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Lee Solters, the savvy public relations executive who represented everyone from Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand and Michael Jackson to Led Zeppelin and “My Fair Lady,” 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, talk show host Robert Q. Lewis, Dolly Parton, Whitney Houston, Paul McCartney and Wings, the Eagles, Yul Brynner, Broadway impresario David Merrick, the Muppets, 20th Century Fox owner Marvin Davis and Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
The Brooklyn-born Solters represented more than 300 musical and straight plays, including Broadway productions of “Guys and Dolls,” “Funny Girl,” “The King & I,” “My Fair Lady,” 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. He had a daily 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 everywhere the singer went, he was associated with Caesars.
When he met Sinatra, Solters didn’t act too impressed. “I never argued with him, but I discussed things,” Solters told THR contributor Alex Ben Block in 2003. “I was not a yes man … 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 Philadelphia 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.
Solters wrote for Stars & Stripes while in the military, then joined with James J. O’Rourke to create their PR firm Solters O’Rourke in the 1940s. With Harvey Sabinson joining shortly after, the firm broke ground by creating legendary PR campaigns. Solters later worked with Sheldon Roskin and Monroe Friedman.Solters is survived by his daughter, Susan Reynolds; his son, Larry Solters; his grandchildren, Jonah Reynolds and Maxie Solters; and his great-grandson, Elijah Reynolds.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be sent to Providence-Trinity Care Hospice Foundation, 2601 Airport Dr., Suite 230, Torrance, CA 90505. Funeral services are private.
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