook”, during his long and distinguished life as one of the legendary sports and entertainment agents of all time.
Ed represented me during most of my career. But he was more than merely an attorney, and business agent.
He was a loyal friend, a father-figure who was always there when I needed him.
Don’t get me wrong, I was just one of at least 50 show business and sports figures, all who exceeded any notoriety I’ve achieved, that he truly cared about.
When Hook passed away in 2014 at the age of 83, the heart-felt tributes poured in, including this one from another legend, broadcaster Vin Scully:
“Ed Hookstratten was a brilliant lawyer, my representative and one of my dearest friends in all the world. He introduced me to my wife Sandi, was the best man at the wedding and was there for me during my darkest hours. My heart goes out to his family with deepest sympathy”.
Ed’s territory was the west coast, Hollywood. Most of his clients were Hollywood-types. I was one of the very few from the east represented by Hookstratten.
I never had an agent until 1978. I didn’t meet Ed until 1984. I remember it well. It was at the Forum in Inglewood, and I was watching the U.S. Olympic basketball team when I was introduced to him.
I had heard of the legend, and just meeting him was a highlight.
We wound up talking and eventually working together during my time as an NFL and NBA broadcaster for CBS, continuing through most of my time at Fox Sports and Turner Sports.
For some reason, we established a bond.
We would talk often and on every visit to Los Angeles to cover an NBA game involving the Lakers, or a NFL assignment involving the Rams, we would visit at his office, and have lunch or dinner at one of the distinguished restaurants in Beverly Hills.
Often we would meet at the Beverly Hills Tennis Club for lunch, where the playwright, Neil Simon had just completed playing a couple of sets. It was there I met the great director, Robert Wise, of Sound of Music and West Side Story fame.
Beverly Hills was where his offices were located, and Bel Air was where he lived.
He would brag that he probably was the only L.A. resident who never had to endure the heavy traffic on those freeways.
His life revolved around the two communities of Beverly Hills and Bel Air. He rarely, if ever, ventured far from those spots.
Ed Hookstratten was a highly-regarded alum of USC, where he pitched, as a southpaw, on a couple of outstanding baseball squads, coached by Rod Dedeaux, one of the greatest ever, who led the Trojans to 11 College World Series National Championships, and developed countless careers including Mark McGwire, Randy Johnson, Tom Seaver, and Dave Kingman.
But Hook proved to be better suited as a negotiator.
To give you an idea what kind of a giant he was, here’s a small rundown on some of his clients, and friends. You had to be a friend, if Hook took you on:
Besides Scully, Elvis Presley, Joey Bishop, Peggy Lee, Rowan & Martin, Dick Enberg, Tom Brokaw, Tom Snyder, Phyllis George, Merlin Olsen, Marcus Allen, Don Meredith, Bryant Gumbel, Pat Riley, George Allen, and, oh yes, Johnny Carson.
Sandi and Vin Scully
Ed took over for another show biz legendary agent, Henry Bushkin, and was the last agent Carson had until the death of the late-nite TV icon.
One day, during one of my assignments in L.A., Hook called and said he would be picking me up at my hotel in three hours to have dinner with Johnny Carson and his wife, Alex, at a restaurant in Century City.
Alex was a native of Pittsburgh, where I basically broke in when I began in the business.
After a brief conversation of that terrific city, Johnny asked me about the Lakers and the upcoming game I would be covering. It was a comfortable dinner, with talk covering many topics. It went well. I enjoyed it.
Was I incredibly nervous?
What do you think?
What made Ed Hookstratten special was his personality. Natural and upbeat. He was an optimist. Who wouldn’t want to be around that demeanor?
But no one mistook those traits for his ability to be a fierce negotiator. And even with those skills, he possessed a sense of humor.
On more than one occasion, upon receiving a fax in his office with the terms from a network for a client, Ed would send back the page just received with the drawing of a hand with the middle finger raised. At least he thought it was funny!
Remember, I was a kid from Queens growing up. Far from the land I only knew from reading newspapers and magazines and watching television.
L.A. was to me only a make-believe land. I never dreamed of someday getting a feel for the show business and sports scene out west.
Through Ed Hookstratten I did.
He was a giant in his field, but a close friend, a confidante, and as I mentioned, a second father to me.
Knowing him ranks at the top of my many experiences throughout my career.
This is the week of the NFL Draft. Many of you already know the results.
But it was more than the usual extravaganza. It was tailored to the stay-at-home, keep-your-distance strict rules during the virus.
We’ve discussed what sports might be like without fans reacting in the stands.
What was the draft like without an audience to react to the picks by the teams?
We knew it would be different. We knew it would be strange.
Next week we will, as they say all the time on sports radio and TV shows, “break it down”.