John Springer, the gracious, respected veteran New York City press agent who represented Broadway shows, films and legendary figures of the stage and screen for over 40 years, died Oct. 30 of congestive heart failure at New York Hospital, according to colleagues.
Mr. Springer was 85 and began his professional public relations career in 1948 when he started with RKO Pictures as head of magazine publicity. After a similar job with Twentieth Century-Fox, he opened his own business in the 1950s, first in partnership with Arthur P. Jacobs, then, after a brief time as head of Rogers & Cowan's New York office, he opened John Springer Associates. He would go on to represent a who's who of American entertainment in the second half of the 20th century.
"He belonged to a different generation when people behaved like gentlemen," said longtime client and pal Tony Randall. "They didn't have to try to be gentlemen, they just were. I first knew him when I was under contract to Fox, 50 years ago, but later he became my press agent and stayed my press agent to this day, until his son took over the business. He's been with me all along — he was at my wedding, a true friend. He had an extraordinary gift for friendship."
Mr. Springer and his son Gary would go on to handle press for Randall's nonprofit National Actors Theatre on Broadway.
Mr. Springer was a lifelong fan of the movies, and named his son after Gary Cooper. "He was an unpretentious person," Randall said. "He really liked people and was extremely fond of the people he was fond of. He had stars in his eyes. From the age of 14 he was hopelessly in love with the movies. He lived out that life." Among the personalities he represented during this period, a time when artists' turbulent personal lives were protected while their images and talents promoted, were Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland, Marlene Dietrich, Montgomery Clift, Bette Davis, Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, Robert Preston, Robert Ryan, Rosalind Russell, Warren Beatty, Julie Christie, Hal Prince, Gene Kelly, Grace Kelly, Myrna Loy, Lauren Bacall, Beulah Bondi, Gary Cooper, Peter Sellers, Dirk Bogarde, Michael Redgrave, Lee Strasberg, Henry Fonda and many more.
Randall said that celebrities trusted him because there was a friendship at stake.
Among the movies he handled were "Bonnie and Clyde," "Midnight Cowboy," "A Man For All Seasons," "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?," "Carnal Knowledge," "The Graduate," "Z," "Amarcord," "Fellini's Roma," "Death of a Salesman" (with Dustin Hoffman movie), "Seven Beauties," "Special Day," "McCabe and Mrs. Miller," and many more. The office also represented the Lincoln Center Film Festival for its first 15 years, as well as the American Film Festival in Dallas. His involvement with theatre and dance includes the Alvin Ailey company, The Music Man, Camelot, Richard Burton's Hamlet, Equus, A Party with Betty Comden and Adolph Green, Ghosts with Liv Ullmann, Debbie Reynolds' Irene, the Broadway and touring engagements by Marlene Dietrich and Yves Montand, among many others.
He was a film historian, author and originator of the format of Tribute Evenings to great film stars. He has also produced all the film segments for the "Night of 100 Stars I, II, & III" specials. He was a member of the Players Club.
Son Gary Springer joined his father at Springer Associates following a successful acting career. The younger Springer's agency, now Springer/Chicoine, handles Broadway and Off-Broadway shows and theatrical companies and artists.
Mr. Springer and his wife, June, raised three children, Gary, Alicia and Cynthia. He is also survived by five grandchildren, Nick, Olivia, Anthony, Zora and Zachary.
There will be a viewing at Frank Campbell Funeral Home (81st Street at Madison Ave.) 7-9 PM Oct. 31 and 2-4 PM and 7-9 PM Nov. 1. A funeral mass will take place 10 AM Nov. 2 at St. Vincent Ferrer Church at 66th Street and Lexington Ave.