May 16, 2008 / 12:17 AM / 10 years ago

Famed Hollywood publicist Warren Cowan dead at 87

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Legendary Hollywood press agent Warren Cowan, who counted Cary Grant, Frank Sinatra and Elizabeth Taylor among his clients and virtually wrote the book on how to represent a star, died at age 87 after a fight with cancer, a spokeswoman said on Thursday.

Legendary Hollywood publicist Warren Cowan, shown in this undated publicity photograph, whose clients included Ronald Reagan, Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Newman and Frank Sinatra, died at age 87 after a fight with cancer, a spokeswoman announced on May 15, 2008. A pioneer of entertainment publicity and a co-founder of the firm Rogers & Cowan, he died on May 14 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center with family members at his side. Cowan had been diagnosed with cancer three weeks earlier. REUTERS/Courtesy Warren Cowan and Associates/Handout

A pioneer of entertainment publicity who helped build the company Rogers & Cowan into a PR powerhouse, Cowan died on Wednesday night at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center with his family members at his side. He had been diagnosed with cancer three weeks earlier.

His career lasted more than 60 years, and his client list spanned a veritable who’s who of Hollywood, with actor Paul Newman and his wife, actress Joanne Woodward, still represented by Cowan until his death.

Other notable clients over the years included Danny Kaye, Kirk Douglas, Tony Curtis, Shirley MacLaine, Elton John, Doris Day, Gene Kelly, Lucille Ball, Judy Garland, Steve McQueen, Natalie Wood, Robert Wagner, John Wayne, Bette Midler, Clint Eastwood and Audrey Hepburn.

And he served as press agent for actors-turned-politicians Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Reagan used to joke that had Cowan done a better job for his acting career he would never have had to go into politics.

Known as an innovator in the world of publicity, Cowan created events that have become routine in show business, including celebrity charity dinners and Oscar campaigns in which the stars duke it out for recognition of their work ahead of the annual film awards.

Rogers’ first Academy Award campaign was Crawford’s successful Oscar bid as best actress for the 1945 tearjerker

“Mildred Pierce.”

He also used “top ten” lists as a vehicle to promote his clients, having his stars cited for everything from being the “Most Watchable” to having the “Most Hypnotic Eyes.”

Moreover, Cowan is credited with pioneering “product placement” in Hollywood, the practice of giving away goods and merchandise to celebrities or inserting products into films in order to gain free publicity for them.

In 1946, he joined the public relations company run by his mentor, Henry Rogers, and eventually became a partner, and the name changed to Rogers & Cowan.

In 1988, Rogers & Cowan was sold to Shandwick Plc, a British conglomerate, and in 1994, he launched a new company, Warren Cowan & Associates.

When asked who his favorite client was, he always replied: “The next one.”

Editing by Steve Gorman and Eric Walsh

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