Eleanor M. Quam launched modeling careers

  • Article by: BEN COHEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 16, 2008 - 9:26 PM

A "trailblazer" for women in business, she started a Minneapolis modeling and talent agency 50 years ago.

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Eleanor Moore Quam

Eleanor Moore Quam of Bloomington, who 50 years ago founded the Eleanor Moore Agency, launched many modeling and acting careers.

Moore Quam, 89, whose client list once included Loni Anderson, Nick Nolte and Kelly Lynch, died on May 14 in Bloomington.

"What a beacon she was," said Nancy Gormley of Minneapolis, an actor and a model. "She put my career on the map."

Gormley said Moore Quam's agency was really the first of its kind in the area.

After graduating from Minneapolis' Roosevelt High School, Moore Quam attended the University of Minnesota. She worked as a secretary for an airplane manufacturer in San Diego from 1943 to 1945, returning to Minneapolis and doing some modeling herself.

Around 1950, she became the fashion coordinator for the Young Quinlan department store, making a name for herself, putting on runway shows at the store and at special events.

By 1958, advertising art directors were calling her for models, prompting her to start her own business.

Jane Noyce of Edina, her niece and an agent in her aunt's business, said Moore Quam built the firm from scratch. For several years, she worked out of her Minneapolis apartment, and by 1979, according to the publication Twin Cities, her agency was the biggest in the upper Midwest.

"She was a trailblazer for women in business," said her niece.

"Ellie had a wonderful reputation, not only locally but nationally, because she was a dedicated, kind, warm person to work with," said her niece, adding she was trusted by models and her clients.

She increasingly attracted actors and gave a lot of credit for the influx of talent to the founding of the Guthrie Theater and the accompanying growth of the Twin Cities theater scene.

She helped cast Minnesota talent into Hollywood movies, such as "Ice Castles," "Airport" and "Ordinary People."

Modeling industry giant Eileen Ford of New York was a friend, and Moore Quam did business with her, as well as with other top agencies in the nation, said Andrea Hjelm, president of the now-named Moore Creative Talent of Minneapolis.

She was a "meticulous" businesswoman and served as a mentor to many, said Hjelm, who was hired as a model by Moore Quam in the early 1960s and who bought the firm in 1981.

"Ellie gave us the ability to have repeat business with a client, and showed us that personal and business ethics were essential," said Hjelm.

"She had a genuine interest in people and curiosity about people," whether friend or client, she said.

In retirement, Moore Quam enjoyed fishing in Minnesota and golf in Arizona.

Her husband, Bob Quam, died in 2004.

She is survived by her brother, Robert Ulsaker of Edina; sister, Leah Veker of St. Louis Park; six nieces and two nephews.

Services will be held at 1 p.m. Monday in the Washburn-McReavy Edina Chapel, 5000 W. 50th Street and Hwy. 100.

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