PR veteran Stephen Rivers dies

Clients, colleagues included Schwarzenegger, Del Toro

Stephen Rivers, a veteran independent PR consultant with highly placed clients in entertainment and politics, died early Tuesday after a long battle with prostate cancer. He was 55.

Rivers' work occasionally straddled communities in Hollywood and Washington and included more than two dozen trips to Cuba with actors and directors who sought his help navigating rules governing research trips. A highlight saw Rivers accompany Benicio Del Toro to Havana in 2008 for a Havana Film Festival screening of the movie "Che."

Jordan's Queen Rania Al Abdullah numbered among his clients. Rivers was active in state and national Democratic Party campaigns but also enjoyed close relationships with Republicans including Arnold Schwarzenegger. He served as family spokesperson for the California governor and wife Maria Shriver.

"Stephen was a great human being -- one of the best," Schwarzenegger and Shriver said. "What made him so special was his total grasp of his craft, whether it was the entertainment world, the political arena, nonprofits or the private sector. He was the only one who could bring it all together for the benefit of whatever cause he supported. Stephen's talent had no boundaries, and he will be missed."

Rivers' political activism dated to the "Si Se Puede" (Yes We Can) movement of California farm workers' activist Cesar Chavez. Early in his career, Rivers worked with the United Farm Workers union and helped organize its grape boycott in New England before coming to California to serve as an assistant to then UFW president Chavez.

"He helped out on causes that would otherwise be left to pasture by others," said Maggie Alarcon, a close friend in Havana.

Rivers also worked on special projects and events for Middle East peace organization Seeds of Peace, the Hollywood Women's Political Committee, the Magic Johnson Foundation and Rock the Vote. In 2006, Rivers worked on the U.S. media launch of Produce (Red), a brand created by U2's Bono and Bobby Shriver that earmarked profits for AIDS programs in Africa.

Rivers launched his entertainment PR business in 1994 after leaving a communications post at CAA. Clients included Jane Fonda, Kevin Costner, Oliver Stone, Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Redford's Sundance Institute and Sundance Group.

"Stephen brought me into a world he loved so much -- the world of politics," Costner said. "I don't know anyone who loved it more. I am forever grateful to him for that."

Rivers is survived by mother Ellen Rivers; three sisters; several nieces and nephews; and godson Justin Booth.

Funeral services will be held at Mt. Carmel in his hometown of Springfield, Mass., with a memorial service planned for a later date. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the UFW Foundation or the Sisters of Saint Joseph Federation.
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