Jay Curtis, Longtime Brand Manager at CBS, Dies at 67

Jay Curtis - Publicity - H 2018
Courtesy of JT Curtis

Nicknamed 'The Creative Lifeguard,' the WGA Award winner produced promotional campaigns and was a published poet.

Jay Curtis, who produced promotional campaigns for CBS and managed the network's on-air brand for more than 20 years, died Thursday in San Diego after a struggle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, his son announced. He was 67.

Known as "The Creative Lifeguard" for his talent at coaxing creative out of people, Curtis also did work for NBC, Fox, the NCAA, the NFL and several other major houses. He also directed such talent as David Letterman, Bob Newhart, Dick Van Dyke, Dan Rather, George Clooney, Ray Romano, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Cheech Marin.

In 2004, Curtis received a WGA Award for outstanding script television on-air promotion for his work at CBS, and he was honored in June at PromaxBDA: The Conference in Los Angeles just before the organization's annual "State of Our Art" session, which he had produced many times.

Curtis' career came to a crossroads in 2015 when he was diagnosed with ALS. Chronicling his battle with Lou Gehrig's Disease, he produced two books of poetry, In and Out of Dreaming and Flaws in the Road. The foreword in the latter reads, "I finished this book by typing with one finger."

"Jay was the consummate professional," Howard Barish, president of Kandoo Films and a producer of the Ava Duvernay Oscar-nominated documentary 13th, said in a statement. "He was a loyal, smart and just a fun person to be around. I'm proud to call him my colleague and friend, and he will be missed dearly by all."

Curtis was born in Jersey City, New Jersey. At Verona High School, his football team never won a game, and even lost one by the score of 75-0. This would become the subject matter of a 2013 film that he and Lou Cortese produced and starred in, 75-0: The Documentary.

Curtis began his career in television at XETV in San Diego, where he hosted and produced a cult local show, Disasterpiece Theatre. In the '80s, he became member services manager for BPME (Promax/BPA) and hosted its video magazine program.

In the early '90s, Curtis came to CBS as its in-house on-air brand manager. Working with the late Ron Scalera in marketing, the network rose to become No. 1 in viewership.

Survivors include his wife, singer-songwriter Becky Curtis, and son J.T., a musician and actor.