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John Simes, a veteran Hollywood publicity man who represented the likes of Debbie Reynolds, Lee Marvin and the then-new American Film Institute during his long career, died Saturday at his home in North Hollywood, his wife, Dianne, said. He was 86.
Simes was a member of the Publicists Guild for more than 45 years. His work in Hollywood began in 1961 as vp advertising/publicity for Statewide Theaters, a chain of 50 Southern California cinemas that included the flagship Paramount Theater (now the El Capitan, its original name) on Hollywood Boulevard.
When Fred Stein sold the Statewide circuit to Loews, Simes entered the agency field with Jim Mahoney & Associates, representing such clients as Reynolds, Petula Clark, Andre Previn, Rosemary Clooney and Keely Smith.
He co-anchored awards campaigns for Frank Sinatra and Lee Marvin, which culminated with the latter winning the best actor Oscar for Cat Ballou (1965).
Simes went on to work at such agencies as Solters & Sabinson, Steinberg, Lipsman & Brokaw and Rogers & Cowan and at firms headed by John Springer and Jay Bernstein. During this time, he associated with Peggy Lee, Dom DeLuise, Sammy Davis Jr., Dionne Warwick, Dustin Hoffman, Henry Fonda and many others.
With Bernstein and Rogers & Cowan, he was vice president of their television departments, working with advertising agencies and clients like Procter & Gamble, Dr Pepper, Chevrolet and General Mills.
Simes was the first publicist for The American Film Institute, and he did PR for the Miss America pageant, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus and the Harlem Globetrotters. He headed up publicity for Bob Hope TV specials, The Merv Griffin Show and The Muppet Show.
In 1975, he formed the Garrett/Simes publicity outfit with Don Garrett, and they helped kick off the People’s Choice Awards and Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.
A native of Milwaukee, Simes served in the U.S. Army, attended the University of Wisconsin and played the drums in college dance bands. Later, he worked at WQUA in Moline, Ill., writing copy and selling radio spots, and had a nightclub act.
After semi-retiring from show business, Simes and his wife opened a flower business that catered to many of his former clients. He recently finished a memoir, Jack of All Trades: 54 Jobs in 82 Years.
In addition to his wife, Simes is survived by four daughters, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. A celebration of his life will take place May 17 at his North Hollywood home.
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