David Horowitz, Esteemed Hollywood Publicist, Dies at 86

David Horowitz - Publicity - S 2016
Courtesy of Carl Samrock Public Relations

David Horowitz - Publicity - S 2016

He had a close association with Barbra Streisand and delivered his clients great success during Oscar season, with big wins for 'The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,' 'Dances With Wolves' and 'The Silence of the Lambs.'

David Horowitz, the well-respected Hollywood publicist known for his close association with Barbra Streisand and success with Academy Award campaigns, has died. He was 86.

Horowitz, who also engineered Bill Clinton’s appearances playing saxophone on The Tonight Show and The Arsenio Hall Show, died Sunday at his home in Los Angeles, according to his wife, Lynn.

Horowitz began his close association with Streisand with the 1968 film Funny Girl, followed by Hello, Dolly! (1969), On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (1970), The Owl and the Pussycat (1970) and What’s Up, Doc? (1972). He also arranged for her to serve as one of the star performers at a benefit concert for civil rights, attended by 18,000, at the Hollywood Bowl in 1968.


Horowitz also promoted such memorable films as The Graduate (1967), The Lion in Winter (1968), The French Connection (1971), Tommy (1975), All the President’s Men (1976) and Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) and such television projects as Roots, The Thorn Birds and Katharine Hepburn’s The Corn Is Green.

Horowitz served as president of corporate entertainment, president of the film division and president of the TV division at Rogers & Cowan; advertising and publicity vp with Kirk Douglas’ Bryna Productions; unit publicist for several Billy Wilder pictures, including Irma La Douce (1963) and The Fortune Cookie (1966); and vp publicity at TriStar to handle The Natural (1984), at Robert Redford’s request.

In the 1970s, Horowitz joined Warner Bros. for a decadelong stint with the studio, first as the film division’s head of publicity under Ted Ashley and Frank Wells and then as vp advertising, publicity and promotion for Warner Bros. Television under Alan Shayne.

During his eight-year stint in the TV division, Wells called upon Horowitz to advise on several movie campaigns, and Warner Communications chief Steve Ross appointed him to put in place systems to promote synergy among various corporate divisions. That led to the early expansion of the Warner Bros. Studio Tour, now a popular tourist attraction.

Beginning in 1990, for nearly two decades, Horowitz specialized in Oscar campaigns. He polled media, industry tastemakers and studio executives and then issued the results to key press and Academy members in what became an influential document.

Highlights of his campaigns included the New Line sweep in 2004 for The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, which took 11 Oscars out of 11 nominations, still a record; back-to-back best picture wins for Orion Pictures’ Dances With Wolves (1990) and The Silence of the Lambs (1991); and many other wins and scores of nominations for Orion, Warner, Miramax, Paramount and New Line.

Horowitz worked with top stars and filmmakers including Hepburn, Woody Allen, Robert Altman, The Beatles, The Bee Gees, Harry Belafonte, Tony Bennett, Mel Brooks, George Burns, Diahann Carroll, Kevin Costner, Bette Davis, Judi Dench, Richard Dreyfuss, Jodie Foster, Dustin Hoffman, Anthony Hopkins, Nicole Kidman, Dorothy Lamour, Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Bob Newhart, Al Pacino, Richard Pryor, Don Rickles, The Rolling Stones, Rosalind Russell, Steven Spielberg, Tina Turner, The Who, Flip Wilson and The Muppets.

In 1988, after relatively unknown Arkansas Gov. Clinton gained notoriety for a speech at the Democratic Convention that ran too long, Clinton friends and TV producers Harry Thomason and Linda Bloodworth-Thomason sought Horowitz’s help to undo the perceived gaffe by having the governor play the sax on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.

Horowitz got the booking, Clinton played and Carson got a huge laugh by bringing out a giant hourglass at the start of the interview. “That was a good night for Clinton,” Thomason recalled.

The Thomasons again asked Horowitz for advice to bolster Clinton’s candidacy for president in 1992. That led to another late-night sax gig, this time on The Arsenio Hall Show, where Clinton jammed on “Heartbreak Hotel” and “God Bless the Child.” The appearance increased Clinton’s popularity among minority and young voters.

Later, the new president wanted Horowitz to move to Washington to work in his administration, but he declined. “I didn’t want to leave Los Angeles and the film business, not to mention our pets,” he said.

David H. Horowitz was born on July 21, 1929, in New York City. He soon moved to Miami with his family and when he was 11, they came to Los Angeles. He graduated from University High School at age 15 and entered UCLA as a pre-med student, but a summer job with an advertising agency convinced him medicine was not for him.

After graduation, he worked at KERO-TV in Bakersfield, Calif., first as a cameraman and then as a director of local shows. After three years, he returned to advertising in the mid-1950s as an account executive at The Goodman Organization, handling Warner Bros., United Artists and American International Pictures.

A colleague at Goodman told Horowitz that filmmaker Robert Aldrich was seeking a publicity vp. In the interview, Aldrich asked about Horowitz's experience. “Well, I do know advertising but, actually, nothing about publicity.” “You’re hired,” Aldrich said. “You’re the first honest publicist I’ve ever met.”

His campaign helped Aldrich's What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) become a critical and commercial success and garner five Oscar nominations, including one for Davis for best actress, and one win.

In 1959, Horowitz married Lynn Rockman. They lived in their home in Westwood for the last 52 years.

In addition to his wife of 56 years, Horowitz is survived by his sister-in-law Norma; godchildren Annelis and Will Laakkos and their parents Keith and Betsy; and surrogate daughter Linda Dresie and her family.

Services will be held at Mount Sinai Memorial Park on Forest Lawn Drive in Los Angeles at 10 a.m. on July 25. Contributions can be made to the Southern Poverty Law Center or to Mazon, an organization whose aim is to end hunger in the U.S. and Israel.