Stan Dragoti, the director of the hit films Love at First Bite and Mr. Mom and the first husband of supermodel Cheryl Tiegs, has died. The adman turned movie director passed away at an assisted living facility in Los Angeles after suffering from health issues since undergoing open-heart surgery several years ago, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
The Manhattan-born Dragoti began his career in advertising at the agencies Young & Rubicam and Mary Wells Lawrence. where he created the Alka-Seltzer “Try It You’ll Like It” ad campaign. Dragoti later partnered with Charlie Moss to brainstorm the Big Apple’s famous ”I Love New York” ad campaign in the late 1970s. In 1978, Dragoti was presented with a special Tony Award for his work on the “I Love New York” theater commercial.
Dragoti made his Hollywood debut by writing and directing the western Dirty Little Billy (1972), then went on to direct the George Hamilton Dracula spoof Love at First Bite (1979), and the Michael Keaton comedy Mr. Mom (1983). Dragoti boasted several other Hollywood credits including 1985’s The Man With One Red Shoe, which starred an up-and-coming Tom Hanks.
While his professional life had many highs, Dragoti hit a low in 1979, near the end of his nine-year marriage to ’70s supermodel Cheryl Tiegs.
In a 1978 interview with People, Tiegs said of Dragoti,”I never get tired of looking at him. I don’t think I could ever find anybody better for me than Stan.”
But by 1979, the Hollywood marriage was over. Dragoti was arrested en route to the Cannes Film Festival when he was caught in possession of 21 grams of cocaine at the airport in Frankfurt, Germany. The director spent eight weeks in jail and was released after a judge took pity on him when he admitted he took drugs to “kill the pain” of his marital woes.
While their marriage ended amid Tiegs’ highly publicized affair with photographer Peter Beard, in 2015 Tiegs posted a throwback photo of herself and Dragoti to social media, describing her first husband as “such a kind man.”
Dragoti felt the same way about his ex-wife. In a 1979 interview with People, Dragoti praised Tiegs for her help during his ordeal in Germany.
“Cheryl was terrific,” Dragoti revealed. “She called everyone she could think of who could possibly help. In many ways, I owe my life to Cheryl, my lawyer Russell Goldsmith and my friend Larry Gordon [producer of The Warriors].”
During their 11 years together, Dragoti rose from Madison Avenue advertising executive to esteemed Hollywood director, while Tiegs catapulted to supermodel cover-girl status. Still, it took Tiegs three years to talk Dragoti into marrying her after he got cold feet due to a previous failed marriage. In the end, Dragoti said he and Cheryl, who tied the knot in 1970, had “a fabulous relationship.”
Stan Dragoti is survived by his wife, Yolanda.