PR maven always got the word out

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Lee Solters, the savvy public relations veteran who represented stars ranging from Frank Sinatra to Led Zeppelin and hundreds of stage shows including "My Fair Lady" and "Guys and Dolls," died Monday at his home in West Hollywood. He was 89.

Solters' clients in a career that spanned more than 70 years also included Claudette Colbert, Gregory Peck, Cary Grant, Carol Channing, Mae West, Barbra Streisand, Michael Jackson, Paul McCartney and Wings, talk show host Robert Q. Lewis, Yul Brynner, Dolly Parton, Whitney Houston, Broadway impresario David Merrick, the Muppets and 20th Century Fox owner Marvin Davis.

The Brooklyn-born Solters represented more than 300 musicals and plays including Broadway productions of "Funny Girl," "The King & I" and "Camelot" and works by Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller and Neil Simon.

Solters had been partnered with Jerry Digney at the Solters & Digney agency since 2001. Throughout his career, he had a requirement for his publicists: to turn in at least one "item" daily.

In 1965, Solters didn't represent Sinatra, who was going on tour, but he did represent Caesars Palace, where Sinatra was under contract. Caesars paid Solters extra to make sure that everywhere the singer went, he was associated with Caesars.

When he met Sinatra, Solters didn't act too impressed. "I was not a yes man," Solters told THR contributor Alex Ben Block in 2003. "I did tell Sinatra that I didn't think his current publicist was doing a very good job."

When Sinatra asked him what he would do, Solters suggested in each city he'd "invite two leading columnists, five minutes before you go on, to visit in your dressing room. You give this guy the rare opportunity to see you face to face."

So they tried it in Philadelphia, where Larry Fields of the Daily News brought his wife along. Sinatra kissed her cheek, and she fainted. Fields wrote a glowingly positive column.

"So in each city, I did that and built an army of supporters for him," Solters said. "After that, (the press) would call me when something happened with him. … Then when we got back to Caesars, (Sinatra's lawyer) Mickey Rudin told me, 'You're taking over (Sinatra's PR).' "

Solters not only repped Sinatra for the next 26 years, but having the Chairman of the Board as a client gave him new status. "Soon I was vacuuming in clients: the city of Las Vegas, Ann-Margret, Cher and many others," he told Ben Block. (partialdiff)
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