Director Howard Zieff dies at 81

Veteran's credits include 'Private Benjamin,' 'My Girl'

Howard Zieff, a famed director of TV commercials in the 1960s who went on to specialize in Hollywood comedies, died Feb. 22 from complications due to Parkinson's disease at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He was 81.

Zieff's films include "Hearts of the West" (1975), "Private Benjamin" (1980), "Unfaithfully Yours" (1984), "The Dream Team" (1989), "My Girl" (1991) and his last film, "My Girl 2" (1994).

Goldie Hawn, who received an Oscar nomination for best actress for her role in "Private Benjamin," told the Los Angeles Times that Zieff "had a special talent for directing comedies, always a rare gift."

The Chicago native also is credited with helping to change the face of American commercials in the '60s with witty slice-of life vignettes, such as his "Spicy Meatball" spot for Alka-Seltzer. Time magazine called him the "master of the mini ha-ha."

One of the best-known photographers on Madison Avenue early in his career, Zieff also did the posters for Levy's Rye Bread, which featured the line, "You don't have to be Jewish to love Levy's," accompanied by photos of regular folks of various ethnicities.

Zieff is survived by his wife, Ronda Gomez-Quinones, and sister Margie Finn. A private funeral will be held.