Jeremy Nussbaum of Amagansett and New York City, a prominent attorney and the co-owner with his wife, Charline Spektor, of the BookHampton stores, died at their Manhattan apartment on June 12. Mr. Nussbaum, 70, had been diagnosed with cancer some time ago.
In the mid-’60s, the time of the Watts race riots, the freedom marchers, and Agent Orange, Mr. Nussbaum attended one of the most liberal colleges in the nation, the University of California at Berkeley. Student unrest over the war in Vietnam was escalating. He was among the leaders of Berkeley’s Free Speech Movement, a series of student protests, unprecedented at the time, demanding that the university end its ban of on-campus political activities. The drive, which succeeded, was a precedent for the civil rights movement, and also for Mr. Nussbaum, who remained an outspoken liberal throughout his life.
“Our investment in the future of our country was in having independent bookstores and being able to read whatever you want,” Ms. Spektor said in recalling how the couple came to own the BookHampton stores. “The most important thing for freedom is the freedom to read and to understand other people’s ideas. He said that all the time.”
Mr. Nussbaum was born in Muskogee, Okla., on Nov. 23, 1941, to Max Nussbaum and the former Ruth Offenstadt, two years after his parents escaped from Nazi Germany, where his father had been the rabbi of Berlin’s once-powerful Reform Jewish congregation. When he was a toddler, the family moved to Hollywood, and he grew up there among directors, producers, and a galaxy of movie stars. It was Rabbi Nussbaum who converted Elizabeth Taylor to Judaism before her marriage to Eddie Fisher.
After graduating from college, Mr. Nussbaum attended law school at New York University, and he stayed in New York, where he and Ms. Spektor met, for the rest of his life. With what his family called an “unstoppable curiosity and an extraordinary depth of literary knowledge,” much of it acquired over a lifetime’s prodigious reading, he became a sought-after specialist in intellectual property law, dealing with novels, poems, plays, films, musical work, artworks, and architectural design during a 40-year career. Among his well-known clients, first at Greenbaum Wolff & Ernst and then as a senior partner at Cowan Leibowitz Latman, were the authors Joe Heller, William Gaddis, and Robert K. Massie; the actress Kathleen Turner, the actor Andre Gregory (who introduced the couple), and the Nobel Prize-winning neuroscientist Eric Kandel.
After renting for a few years in Sag Harbor, the Nussbaums fell in love with a house on Old Montauk Highway in Amagansett and bought it 28 years ago. Mr. Nussbaum, who had an encyclopedic knowledge of both classical music and jazz, played the piano and the clarinet. The couple’s house was filled with music, books, and good talk, often political. Movies and the stage were also high on his eclectic list; he was a founder of the Hamptons International Film Festival.
The Nussbaums became the owners of the BookHamptons in 2000. There were two then, in East Hampton and Southampton, but they added a third, in Sag Harbor, within a year. Their newest, in Mattituck on the North Fork, has been open only a few months. The stores will continue under her ownership, Ms. Spektor said.
All four were closed last Thursday so employees could attend Mr. Nussbaum’s funeral at the Jewish Center of the Hamptons. Both sides of Woods Lane were lined with cars for the service, which was followed by burial at the center’s cemetery in Springs, Shaaray Pardes.
Mr. Nussbaum leaves a son, Gabriel, who runs Bank Street Films in Manhattan, and a daughter, Lily Claire, who heads a rock band called Lily and the Parlor Tricks. Both live in New York City. A sister, Hannah Marsh of Los Angeles, also survives.
The family has suggested contributions in Mr. Nussbaum’s memory for Planned Parenthood, 434 West 33rd Street, New York 10001, or the American Civil Liberties Union, 125 Broad Street, 18th Floor, New York 10004.