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Eddie Michaels, a respected Hollywood publicist for more than two decades, died Thursday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles after a battle with brain cancer, his wife, Lorin, said. He was 49.
Michaels most recently served as a top executive at Beck Media & Marketing, joining the firm in December when it acquired his corporate advisory and communications firm Insignia Public Relations.
Michaels’ extensive client list over the years included actors Anjelica Huston, Noah Wyle, Lou Diamond Phillips, Drew Barrymore, Jeremy Piven, Marg Helgenberger, Mary Steenburgen, Patrick Dempsey, Jason Biggs and Dougray Scott; directors Jonathan Mostow, Andy Tennant and Gregory Hoblit; writers Marc Guggenheim and Zak Penn; producers Bob Yari, Michael London and Nelson Woss; and companies/organizations Illumination Entertainment (the home of Despicable Me run by Chris Meledandri), The Mark Gordon Co., the Producers Guild of America, Village Roadshow Pictures, Endgame Entertainment and the nonprofit Humanitas.
“Not only was Eddie a wonderful friend, father and professional, he was a media visionary who was instrumental in rebranding many organizations, including Humanitas,” Humanitas executive director Cathleen Young tells The Hollywood Reporter.
“Eddie helped me build Illumination from its inception,” Meledandri, who was with Michaels at Insignia, told THR. “He was gracious and wise, and his integrity was exemplary. He will be missed deeply by me and everyone at Illumination.”
Michaels famously represented Barrymore in February 2001 when an early morning fire gutted the Beverly Hills home in which she was living with her eventual husband, comedian Tom Green.
And Insignia was hired by Two and a Half Men actor Angus T. Jones following the November release of his controversial video in which he slammed the Chuck Lorre sitcom.
Michaels was Phillips’ only publicist; their relationship started before the actor’s breakthrough performance as rock ‘n roll icon Ritchie Valens in La Bamba (1987). He began working for Wyle as the actor was starring on ER in 1994.
Wyle said that, despite having a poster for The Sweet Smell of Success on his wall, Michaels was effectively the opposite of the bottom-feeding press agent played by Tony Curtis in the 1957 film.
“Eddie was indeed of the old school but never became cynical,” Wyle said in a statement. “He was experienced but without being jaded. Above all, he was honest, sometimes painfully so, but that only made him more trustworthy. In an industry fueled by hyperbole, his candor was refreshing, his perspective invaluable.”
Michaels was born in Los Angeles on July 27, 1964. He graduated from University High School and later attended Santa Monica College and California State University Northridge. He began doing internships in the PR business in the early 1980s and started his career working with his mentor, Joe Sutton, at Freeman & Sutton. In 1992, he founded Eddie Michaels & Associates, relaunched as Insignia in October 2004.
Michaels cited a need for a “first-class infrastructure to support my continued work” on his clients’ behalf when Insignia was acquired by Todd Beck‘s firm. He brought his clients with him.
“One of the cardinal rules of publicity is ‘don’t become the story,’ so I know our friend Eddie would just hate this,” Beck said Friday. “My agency team and I are deeply saddened by Eddie’s passing. We will miss his warmth, his passion and his time-tested skills as a true Hollywood PR pro.”
Michaels, a big fan of the Los Angeles Lakers, Dodgers and Bruce Springsteen, succumbed to complications brought on by treatment for brain cancer, with which he was first diagnosed more than seven years ago. After several years in remission, the disease returned last year.
In addition to Lorin, a former executive at ABC, survivors include their daughter Dylan, 9, and son Matthew 7.
A funeral will take place be at 2 p.m. Sunday at Mount Sinai Memorial Park, 5950 Forest Lawn Drive in Los Angeles.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Wilshire Boulevard Temple, 3663 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles CA 90010, or to the Johnnie L. Cochran Brain Tumor Center (in honor of Jeremy Rudnick/Memory Eddie Michaels); 127 S. San Vicente Blvd. #8600, Los Angeles CA 90048.
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