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William Sargent, promoted his ideas

LOS ANGELES -- H. William "Bill" Sargent Jr., entertainment impresario who pioneered pay-per-view television, put such stage plays as Richard Burton's "Hamlet" into motion picture theaters, and produced the landmark film "Richard Pryor Live in Concert," has died. He was 76.

Mr. Sargent died Oct. 19 in his hometown of Caddo, Okla., of a heart attack, according to producer David Permut, who worked with Sargent on the 1979 Pryor film. "He's Mike Todd and P.T. Barnum rolled into one. I have never met a more flamboyant or brilliant promoter," Permut said of Mr. Sargent in 1986 when he was considering a film about his mentor.

Mr. Sargent held 400 patents on tape heads, distribution amplifiers, electronic camera components, and other assorted gadgets.

Mr. Sargent, who burned down the family home trying to repair a radio for his father at age 6, became a licensed ham radio operator by 9 and taught high school math at 11. He started out as an electronics specialist, making his first six-figure income installing public address systems for schools and hotels. He brought his varied talents to Los Angeles in 1959 and embarked on a charmed two decades of earning millions one month and spending or losing them the next.

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