Former entertainment industry publicist Eugene “Gene” Shefrin died April 6 in Encinitas, Calif., after a long battle with Parkinson’s Disease. He was 90.
During his 42-year career in PR prior to his retirement in 1987, Shefrin represented, at various times, Guy Lombardo, Tony Bennett, Johnny Mathis, Frankie Laine, Vic Damone, Perry Como, Sam Cooke, author Irving Wallace, composers Alan and Marilyn Bergman, Don Rickles, Norm Crosby, Don Adams, Richard Pryor, Jackie Mason, Peter Falk, James Caan, Monty Hall, Peggy Lee, Kate Smith, Connie Francis, Sarah Vaughan and Dick Clark.
Shefrin was also involved with the PR for the Beatles’ first New York appearance at Carnegie Hall and a performance by Frank Sinatra and Lena Horne, also at Carnegie Hall, benefitting the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. Along with special projects for Motown Records and Simon & Schuster Publishing, which included West Coast PR for Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s Watergate tome “All the President’s Men,” he also handled 1964 rock concert film “The T.A.M.I. Show” and numerous TV variety specials.
Born in New York City, the son of Russian immigrants, Shefrin attended graduated from City College of New York in 1942 and then joined the U.S. Army Air Force. He was initially stationed at Randolph Field in San Antonio, Texas, and was assigned as a reporter on the base newspaper, the Randolph Rookie. While there, he married Sophie Schwimmer. During WWII, he served in the 96th Bomber Group in England and was awarded two battle stars.
In 1945 he started his career in PR at Fred Stengel Associates in New York as an apprentice publicist. The following year, he joined David O. Alber Associates as an account exec; five years later, he was named exec VP.
While at the Alber firm, he gave a then 16-year-old Woody Allen, ne Allen Konigsberg, his first job, as a joke writer.
In 1963 he left Alber and soon thereafter moved to Los Angeles, founding Gene Shefrin Associates, which was renamed the Shefrin Co. in 1976 when his son, Paul, joined the firm.
He was a longtime member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and the Publicists Guild.
In addition to his son Paul, a longtime publicist, Gene Shefrin is survived by his wife of 68 years, Sophie, and two grandchildren. Donations may be made to the National Parkinson Foundation.