Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne, Elvis Presley — all of them American icons whose images left a lasting impression on the American psyche. And there to help them craft those images was one man, longtime Hollywood publicity-maven Julian Myers, who passed away over the weekend, taking a treasure-house of Hollywood memories with him.
Myers died Saturday at his home in Marina del Rey, California, an oceanside suburb of Los Angeles, at the age of 95. His son, Eric Myers, said the cause of death was congestive heart failure, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
A memorial service will be held for the Hollywood legend sometime in early 2014, Eric Myers said.
As an in-house publicist for Fox Studios, then called 20th Century Fox, from 1948 to 1962, Myers ran publicity campaigns for a roster of stars that reads like a walk down the Hollywood Boulevard Walk of Fame. In addition to the great Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Shelley Winters, Claudette Colbert, Bette Davis, Ava Gardner, Shirley Temple, Ethel Merman, Rita Moreno, Katharine Hepburn, Jane Russell, Shirley MacLaine, and Joan Collins were just a few of the names on Myers roster.
A native of Detroit, Myers was born there on February 22, 1918. But he moved to Los Angeles in 1937 to attend the University of Southern California, becoming one of the first students to enroll in its now-powerhouse film school, according to his obituary on the Hollywood news website The Wrap.
Then called the Cinematography School, USC Film School in later years graduated many of the film industry’s most important figures, including Star Wars creator George Lucas and the studio executive who backed the industry-changing project, Alan Ladd Jr., among dozens more.
While today, publicists are best known for making deals to get their clients on the covers of glossy magazines, in Myers’ era it was the publicist’s job to dream up crazy, attention-grabbing stunts — and then make them happen.
Myers was no exception. Among his best known publicity gimmicks, for the 1950 premiere of the Bette Davis drama All About Eve at Graumanns’s Chinese Theatre, he persuaded the Roosevelt Hotel across the street to block out all the letters in its neon sign except “EVE.”
To drum up interest in the 1952 adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s story The Snows of Kiliminjaro in a Fox film starring Gregory Peck, Myers flew two African jackals into Los Angeles International Airport where they were welcomed by a paid actor.
A few years ago, accepting an honor as one of the “Legends of PR” from the Entertainment Publicists Professional Society, Myers declared, “Hollywood needs to bring back the gimmicks again.”
Publicists in those days were also often forced to act as personal caretakers to stars. Myers recalled once attempting to wake up the notoriously tardy Marilyn Monroe to get her on set to shoot, quipping, “I was the only guy trying to get her out of bed.”