Legendary publicist Bobby Zarem dies at 84

Legendary publicist Bobby Zarem – whose PR work left an indelible mark on 20th century pop culture – died early Sunday morning, four days before his 85th birthday, at his Savannah home. Until his last days, his phone rang, as it always had, with Hollywood actors, producers, professional athletes, novelists, columnists and friends calling to talk about movies, report gossip, or respond to one. lovingly secular voice messages from Bobby. (From a tirade he would say, “I’m not negative, I’m just factual.”)

Widely recognized as the architect of modern advertising, Bobby entered the industry through a side door. Working in the cinema, he showed a group of friends, including journalists, a clip from the 1968 film. The lion in winter and realized (as he later said The New York Times) that his own contagious enthusiasm had led to delusional articles. He went on to promote films including Saturday night fever, Scarface, and Dance with the wolves. Its client list spans generations and genres: Mick Jagger, Diana Ross, Sophia Loren, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Jack Nicholson, to name a few, and his influence stretched far beyond this list, from Studio 54 to the White House.

A ruthless employer with a propensity for obscenity, a formidable grudge known for his bickering, generous friend and storyteller, and from an early age a star-eyed beauty and talent superfan, Bobby was always happy to share his zeal. for the formidable. On any given night, that could mean taking a New York Mets player away. Keith hernandez to an opera by Verdi; escort Christy turlington at an NBA game; to present Michael douglas and Catherine zeta jones with shrimp from Georgia; or silence a room to highlight a favorite Cole Porter song.

Zarem never married, but he had a number of longtime loves, baseball and Broadway among them. He loved New York too, so much so that in the 1970s he helped launch the “I Love New York” campaign, gloriously recounting in his later years how he rallied the participation of friends and clients, from Margaux Hemingway, Gilda Radner and Carrie Fisher to Frank Sinatra — to promote it. But nothing surpassed his hometown of Savannah, Georgia.

In the early 1970s, when he had derived all the fun, glamor and style he needed from Manhattan living, he returned to the very house where he had grown up with his older brothers: the late Harvey and Danny Zarem. (a celebrity-sought after plastic surgeon, and acclaimed fashion retailer and inductee in Vanity ShowBest Dressed Men’s Hall of Fame, respectively).

But his return home was not quite a retreat. Zarem continued the work of Zarem, Inc. from the big yellow armchair in his living room, educating his favorite columnists about success and scandals, and promoting events with discernment, be they cabaret shows. friends and coloring book launches or her host your 80th birthday at a sandy nacho bar and restaurant on Tybee Island.

As a humble blogger for VF.com, I was introduced to Zarem at Elaine by the author Adam davies in 2008. I was fortunate enough to be invited to many special events afterwards – backstage tours after God of carnage at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theater; stuffed eggs at Bar Centrale; a number of parties at the Savannah Film Festival (which Bobby put on the map). When I called him to tell him that I was planning to fly from NYC for his milestone birthday, he told me in a neutral tone that he wasn’t sure he had. room on the list – it was competitive. But, I could be the “plus-one” of a mutual friend and Savannahian. (It turned out to be my first date with my current husband.)

Bobby was a connector. He lived to make things happen. In his work, he said he found love and acceptance not only for his stars, but for himself. At the same time, he was in a world of his own: “No one ever knew me. Nobody ever caught me,He told me in 2020, reflecting on his career. “No one knew what it was like to be Jewish, originally from Savannah and an important person in New York society.”

Bobby Zarem has spent half a century putting others in the spotlight, and at the spectacle of life, he’s always secured front row seats. He is survived by his extended family, including six nieces and nephews, countless friends and proteges, at least a few enemies of the industry, and by a mention in the lyrics of a song written by his old friend and fellow Savannahian , Johnny Mercer: “My new celebrity is you.”

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