Robert "Bobby" John Engel, booking agent, President and Owner of Variety Artists International, Inc. died Aug. 14 at his ranch in Creston, Calif., with his wife Claudia at his side, his family has informedPollstar
. He was 71.
Engel's career with Variety began close to 50 years ago in Minneapolis as a junior agent along with Rod Essig (now at CAA), when he was hired by the senior partners of Variety Artists International, Gordy Singer and Lloyd St. Martin.
Singer, the father of one of Engel's buddies, gave Engel a shot at a job by assigning him to go on the road with a difficult act at the time, one called Ike and Tina Turner. Bobby passed the test.
Engel headed West to start a California office, bringing a Midwest work ethic. He took pride in making lifelong relationships through the phone, even into the digital age.
Engel and his wife Claudia relocated Variety Artists to the central coast oasis of San Luis Obispo, Calif., 30 years ago, where he kept a horse ranch. The company's roster and staff would grow, and among the clients he represented in their early days included The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Incubus, and 311.
Reflecting on Engel's passing, partner John Harrington shared, “I have lost my longtime dear friend of 40 years and business partner of 27 years. I loved him very much and will miss him deeply."
The company's location near the coastal party school university known as Cal Poly provided for new young members to Variety Artists, including Zach Mullinax, who commented, "Bob was a mentor to many agents, giving them their start in the business."
Lloyd St. Martin adds, “He was a dear friend and I enjoyed working with him for 50 years beginning when Variety Artists International was then Variety Theatre.”
Engel is survived by his wife Claudia Salot-Engel, and his three sisters: Connie Engel, Wanda Stepp, Tara Engel and their families.