Jay Eller, Longtime Attorney for Actor-Producer Michael Landon, Dies at 93

Jay Julian Eller, a retired attorney who represented numerous entertainment clients during his long career, died Feb. 2 at his home in Los Angeles. He was 93.

Eller was married to Robin Ray Eller, actor and audiobook narrator, and was the father of longtime Variety editor-in-chief Claudia Eller.

“Dad was the rock and moral compass of our entire family for decades, and his loss leaves a huge hole in our lives and our hearts,” Claudia Eller said.

As a lawyer, Jay Eller represented actors Michael Landon, Dan Blocker and Lorne Greene, the principal stars of the long-running NBC western drama “Bonanza.” Landon also was active as a producer and director as well, creating and shepherding several successful series, including NBC’s “Highway To Heaven” and “Little House on the Prairie,” which made him television’s highest-paid actor-producer at the time.

Eller was Landon’s sole representative during his career, acting as a business manager as well as negotiating all his contracts with NBC. His professional relationships with the late Landon, Blocker and Greene continued throughout their careers and for the rest of their lives.

Born in New Jersey in 1929, Eller moved with his family to Los Angeles, where he attended Los Angeles High School. From there he attended University of California at Berkeley, UCLA and USC Law School. In college he excelled in sports as a boxer and waterskier. He also became an accomplished racquetball player, a sport he continued to play until much later in life.

After passing the California Bar in 1954, Eller established a private practice with fellow lawyer Howard Winton. Eller’s younger brother, Richard, later joined the firm. Eventually, Winton and Eller separated and Jay Eller became a sole practitioner.

In addition to his devotion to his family and his love of sports, Eller’s greatest passion was for jazz. He was an accomplished amateur pianist, frequently jamming with a trio in his home. The Ellers occasionally hosted musicales with a larger cohort of musician and performer friends.

In addition to his wife and daughter Claudia, Eller is survived by two brothers, Richard Eller and Robert Eller; a sister, Joy Deschaine; a son, David Eller; and five adoring grandchildren who knew their energetic and charismatic grandfather as “Papa Jay.” Jay Eller was predeceased by a daughter, Denise Eller.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the American Parkinson’s Disease Association and the Roseville, Calif.-based International Pemphigus and Pemphigoid Foundation.

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