COURTESY OF DELFINE PAOLINI
Johnnie Planco, Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) ’72 and co-founder of the management and production company Parseghian Planco, passed away on June 2 in New York City from a brain and respiratory infection. He was 68 years old. Planco was a celebrated agent and producer, but also a very involved member of Fordham College Lincoln Center’s Board of Advisors, which was disbanded just two months before his passing.
A third-generation New Yorker, Planco grew up in a Jesuit parish in the city and attended the Loyola School, a Jesuit high school on the Upper East Side.
In 1968, Planco was among the first class of students to attend Fordham College at its new Lincoln Center campus. While in line for class registration, he had a brief conversation with Michael Abel, FCLC ’72, who would become a lifelong friend.
“Always had a great time with Johnnie,” said Abel, “He loved life, and it was contagious.”
Planco and Abel shared a passion for theater, and as sophomores they took many classes together at Fordham’s original Manhattan building at 302 Broadway. As a student, Planco was involved in shows year-round, both as an actor and behind the scenes, at Fordham and other New York City venues. “Shakespeare to Lonesco — we did it all,” said Abel.
Abel recalls late nights with Planco and friends rehearsing performances and building sets at Fordham. “When we were finished for the day we would generally wind up at a small place across Broadway called the Lincoln Lounge,” Abel said. “We all practically lived there.”
Planco graduated from FCLC’s first graduating class, at the time known as The Liberal Arts College, in 1972, with a BA in theater. The same year, he began working at the William Morris Agency (WMA), widely regarded as one of the most successful talent agencies of the time.
Planco started in the WMA Agent Training Program, often called “The Mailroom.” David Rensin wrote a book on The Mailroom and famously referred to the program as “the Harvard School of Show Business,” and has been a first home to some of the biggest names in the entertainment world today, such as David Geffen, Barry Diller and Michael Ovitz.
During his 28-year tenure at WMA, Planco rose through the ranks to become the youngest Department Head and Senior Vice President in the agency’s history, according to an obituary published by Deadline. Over the course of nearly three decades, Planco represented Tom Hanks, Richard Geere, Susan Sarandon and Peter O’Toole.
In 2000, Planco left WMA with Gene Parseghian, a fellow WMA agent, to open Parseghian Planco. Among their clients were Daniel Day-Lewis, Judi Dench and Scott Gleen, to name a few. Parseghian Planco produced two feature films: Perfume and The Walker. In 2002, the company merged with Untitled Entertainment, adding Naomi Watts and Ashton Kutcher to the roster.
Rev. Robert R. Grimes, S.J., former dean of FCLC, called Planco a “distinguished, powerful, and beloved agent (something of a rarity).”
In 2008, Planco began serving on FCLC’s Board of Advisors until it was dissolved in April 2019. Abel, who was already a board member at the time, said “it was like a homecoming,” to be working with Planco again. Although they only saw each other a few times a year, the friends enjoyed reminiscing about their days at Fordham.
Planco was primarily a theater professional who supported the development of FCLC’s theater department while on the advisory board; he selected the Denzel Washington chair, sourced funding for the program and recruited prospective board members from the entertainment world.
“It is always helpful to have an outside perspective from someone who also knows a program from the inside,” said Grimes. “He always offered sound advice and important insight.”
Planco was also the President Emeritus of the Players Club in New York City, a private social group that draws members from the international theater community.
Always fond of his time at Fordham, Grimes said that Planco would “keep an eye out for Fordham’s theater alumni. He saw far more theater performances around NYC than I ever did and would let me know how our alumni were doing.”
Planco is survived by his wife Lois; his son Alfred; his daughter Sara; and his daughter-in-law Tiffany. Abel also confirmed that Planco recently became a grandfather.