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A Hollywood classic, press agent Warren Cowan, dies

May 15, 2008 | 10:45 am

Warren_cowanWhen legendary Hollywood press agent Warren Cowan defended his profession in a short article a few years ago, he could not help but mention that Kirk Douglas was  "one of my oldest friends and clients;" Paul Newman "would think nothing of ... holding a limo door open for me;" and that he spoken not once but twice that very morning with pianist Van Cliburn. It was typical of Cowan not to miss an opportunity to promote and influence, which made him popular with a long list of Hollywood stars over a career that spanned more than 60 years.

Late Wednesday, Cowan, 87, died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles after being diagnosed with cancer only three weeks earlier, his firm, Warren Cowan & Associates, announced.

But it was the many years at his previous firm, Rogers & Cowan, where Cowan and partner Henry Rogers reigned supreme in Hollywood publicity. You have Cowan to thank (or blame) for helping pioneer such popular publicity tools as celebrity sporting events, top 10 lists (the "most watchable man" or "most hypnotic eyes"), and product placement. 

Their firm took off in the 1950s as Hollywood's studio system broke down, prompting many stars to hire their own publicity agents. But Cowan was working in the business years before, juggling journalism classes at UCLA while representing actress Linda Darnell.

When asked who is favorite client was, Cowan, at least publicly, never strayed from the same response: "The next one."

Times Staff Writer Dennis McClellan is working on a full obituary. More coverage in Daily Variety and LA Biz Observed.

-- Jesus Sanchez

Photo: 1989 photo from Los Angeles Times Library