Bob Palmer, Veteran Hollywood Publicist, Dies at 85

Jim McHugh

He led the Oscar campaign for 'Silence of the Lambs' best actor winner Anthony Hopkins and represented Dick Van
 Dyke, Faye Dunaway and others

Bob Palmer, a Hollywood publicist for six decades who created the Oscar campaign for The Silence of the Lambs’ best actor winner Anthony Hopkins, has died. He was 85.

Palmer, who worked for ABC, Screen Gems, MGM and Universal Studios and had his own firm during his long, fruitful career, died peacefully in his Pacific Palisades, Calif., home on Monday after a brief illness, his family announced.

Most recently, Palmer had been representing longtime friend and client Dick Van 
Dyke. Bob Palmer Public Relations also represented such actors as Faye Dunaway, Sada Thompson, David Soul, Peter Strauss and Michele Lee.

Palmer was the publicist behind Larry Schiller Productions’ 1982 NBC telefilm The Executioner’s Song, which starred Tommy Lee Jones in an Emmy-winning turn as convicted murderer Gary Gilmore.

Born in Ketchikan, Alaska, on Oct. 12, 1928, Palmer studied journalism at Los Angeles High School and Los Angeles City College. He wrote copy in San Francisco for newspapers in the Lippert Theater chain and joined Fox West Coast Theaters as an assistant manager at its legendary Market Street theater.

At age 22, Palmer was hired as director of publicity and advertising for United Paramount, and working with the movie studios, he helped create campaigns for the Bay Area premieres of such 1950s classics as Sunset Boulevard, Shane, The Greatest Show on Earth and Detective Story.

He also promoted stage shows starring Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Les Paul and Mary Ford, Patti Page and many others.

Palmer served as a journalist and seaman in the U.S. Navy Reserve and was called to active duty during the Korean War. After a two-year tour of duty, he returned to L.A. and was hired as West Coast publicity director for ABC Radio.

He moved to ABC Television as a senior publicist, working on such shows as Maverick, 77 Sunset Strip, Cheyenne, Sugarfoot, Bronco, The Alaskans and Bourbon Street Beat. Palmer left ABC in 1960 to produce a syndicated series, then joined Gene Autry’s Golden West Broadcasters as publicity director for its flagship station, KMPC in Los Angeles.

At Screen Gems, he was the publicity director for such TV shows as Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, The Monkees and The Wackiest Ship. In 1968, he joined MGM, where he did publicity for Medical Center, Along Came Bronson and The Courtship of Eddie’s Father.

At Universal, he oversaw publicity on Marcus Welby, M.D., The Sixth Sense, The Bold Ones and various movies. He then worked on The Rookies, S.W.A.T., Charlie’s Angels, Family, The Love Boat and Leon UrisQB VII, the first novel-for-television, at ABC.

Palmer produced and directed the documentary Too 
Good to Waste, about adolescents struggling with alcohol and drug addiction. He had been working on his memoir, a collection of essays that recalled his love affair with Hollywood from the time he was a boy, at the time of his death.

Survivors include his daughter, Tracy, son-in-law James, grandchildren Dylan, Cody and Sofia and his three dogs.

A memorial service is set for 11 a.m. on Oct. 11 at the Parish of St. Matthew in Pacific Palisades. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to Clare Foundation, 909 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90404.

Twitter: @mikebarnes4

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