Eddie Jaffe, legendary Broadway press agent, died Feb. 25 in the Bronx. He was 89.
Known as the last of a breed, the “do-anything, buccaneering press agent,” in one writer’s words, Jaffe was storied — literally — in others’ biographies and journos’ printed reminiscences.
A contempo of Walter Winchell and Damon Runyon, Jaffe’s career lasted into recent years, when infirmities began taking their toll. In his heyday, his Times Square pad was known as Eddie’s Place, where Jaffee held court for such personages as Marlon Brando, Dorothy Dandridge, Julie Newmar, Jackie Mason and Gwen Verdon.
His client list included Jackie Gleason, Vice President Henry Wallace, Victor Borge, Marlene Dietrich, the Shah of Iran, John Wayne, Martha Mitchell, Jimmy Hoffa and Claus von Bulow, movie studios, television networks, corporations and government agencies.
Jaffegot Joe Namath $10,000 to shave off his celebrated Fu Manchu mustache for a commercial.He counseled song-writing Louisiana politician Jimmy Davis (“You Are My Sunshine”) in his successful gubernatorialcampaign. And he did publicity for scores of films, including “King Kong,” “Sunset Boulevard,” “The Red Shoes” and “Mon Oncle.”
As a stunt, he once bought an electric chair to promote a 1959 Mickey Rooney prison movie, “The Last Mile,” but it was never delivered. His advice to posterity: “Don’t pay for an electric chair until it arrives.”
Born in Duluth, Minn, was sent to live with relatives after his mother died, and then, when he was 13, his father sent him to an orphans’ home in Cleveland. At 16, he got a job in the advertising department of the New York Telegram, where he also covered sports while attending high school. He drifted into publicity work, starting with vaudeville and burlesque acts His career flourished when Winchell published Jaffe’s column item calling stripper Margie Hart “the poor man’s Garbo” — and her pay skyrocketed. After a stint in Hollywood promoting films, Jaffe returned to New York. His 48th Street apartment became a perpetual party and refuge for aspiring starlets and actors. He also continued to promote television and movies, and went to Philadelphia and helped make Ernie Kovacs a star.In the 1950s and ’60s, he promoted boxing and helped set up some of the earliest pay-per-view closed-circuit television fights. He is survived by his former wife, Pat Kelly, and a daughter.