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Bobby Zarem, ‘Superflack’ and Maker of Stars, Dies at 84

  • September 26, 2021

They planned and executed an elaborate subterfuge — learning her room number from a bellhop who worked for Bobby’s father; walking up eight flights to avoid the elevator operator; knocking on the door and refusing to be cowed when she shrieked, “Go away! I don’t sign autographs”; and then sneaking in behind a maid’s breakfast cart, prompting Miss Bankhead to lob a newspaper at them.

Many years later, as a prominent publicist, he encountered Miss Bankhead and made one more fruitless effort. He was equally unsuccessful. “I still don’t sign autographs,” she said.

He would continue to collect them, though. Before his father died of cancer when Bobby was 13, he would accompany him when he came to New York for treatment at a New York hospital. They would stay at the Waldorf Astoria, where Bobby would forage for famous guests.

After his father died, he told Hamptons magazine, “I was scared to get close to anybody out of fear that that person, too, would disappear.”

Despite a lifelong struggle with attention deficit disorder that made reading demanding, he followed his two older brothers to Phillips Academy in Massachusetts and then to Yale, where he graduated in 1958. (Danny Zarem, a fashion retailer, died in 2013. Dr. Harvey Zarem, a plastic surgeon, died in 2015. No immediate family members survive.)

After earning a bachelor’s degree in political science, he worked for the United States Trust Company in New York; served briefly in the Air National Guard; was hired by Columbia Artists Management; and, starting in 1968, discovered his gift as a publicist while working for the producer Joseph E. Levine.

In 1969 he went to work for Rogers Cowan, the public relations firm, where his client roster included Dustin Hoffman. He opened his own agency, Zarem Inc., in 1974.

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