Bobby Zarem — Legendary Publicist Who Helped Craft 'I Love New York' Campaign — Dead at 84

·3 min read
Bobby Zarem, part of the city's publicity scene for three decades, in his East Side apartment.
Bobby Zarem, part of the city's publicity scene for three decades, in his East Side apartment.

Corey Sipkin/NY Daily News Archive via Getty

Bobby Zarem — the legendary publicist who also went by "BZ" — has died. He was 84.

On Sunday, Zarem died surrounded by family and friends in his hometown of Savannah, Georgia, his longtime friend and assistant Bill Augustin confirmed in a statement obtained by PEOPLE.

The publicist helped launched the "I Love New York" tourist campaign as well as orchestrated the careers of many Hollywood legends, including Alan Alda, Michael Caine, Cher, Michael Douglas, Dustin Hoffman, Jack Nicholson, Diana Ross, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Sylvester Stallone, to name a few.

Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, Augustin told the outlet that Zarem died from complications of lung cancer. His death comes just four days before his 85th birthday.

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Zarem is now survived by various family members, including his sister-in-law, Elizabeth McCaughey Zarem, and six nieces and nephews: Harold Zarem, Allison Zarem, Melissa Zarem, Kathryn Zarem, Michael Zarem, and Robert Zarem.

He is also survived by seven great-nieces and nephews, as well as the many friends he has made over the years in New York and across the globe.

Bobby Zarem attends Andy Warhol Memorial Service on April 1, 1987 at the Diamond Horseshoe Restaurant in New York City.
Bobby Zarem attends Andy Warhol Memorial Service on April 1, 1987 at the Diamond Horseshoe Restaurant in New York City.

Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty

Zarem was born in Savannah on Sept. 30, 1936, to parents Harry and Rose Zarem. His death comes after those of his two brothers: Jack Zarem, a men's fashion retailer, and Harvey Zarem, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon.

After childhood, the famed publicist followed his two brothers to Phillips Academy Andover in Andover, Massachusetts, and later graduated from Yale University in the class of 1958.

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A week after graduating, Zarem moved to New York City, where he took on an array of jobs, some of which included working alongside Joseph E. Levine and the PR agency Rogers & Cowan, per THR. There, he worked with The Jackson 5, Ann-Margret, Dustin Hoffman, and more.

Years later, in 1974, Zarem started Zarem Inc., the outlet added. Crafting events like the black-tie premiere for Tommy in a subway station. He also helped launch Hard Rock Cafe's rise to worldwide recognition, introduced Mia Farrow to Woody Allen, and later crafted the iconic "I Love New York" campaign.

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Per Augustin's statement, Zarem also played a role in helping to make films such as Saturday Night Fever, Scarface, Rambo, and Pee-wee's Big Adventure into bonafide hits.

He also turned his skills towards books as well, helping to turn Midnight In the Garden of Good and Evil into an international best-seller as well, Augustin noted.

In lieu of flowers, Zarem's family asks family, friends, and supporters alike to instead make a donation to the Motion Picture & Television Fund, which offers healthcare and other services to retired members that served within the entertainment industry.

His family also thanks hospice workers at Hospice Savannah's Handle with Loving Care for being there for them and Zarem in his final moments.

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