Gerald “Jerry” Heller, the N.W.A. music manager played so memorably – and, to Heller himself, hurtfully – by Paul Giamatti in Straight Outta Compton, has died in California at 75.
Heller started his career in the 1960s as an agent and promoter, working with such acts as Pink Floyd, Marvin Gaye and Creedence Clearwater Revival. NWA – which featured Eazy-E, Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and MC Ren – hit it big with 1988’s “Straight Outta Compton”. Ruthless was also behind such artists as J.J. Fad, Michel’le and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. He was accused of outright stealing from them by Dr. Dre and Ice Cube.
The death was confirmed to Billboard by Heller’s cousin. He sought $110 million and alleged the film’s producers did not ask permission to use his name or likeness and lifted plot points from his 2006 biography Ruthless.
Heller has insisted that he took a 20 percent cut from N.W.A.in line with industry practice and filed a defamation lawsuit over the film, which was financed largely by Dr. Dre, now a multimillionaire executive at Apple. Much of the case was dismissed in June by a federal judge. At the time, Heller told his client that it didn’t make business sense to kill a glorified bouncer. “I should’ve let him kill him”, Heller opined. He was 75. The businessman was widely recognized as the man that helped bring the controversial group to the masses along with Eazy-E.
The manager later had a falling out with band members over money, although he and Eazy-E remained loyal to each other up until the rapper’s death from AIDS in 1995.