Betty Shapian, public relations professional who for 35 years promoted top-level authors including former U.S. presidents and many other notables, died of cancer April 15 Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. She was 73.
Ridgefield, N.J., native launched her career in New York, working initially in Doubleday’s foreign department, then for its publicity department and eventually eight years assisting company prexy Nelson Doubleday. At one point during her early career, she spent five months with President Dwight D. Eisenhower working on his memoirs. Meanwhile, while still at Doubleday, she studied English literature at Columbia U. and later at the New School.
In 1967, Shapian was assigned to head the Doubleday project of opening a West Coast office to handle its touring writers. During that time, she represented Louis Nizer, Averell Harriman, Peter Ustinov, Pierre Salinger, Victor Borge, Garson Kanin, Alex Haley, James Michener, Irving Stone, David Attenborough, Adela Rogers-St. Johns, Dorothy Lamour, Elsa Lancaster, Arthur Hailey, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Erma Bombeck, who became a lifelong friend.
In the mid-1970s Shapian, launched her own PR, firm Shapian & Associates, where she handled the book publicity for such clients as William F. Buckley, Gloria Steinem, Judith Krantz, Liz Smith, Leon Uris, Michael Korda, Carolyn See, Irving Wallace, Edmund Hillary, Herman Wouk, Ray Bradbury, Gerry Spence, Isaac Asimov, John Kenneth Galbraith, Gore Vidal, Pauline Kael, Sylvia Porter, Thor Heyerdahl, Leticia Baldridge and others.
In 1973 she also edited (with Chuck Morrell) the first “Los Angeles Menu Guide” and revised that publication in 2001. She developed an alliance with On the Scene Prods., pioneering electronic publicity for the publishing industry and handled electronic book publicity for Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan as well as Robert Parker, Sydney Sheldon, Joseph Wambaugh, Jackie Collins, Joan Collins, Helen Gurley Brown, Donald Trump, Ivana Trump, Charles Schulz, George Shultz, Donald Regan, Malcolm Forbes, Nancy Reagan, Jonathan Winters, Bette Davis, Jimmy Stewart, Lee Iacocca, Hank Aaron, Wayne Gretzky and Sammy Sosa.
Author Max Shulman who penned “Rally ‘Round the Flag, Boys” named the heroine of his book “Anybody Got a Match?” Polly Shapian, in honor of the publicist.
She is survived by companion Drew Bond, three sisters and two nephews.