The son of a public-school principal, Starr grew up on College Avenue, in the South Bronx, beside a cluster of housing projects. Very bright, he entered Queens College at age 15. Eventually he married his college sweetheart, Gail, who bore him two children, a son and daughter, Ronald and Terri. For a while he worked at a Manhattan accounting firm. But when he landed Paul Mellon, he struck out on his own.
A house in the Hamptons led Starr to his first Broadway and Hollywood clients. Librettist Peter Stone (the musical 1776), a great wit, took his new accountant to a fancy Italian restaurant one night. Starr, still a boy from the Bronx at heart, perused the script menu in bafflement. “I’ll have spaghetti and meatballs,” he said at last, “and a glass of milk.”
Stone roared at that, but he admired Starr’s acumen and talked him up to humorist Art Buchwald, actress Lauren Bacall, writer Robert Benton, director Sidney Lumet, and others. All became clients.
Courtney Sale Ross, newly widowed, became a client. So did Louisa Sarofim, Houston philanthropist and heiress to the Brown & Root engineering fortune. Each had other advisers to keep an eye on their money. But not Joan Stanton, whose late husband, Arthur, had built the family fortune by introducing the Volkswagen Beetle to the U.S. Joan Stanton (neé Alexander) had been the radio voice of Lois Lane and Perry Mason’s secretary, Della Street.
He was Hollywood’s money man, with victims only too happy to be parted with their royalties. Mr. Starr managed to tie his investment management to large, well-known firms like Blackstone — the better to bamboozle his clients.
Mr. Starr’s life started getting more complicated, though, when Sylvester Stallone sued him for $10 million over a disagreement about his Planet Hollywood shares.more » « less