Aaron Russo, a one-time Hollywood producer who made an unsuccessful run for Nevada governor as a Republican in 1998, has died at age 64.
Russo died of cancer Friday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Southern California, said Heidi Gregg, his girlfriend of more than two decades.
Russo, who had been battling the disease for nearly six years, was surrounded by family.
"He was my best friend for 27 years," Gregg said. "Aaron was a freedom fighter, a filmmaker and a lover of life."
Russo, a longtime political activist, lost the 1998 Republican primary to Kenny Guinn, who went on to win two terms as governor.
He portrayed himself during the campaign as an advocate of states’ rights who would stop the Internal Revenue Service from harassing Nevadans, block nuclear waste from crossing the state’s borders and prevent tips from being taxed.
A self-proclaimed defender of liberty and individualism, Russo announced a second run in 2002 for Nevada governor as a Libertarian, but he quit the race when he was diagnosed with cancer.
In January 2004, Russo declared his candidacy for the Libertarian Party’s presidential nomination but lost.
In 2006, Russo finished work on a documentary titled "America: Freedom to Fascism," which was billed as an expose of the IRS.
In the 1970s, Russo managed Bette Midler, producing the Tony Award-winning "Clams on the Half-Shell Revue" starring the singer.
He also managed The Manhattan Transfer.
Russo eventually turned to producing feature films including "The Rose," which starred Midler in 1979.
He also produced "Trading Places," the 1983 comedic hit which starred former "Saturday Night Live" stars Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd.
Born in Brooklyn in 1943 and raised in Long Island, Russo began promoting rock ‘n’ roll shows at a local theater while still in high school, according to an autobiographical summary that he posted on his Web site.
When he later opened his own nightclub in Chicago, Russo said, he promoted some of the most successful rock acts of the 1960s, including Janis Joplin and The Grateful Dead.
"He was an absolutely amazing man," said Ilona Urban, his press secretary.
"He was pointed, and once he knew there was a direction to go, you couldn’t get him to turn left or right. He was very committed."
In addition to Gregg, Russo is survived by their children, Sam Russo, 22; and Max Russo, 25.