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Milton Rudin; Hollywood Attorney

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Milton A. “Mickey” Rudin, a colorful and powerful entertainment lawyer whose name popped into Variety and mainstream news media regularly, along with such stellar clients as Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe, has died at the age of 79.

Rudin, who practiced law and made Hollywood waves for more than 50 years, died Monday of pneumonia at the Rehabilitation Center of Beverly Hills, according to publicist Lee Solters.

Fiercely loyal to his clients, Rudin represented Sinatra for 33 years, comedian Lucille Ball and her Desilu Studios for 25 years, Warner Bros. for 30 years and Liza Minnelli from her introduction to show business until last June.

He also did legal work for Elizabeth Taylor and entertainment business figures Marvin Davis, Steve Wynn, Norman Lear and George Schlatter.

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As Monroe’s lawyer and the brother-in-law of her psychoanalyst, Ralph Greenson, Rudin was one of the first on the scene when Monroe died of a drug overdose Aug. 5, 1962.

Rudin was still making news decades later during the O.J. Simpson murder trial when he was frequently asked by the media to evaluate his friend, Simpson defense lawyer Robert Shapiro.

But Rudin probably garnered the most attention in the media and in legal circles because of Sinatra. In the 1960s, Rudin was answering allegations about Sinatra’s gambling interests (later sold) and underworld acquaintances in Nevada, and about skimming receipts at a New York theater. With several gaming clients and interests in Las Vegas himself, Rudin once joined Sinatra in trying unsuccessfully to take over the Del E. Webb Real Estate Corp., owner of several hotel casinos.

By the 1980s, Rudin was shifting priorities from gambling law to libel and copyright law on Sinatra’s behalf. He sued the National Enquirer frequently for its stories on Sinatra, once winning a two-year moratorium on any mention of the singer in the tabloid’s pages. At Sinatra’s behest, Rudin also officially complained to ABC’s “20/20" about airing film footage of Sinatra’s 1979 Egyptian concert, charging that it devoted too much time to his singing.

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Rudin tangled repeatedly with author Kitty Kelley over her unauthorized biography of Sinatra, “My Way,” seeking futilely to halt publication and suing for at least $2 million in damages. The lawyer filed his own libel suit (soon dismissed) against Kelley for thanking him as a source in her 1991 “Nancy Reagan: The Unauthorized Biography” which alleged an affair between Reagan and Sinatra.

Rudin also sued Barron’s Business and Financial Weekly for defamation because it referred to him as “Sinatra’s mouthpiece.” A judge dismissed that case, too, ruling that “the average Barron’s reader” would not consider the phrase defamatory.

As the consummate Hollywood attorney, Rudin was asked to appear in four motion pictures--twice as a judge.

A native New Yorker, Rudin graduated from UCLA and Harvard Law School, served in the Army Signal Corps during World War II and clerked for federal Judge William C. Mathes. He was admitted to the California bar Jan. 8, 1947.

Philanthropically active, Rudin served on the board of Hope for Hearing at UCLA, the Reiss-Davis Child Study Center and the South Coast Foundation for the Developmentally Disabled. He was on the board of Reed College and was a past regional board chairman of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he funded the Mary Carol and Milton A. Rudin Training Center for Developmental Education.

He is survived by his wife, Mary Carol; three children, Michael, Lisa and Pam; and two grandchildren.

Services will be private.


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