Monday, October 11, 2021

Roll Call’s Bandwagon Comment: We Lost One of the Industry’s Greatest on Wednesday

Bobby Zarem, the “superflack” known for his schmoozing with the stars and powerful executives like Michael Jackson and legendary producer Quincy Jones, died on Wednesday from congestive heart failure, according to the Los Angeles Times. He was 84.

Zarem’s book of Hollywood interviews, “Superflack: Voices from the Front Lines of Entertainment” was published in 1996. His résumé includes star-studded events like the Academy Awards and People’s Choice Awards. He also served as a columnist for many Hollywood magazines including TV Guide, Newsweek and TV Guide Magazine.

Upon the launch of his business, Zarem was highly sought-after by the stars. A former publicist for Bing Crosby, Zarem was hired by the film star in 1960. Just months after his arrival, Zarem began interviewing the stars.

After a time, the publicist’s celebrity contacts and schmoozing with celebrities came at a high price. He had to shut down his magazine and make a living from writing a syndicated column and acting as a publicist for Hollywood stars.

“I was the Moses of the movie business to people who liked him, and he was the Moses of people who didn’t like him,” said Steve Reuther, the longtime associate of Zarem. “What happened was, everybody was for him before, and it didn’t matter what he did, they were for him. After, if he did something wrong, they hated him.”

Zarem was also best known for his relationships with Hollywood’s biggest names, including the late Princess Diana and entertainer Michael Jackson. Zarem would call the princess to warn her if the King of Pop was about to give a concert. When the Princess found out he was right, she would go and see him. The iconic music producer Quincy Jones had Zarem inform Jackson on the release of his album “Thriller.”

“My life is etched in the white chalk of Bobby Zarem’s black eraser. He made me famous and he gave me money,” Jones told his friend.

Zarem, whose family emigrated from the Ukraine, attended Columbia University and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He later attended USC, but earned a bachelor’s degree from Manhattanville College.

“He was an expert mediator, an idealist, a visionary, a great listener and every great interviewee would tell a great story,” Reuther said. “He was an amazingly gifted problem solver who had great empathy for people.”

His exceptional interviewing skills and stellar relationships with the talent and executives made Zarem one of the most powerful movie town publicists in Hollywood. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Zarem sold more than 500 television commercials, 29 magazine covers and authored several books.

The world lost one of its finest as Zarem died on Wednesday after a long battle with heart failure.

“Bobby had an extraordinary impact on the entertainment industry and entertainment-related publicity,” Ross Valenti, who served as Zarem’s executive vice president at Fox, the Times and CBS, said in a statement. “He was beloved in Hollywood and was respected as a true Hollywood legend.”

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