Manager and producer Jay Bernstein, who was instrumental in launching the careers of Farrah Fawcett and Suzanne Somers, died of a stroke Sunday in Los Angeles. He was 69.
Born in Oklahoma City, Bernstein got his start in Hollywood in the mailroom at William Morris and then joined praisery Rogers & Cowan.
After working at Rogers & Cowan, he opened his own publicity firm and then segued into management and producing.
His publicity and management clients included Drew Barrymore, Brooke Shields, Dick Van Dyke, Faye Dunaway, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. and Richard Pryor.
Bernstein was known for his memorable PR campaigns, including having Mary Hart’s legs insured for a million dollars and Linda Evans’ “Perfect 40 Year Old” campaign.
He exec produced the Fawcett feature vehicles “Sunburn” and “Nothing Personal.” He went on to exec produce several Mike Hammer series and TV movies, including “Mike Hammer” and “Mike Hammer Private Eye.”
Legend has it that he met author Mickey Spillane on a plane and quoted him dialogue from his Mike Hammer books. Although Spillane claimed not to be interested in Hollywood, he ended up giving Bernstein a TV deal.
Bernstein also produced several segments of “The E! True Hollywood Story” on former clients including Fawcett, Davis and Somers and shows such as “Dynasty” and “Three’s Company.”
He had been working for several years on launching a series based on stories from the Los Angeles public defender’s office.
He is survived by a daughter, his mother and a sister.