Dale Sheets, Lew Wasserman’s former right-hand man at MCA and Universal, who went on to be the personal manager of singers such as Mel Tormé, Vic Damone and Patti Page, has passed away. He was 91 years old.
Sheets died on Monday in Los Angeles from heart failure, his longtime friend and former business associate Rob Wilcox said.
In 1954, Sheets was working for United Television Programs when the company was acquired by MCA, and Wasserman became its boss. A year later, at age 25, he was the youngest vice-president in MCA history.
“It didn’t take me long at the MCA to realize that Lew Wasserman was one of the brightest men to ever work in the entertainment world,” Sheets wrote in his 2017 autobiography, Emphasize the positive. “He was a true visionary who knew what he wanted. And when he needed to do something, he did it exactly the right way. “
For the next 15 years, Sheets was the agent responsible for clients such as Bob Newhart, Bob Barker, Tennessee Ernie Ford and Ralph Edwards. He also packaged and sold MCA television programs to networks, hired producers and writers for shows, and developed new properties.
In 1961, when MCA bought Universal Studios, Sheets was one of five MCA executives to follow Wasserman as part of his new management team.
The youngest of two children, Fredrick Dale Sheets was born in Los Angeles on April 26, 1929. His father, also Fredrick, was a purchasing agent for Cecil B. DeMille. When he was 7, his father died of alcohol abuse and his mother Florence raised her sons in his hometown of Salt Lake City.
Returning to Southern California, Sheets worked as a director of the Earl Carroll Theater in Hollywood, where live musicals and radio shows were produced, and then was hired at the fledgling television station KTTV to work in its promotion department.
“My starting salary was $ 37.50 per week at KTTV, but it felt like a king’s ransom because it meant I was getting into the TV industry. I knew I was on the ground floor of an exciting new business, ”he writes in his book.
His relationship with Wasserman continued until 1969, when Sheets started International Ventures Inc., a personal management company and television production house. At the same time, he spent two and a half years in the 1980s as Executive Vice President of Metromedia Television, whose flagship station was KTTV.
Sheets’ first customer was Tormé. As the singer’s career declined, he promoted Tormé’s skills as a jazz stylist and hired him to the Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl and the Newport Jazz Festival. He also secured a contract with Tormé with Concord Records, where the rejuvenated singer has released dozens of albums and collaborated with pianist George Shearing on his way to winning two Grammy Awards.
He was married to singer Anita Gordon from 1948 until their divorce in 1963 and to actress Joan Staley (Tank top, The Ghost and Mr. Chicken) from 1967 until his death in November 2019.
He and Staley led International Ventures, which represented other musical groups, including The Four Freshmen and Jack Jones, until 2018.
Survivors include her children, Linda, Patti, Vickie, Sherrye, Stephanie, Greg and Dina; nine grandchildren; and 25 great-grandchildren. In the face of the COVID-19 crisis, a celebration of life is planned this spring.