Picks and Pans Review: Talking With...

UPDATED 03/27/1995 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 03/27/1995 at 01:00 AM EST

>Annette Tapert

PARTY ANIMAL

"IRVING LAZAR WAS AN ORIGINAL, there was no carbon copy," says Annette Tapert, who collaborated on the agent's memoirs during the last year of his life. "He was an immensely witty man, very smart, very charming, but he was also an egomaniac, arrogant and difficult." Tapert, whose work includes Slim, the memoirs of social gadabout Nancy Lady Keith, was reluctant to work with the tiny (5'3") titan. "I thought he would make my life miserable," she says. "He was grieving over his wife, and he was beginning to fail." As it turned out, Lazar had been keeping careful track of his past for decades. And, when he turned over a cache of neatly organized documents—daily notes dating back to 1949, files with headings like "People I Don't Like," letters, transcripts of conversations he had taped with such celebrated pals as Kate Hepburn—Tapert came to know and care more deeply about her subject. "Someone said to me, 'Don't remember Irving Lazar for being a great literary agent, remember him for being a great host,' and that's really what he was," says Tapert, the mother of two, who lives in Manhattan with her husband, writer Jesse Kornbluth. Three months after Mary's death, Lazar hosted his final Oscarfest. "I remember his walking into that room leaning on his cane, very feeble but perfectly tailored," says Tapert, "and I got this big lump in my throat. He walked from table to table like he was on automatic pilot. For him, the show had to go on. When the party was over, the reality of Mary's death hit him. He didn't feel he had anything else to look forward to."

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