Howard West, longtime business partner of fellow Seinfeld producer George Shapiro, has died. He was 84. West and Shapiro, (pictured left and right in images above and below) had one of the longest friendships and business relationships in the history of Hollywood. The two boys from the Bronx had known each other since grammar school and then went on to work together for 41 years at personal management/production company Shapiro/West.
“I first met Howie in the schoolyard of Public School 80 in the Bronx when we were eight years old,” Shapiro said. “Howie was the new kid at school as he just moved from another Bronx neighborhood. Howie was alone in the schoolyard, sitting on a step near one of the school entrances. I invited him to join me and my friends to play basketball, stickball, curb ball, punchball, and touch football. It was love at first sight, and we became best friends since that day. We were partners in buying comic books, we bought our first car together, worked as busboys, and lifeguards/stagehands at the Tamiment summer resort in the Pocono Mountains, where we worked with writers Neil and Danny Simon, choreographer Herb Ross, comedian Dick Shawn, and singer Barbara Cook. It was a great beginning for our showbiz career.” (PS 80 in the Bronx is also the alma mater of Garry and Penny Marshall, Ralph Lauren [née Ralph Lipschitz], Calvin Klein, and Robert Klein).
After graduating from Long Island University and then serving in the Army, West reunited with Shapiro in the William Morris Agency mailroom, and it wasn’t long before both began repping talent. West’s clients included Neil Diamond, Glen Campbell, Anne Murray, Ruth Buzzi, Paul Lynde, Jerry Reed and Greg Garrison (who produced/directed The Dean Martin Show and The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast). He specialized in television packaging, putting together such shows as The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour and The Bobby Darin Show.
In 1974, he left the William Morris Agency to help form Shapiro/West. Shapiro recruited West by offering him the presidency of the firm and the parking space closest to the office entrance.
West, who also then began repping Marty Feldman, executive produced the comedian’s The Last Remake of Beau Geste, which he also developed with the comedy star. He also produced In God We Trust, which he and Feldman once again developed.
In addition to Jerry Seinfeld, Carl Reiner, Peter Bonerz (who was an actor on Newhart before directing multiple episodes of Murphy Brown and Home Improvement), Shapiro/West’s client roster included/includes Feldman, Andy Kaufman, Gabe Kaplan, Bill Persky and Sam Denoff (who produced The Dick Van Dyke Show with Reiner and created That Girl for Marlo Thomas), Dick Clair and Jenn McMahon (who wrote for Carol Burnett, created Mama’s Family, Facts of Life and It’s a Living), and Sam Brobrick (the prolific playwright who also created NBC’s Saved by the Bell and wrote for such classic comedy shows as Get Smart, The Andy Griffith Show, and The Dick Van Dyke Show).
West also guided the successful career of Bill Lawrence who produced Spin City, Scrubs, Cougar Town. Lawrence’s new series Undateable is in its third season on NBC and the one-hour series Rush Hour (based on the hit film) was picked up by CBS.
Together, Shapiro and West were part of the producing team behind the beloved comedy series Seinfeld, for which they won multiple Emmy, Golden Globe and Peabody awards and was named best sitcom of all time in 2012 after a nationwide poll taken by 60 Minutes and Vanity Fair.
They also executive produced Andy Kaufman at Carnegie Hall, as well as Kaufman’s ABC special, and the Universal biopic, Man on the Moon, which was directed by Milos Forman and starred Jim Carrey as Kaufman. West and Shapiro both had cameos in Man on the Moon: Shapiro portrayed comedy club owner Mr. Besserman (a role he had to read for). West played a hard-nosed network executive. “He was a natural for the role,” Shapiro said.
They also produced the award-winning documentaries, The Bronx Boys for HBO, and The Bronx Boys Still Playing at 80 for PBS. Shapiro/West is currently working with Seinfeld on his web series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.
But West’s true love was Marlene, his wife of 54 years. He is also survived by his two children Dayna and Todd, granddaughter Olivia, and by his great friend George Shapiro.