Veteran Publicist Gene Shefrin Dies at 90
He represented such stars as Guy Lombardo, Tony Bennett, Don Rickles and Peter Falk.
Gene Shefrin, a veteran publicist who represented such stars as Guy Lombardo, Tony Bennett, Don Rickles and Peter Falk, died Wednesday in Encinitas, Calif., after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. He was 90.
During his 42-year career, Shefrin also represented Johnny Mathis, Frankie Laine, Vic Damone, Perry Como, Sam Cooke, author Irving Wallace, composers Alan & Marilyn Bergman, Norm Crosby, Don Adams, Richard Pryor, Jackie Mason, James Caan, Monty Hall, Peggy Lee, Kate Smith, Connie Francis, Sarah Vaughan, Freda Payne and Dick Clark.
The native New Yorker gave Woody Allen, then a 16-year-old going by his real name Allen Konigsberg, his first job as a joke writer as persuaded the New York Yankees to have the Guy Lombardo Orchestra entertain the crowd from center field before the start of the 1951 World Series at Yankee Stadium.
Shefrin, who retired in 1987, did PR for the Beatles’ second New York appearance — a February 1964 concert at Carnegie Hall that followed by three days their stint on The Ed Sullivan Show — and another performance by Frank Sinatra and Lena Horne, also at Carnegie Hall, that benefited the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, a civil rights organization.
Along with special projects for Motown Records and Simon & Schuster Publishing — which included West Coast PR for Bob Woodward & Carl Bernstein’s 1974 book All the President’s Men — he also handled the 1964 rock concert film the T.A.M.I. Show and TV variety specials from the likes of Milton Berle and Diana Ross.
Born Feb. 10, l921, Shefrin served during World War II in the 96th Bomber Group in England and was awarded two battle stars. He was honorably discharged in 1945, and later that year started his career in PR at Fred Stengel Associates in New York as an apprentice publicist.
The following year, he joined David O. Alber Associates as an account executive and five years later was named executive vp of the company.
In 1963, he left the Alber company and soon moved to Los Angeles, founding Gene Shefrin Associates, which was renamed the Shefrin Co. in 1976 when his son, Paul, joined the firm.
Shefrin was a longtime member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Publicists Guild.
In addition to Paul, survivors include his wife of 68 years, Sophie, and grandchildren Jordan and Michael. Burial will be private. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the National Parkinson Foundation.