OKAY; SO SHE ISN’T CAUSING MIKE OVITZ any sleepless nights. Nor is she making seven-figure deals or having power lunches at the Ivy. Still, the woman known in Hollywood simply as Coralie (because she will not divulge her last name to anyone) boasts a talent agency so unique the likes of Schwarzenegger and Stallone would probably not qualify. How could they compete with the 3,500 or so oddball acts in Coralie’s mental Rolodex? For example, there is contortionist April Tatro, 31, who zips herself into a bag so small it can fit under an airplane seat. Then there’s Abbe Jaye, 34, a musician who blows bubbles while tootling Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture on two flutes lodged in her nostrils. And don’t forget Dan Bennett, 32, and Matt Love, 38. While Bennett balances a running power lawn mower on his chin, Love tosses a cabbage into the rotating blades and then catches the resulting cole slaw in a bowl—all while standing on stilts.
Coralie, owner of the Coralie Jr. Theatrical Agency—known in some Hollywood circles as the Funny Farm—plays unofficial godmother to these nouveau vaudevillians. “Vaudeville is not dead,” she insists. “It’s back now in full swing. The younger generation doesn’t know what vaudeville means, but they’re coming up with their own vaudeville-type acts.”
And Coralie is booking them. “I don’t use a computer. Everything is up here,” she says, tapping her forehead beneath her blonde curls. Operating out of a dingy office building in North Hollywood along with four agents who work for her, Coralie has landed gigs for Jaye and her nose flute with Johnny Carson and Jay Leno. She is currently organizing a South Korean lour for the Los Angeles Breakers, a basketball team made up entirely of dwarfs. And she recently booked fire-eater Devino Tricoche, 30, on Baywatch, with the added bonus that after his audition the writers built an entire episode around him. “Life was really hard before Coralie,” Tricoche says. “She’s really different from any other agent. They worry about money and percentages. She treats you fairly and she fights for you.”
All Hollywood takes Coralie seriously. “If you need a snake charmer, who are you gonna call—William Morris?” says casting agent Sheila Manning, 54, who has known Coralie for 30 years—and still doesn’t know her last name. “And if I need a guy who is two-foot-six and another guy who is seven-foot-three, I can make one call.”
Coralie is a true child of Hollywood. Her father, she claims, was a silent-film star. “I won’t tell you his name,” she says, “but his friends called him Fitz.” And her mother—who shall also remain nameless—sang Gilbert and Sullivan in her native England before coming to Hollywood and raising Coralie, an only child. (Don’t ask when Coralie was born; she won’t tell her age either.) Her family lived in a Bavarian-style mansion on five acres in Pasadena, in which she still resides with her husband, Stuart, 70ish, a producer of police training films, and their five Russian wolfhounds. After attending Hollywood Professional High School with classmates Donald O’Connor and Ava Gardner, Coralie became a contract player for MGM and Paramount. During the war years she traveled around the country, singing and dancing with the LSO. She also modeled in Florida but eventually grew restless. “I didn’t mind it,” says Coralie, “but it wasn’t enough excitement.”
In 1953 she opened the Coralie Jr. Theatrical Agency. Diversity, she says, has been the key to its survival. In addition to the one-of-a-kind performers no one else would touch—or even imagine—she represents a dwindling clientele of aging vaudevillians as well as a stable of 110 celebrity look-alikes. “We handle everything from circus acts, animals, actors and actresses, unique acts, oddball acts, magic shows, look-alikes, new stars and big stars,” she says. Among the big stars: magician David Copperfield, whom she helped book into shows in Indonesia and Singapore.
But her meat and potatoes comes from those truly bizarre acts that she lists on a handout with terse headlines: “Man Catches Bullet in Teeth,” “Chicken Who Plays Piano, Turns On Light and Sings,” and “Goal Who Pulls Cart with Pig Who Is Playing the Piano and Singing.” She loves them all. “Sometimes I walk by the door [to my office building] and there’ll be a half dozen things happening, like some guy playing ‘Yankee Doodle’ on his armpit,” she has said. “This is what happens when you run a business like mine.”
JOHN HANNAH in Los Angeles