Grammy Guru Pierre Cossette Dies

Prolific producer Pierre Cossette, who brought the Grammy Awards to television and oversaw the broadcast for 35 years, died of congestive heart failure near his summer home in St. Anicet, Quebec. He was 85.

In his 50-year show business career, Cossette was a talent agent and personal manager, ran a record company and produced for television and Broadway. He most famously spent two years convincing the Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences to give him TV rights to the Grammys in 1971, which until then had been an industry event. For the next 35 years Cossette personally oversaw the production of the show as it grew into a major awards event, finally handing the reins to his son, John, in 2005.

"It is with a heavy heart that we say goodbye to our dear friend and father of the Grammy Awards," recording academy president and CEO Neil Portnow said. "Pierre was a creative visionary and one of the most accomplished, versatile and respected producers. It was because of his passion and dedication that the Grammy Awards came to network television close to 40 years ago."

In 2000, Cossette's company initiated the Latin Grammys. He also produced the Black Entertainment Awards for TV as well as more than 50 specials, most featuring top-tier talent. He also produced TV miniseries and movies of the week.

Cossette created Dunhill Records, which helped launch the careers of such artists as the Mamas and the Papas, Three Dog Night, Steppenwolf, Ann-Margaret and Johnny Rivers. He sold Dunhill to ABC and shifted his energy and renown work ethic to TV, where he produced series including "The Andy Williams Show," "The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour" and the situation comedy "Down to Earth."

He was born Pierre Maurice Joseph Cossette on Dec. 15, 1928, in Quebec. He moved with his family as a child to Southern California and served in the U.S. Army in World War II with an engineering unit that built prisoner of war camps.

After the war, Cossette attended Pasadena City College and USC, where he graduated in 1949 with a degree in journalism. Soon after, he began his career as an agent with MCA, then a top Hollywood talent agency. He left in the 1960s to form a personal management company and represented such stars as Williams, Vic Damone, Dick Shawn, Ann-Margret, Rowan & Martin and George Hamilton.

In 1989, Cossette gained rights to the life of Will Rogers from his estate and produced "The Will Rogers Follies" on Broadway, which won six Tony Awards, including one for best musical. He also produced on Broadway "The Scarlet Pimpernel" and "The Civil War," both of which earned Tony noms.

In 2001, Cossette produced an all-star salute to then New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani. A year later, he published his autobiography, "Another Day in Showbiz: One Producer's Journey."

Cossette also was a philanthropist and known for his parties. For years, he organized a huge block party in Beverly Hills to benefit the Concern Foundation for Cancer Research. He hosted annual Super Bowl bashes, which brought out a bevy of stars and famous guests.
Cossette was honored with the recording academy's Trustees Award in 1995 -- not just for producing the show, but also for his support of charities such as MusiCares and the Grammy Foundation. The Grammy Museum at L.A. Live is named after him.

Cossette is survived by his second wife, Mary; two sons, John and Andrew; five stepchildren; and eight grandchildren.

The family suggests donations be made in his name to MusiCares. Plans for a memorial service were pending.