Embattled ex-Food Network personality Paula Deen got tired of getting dumped, so now she's doing some firing of her own: She's cut ties with her long-time agent Barry Weiner of the talent-management firm Artists Agency. The news was dropped in the absolute dead-zone that is the evening of July Fourth. In an emailed statement to the AP yesterday, Deen's new spokesperson Elana Weiss wrote: "Paula Deen has separated from her agent... She and her family thank him for the tireless effort and dedication over the many years... Paula wishes him well in all future endeavors." Weiner was said to be Deen's "chief adviser and the architect of her business strategy."
Weiner and Deen go way back. After trying for years, he helped her get a show on the Food Network. Back in 2001, he and producer Gordon Elliott used a gross 9/11 exploitation argument — "[T]his country's scared... We need comfort in our lives" — to convince the Food Network to put her on the air.
Deen's 2007 memoir Paula Deen: It Ain't All About the Cookin' sheds some light on their relationship. In the dedication, Deen (or her ghostwriter, whatever) wrote: "My agent, Barry Weiner, is the closest thing I've had to a father since my real father died; he's always there for cheerleading and wise words. I love you, Barry Cuda—you're my hero." The nickname of "Barry Cuda" was used by her family. "Perfect name for an agent," wrote Deen.
Paula Deen's downfall came about because of the crazy racist allegations in a lawsuit, and her book has some racially-tinged language regarding Weiner, who she initially thought was a "a smart New York Jewish man" but oops, turned out to be Asian:
I'll never forget the day I first laid eyes on Barry in the Greater Sheraton Restaurant. I was in Philadelphia doing QVC for my cookbook, and we made arrangements for Barry to drive from New York over to Philadelphia so we could chat between shows. I will never forget when he walked in because when I had talked to him on the phone I could tell that I was talking to a smart New York Jewish man. Well, I was blown away when I saw him and realized he was Asian by birth. He had been adopted as an infant by a Jewish family who lived in like a seventh-floor flat in the Bronx. The man who walked into that restaurant in the Greater Sheraton with his fabulous Italian suit and fambulous Italian shows just blew me away...
According to the Wall Street Journal he was the "chief adviser and the architect of her business strategy." He was the one who set up Deen's endorsement deal with Novo Nordisk back in 2012 for a diabetes drug (the deal has been suspended after the fallout).
Interestingly, Weiner is actually the agent for The Chew as well as the show's producer, Gordon Elliot. The day after Deen announced her diabetes diagnosis and pharma deal, Weiner apparently leveraged his relationships and got her on The Chew to further apologize and say she'd give away a still-undisclosed percentage.
[Screengrab: July 5th]
Because of the July 4th news drop, Deen's face has not been removed from the website to Barry Weiner's talent-management firm Artists Agency (screenshot above). It's unclear if Deen's sons, Bobby and Jamie, have decamped as well; the website also lists them as clients. They'll probably be scrubbed come Monday. The New York Post's Page Six floated a rumor last year that her sons wanted to dump Weiner and Artists Agency over the pharma deal he architected. Citing an unnamed source: "Jamie and Bobby were so upset when the deal was being put together in October, they wanted to jump ship from Artists and the people behind the deal with Novo Nordisk. They were in a panic, and set up a meeting with William Morris Endeavour." But apparently Deen pressured them to stay on.
Weiner and Artists Agency also represents chef Pichet Ong as well as Francis Garcia and Sal Basille, the guys behind the wildly popular New York City-based pizza chain Artichoke Basille. Weiner also represents Gina and Patrick Neely, who themselves are going through a rough patch, having "officially" closed their two Memphis restaurants just this week, leaving them with a single deathwatched restaurant in New York City.
According to the USA Today, Weiner actually bought a Savannah home "to be closer to Deen." Guess he has a house to sell.