Aaron Russo, 64; former Bette Midler manager became a film producer

From the Associated Press

Aaron Russo, who managed Bette Midler and went on to produce such films as “Trading Places,” has died. He was 64.

Russo died Friday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center from cancer, said Heidi Gregg, his girlfriend of more than two decades. Russo, who had been battling the disease for nearly six years, was surrounded by family, she said.

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1943 and raised on Long Island, Russo began promoting rock ‘n’ roll shows at a local theater while still in high school, according to a biography he wrote and posted on his website. He later opened the Kinetic Playground nightclub in Chicago.


In the 1970s, Russo managed Bette Midler, producing the Tony Award-winning “Clams on the Half-Shell Revue,” starring the singer. During that time he also managed the Manhattan Transfer vocal group.

Russo turned to producing feature films, including “The Rose,” which starred Midler in 1979 as a self-destructive rock star, and “Trading Places,” a 1983 comedy that starred Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd.

Russo was also a longtime political activist, making an unsuccessful run for Nevada governor as a Republican in 1998. In January 2004, Russo declared his candidacy for the Libertarian Party’s presidential nomination but lost.

In 2006, Russo finished work on “America: Freedom to Fascism,” a documentary film that was billed as an expose of the Internal Revenue Service.

In addition to Gregg, Russo is survived by their children, Sam Russo, 22, and Max Russo, 25.