Requiem for A Heavyweight

In Sam Cohn's show-business realm, the good old days keep on ending

SHOW PEOPLE SLOUGH OFF THEIR OLD agents all the time. If your career is suddenly on the ascent, you need to sign with a big-time handler who can fully exploit your new aura. And if your career is foundering -- needless to say, through absolutely no fault of your own -- you've got to find the suitably aggressive new handler who can persuade executives that your aura is undimmed. , It's just the way the industry works.

However, when the powerful director Mike Nichols (who, at 61, epitomizes a certain Manhattan strain of cool, cerebral show-business class) dumps his long-time agent,...