Paul Bloch, Famed Publicist Adept at Putting Out Fires in Hollywood, Dies at 78

Paul Bloch
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Producer Paul Bloch attends LA Fire Department Foundation Honors Jerry Weintraub at LAFD Disaster Preparedness Unit on April 5, 2014 in Sherman Oaks, Calif.

Paul Bloch, who represented the likes of Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Tom Cruise, Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy while specializing in damage control during his five-plus decades as an esteemed Hollywood publicist, has died. He was 78.

The colorful Rogers & Cowan chairman, who started at the agency in its mailroom in 1961 and was known for wearing two wristwatches and a different sweater every day, died Friday morning (May 25) at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles after a long illness, the publicity firm said.

Bloch was one of the most respected veterans of the business and received praise for mentoring young publicists at Rogers & Cowan. 

In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, producer and former Academy president Sid Ganis called Bloch "enormously talented and a sweetheart" and "the finest of the fine in his complicated profession."

Meanwhile, tributes flooded out on social media from many veteran entertainment publicists.

On Facebook, Nancy Seltzer posted, "He lived exactly as he wanted to and was always filled with excitement about whatever he was working on -- or whatever you were working on."

Steve Elzer wrote about the "very sad news" of Bloch's death: "He was a true giant in our business, and he was always incredibly kind to me personally. He will long be remembered and forever missed." 

Carol Marshall called him a "true pro," Michael Russell wrote that he "will be greatly missed" and Stan Rosenfield said that "Paul was not one of the best. He was the best."

"He helped me at my start and taught me so much throughout the years," veteran journalist Jeanne Wolf wrote. "What a pro and what a mind."

Bloch also did publicity for Steven Seagal, John Travolta, Sharon Stone, Farrah Fawcett, Randy Quaid, Kevin Costner, Vin Diesel, Danny Glover, Anna Nicole Smith, Rod Stewart, Michael Keaton, James Caan, Jerry Weintraub, Robert Zemeckis, Jerry Bruckheimer, John Hughes, Brian Grazer, Billy Bob Thornton, Geena Davis, Anthony Hopkins, Dawn Steel, Glenn Gordon Caron, Steve Bing, Chris Tucker and David & Victoria Beckham.

The agency noted that Bloch "remained relevant over the decades, always working with the newest talent of the current generation." He discovered Brie Larson and Liam Hemsworth and moved into worldwide representation of Asian superstar Donnie Yen.  

Cruise had been represented by his sister, Lee Anne DeVette, for about a year and before that by Pat Kingsley for 14 years before Bloch took over in November 2005. At the time, the actor was being scrutinized for his Scientology beliefs, sparring with Matt Lauer over psychiatry and jumping on Oprah Winfrey's coach after professing his love for new girlfriend Katie Holmes. Bloch worked with Cruise until January 2010, when the star moved on to 42West.

Bloch was representing Murphy when the Beverly Hills Cop star was stopped by police for picking up a "known transsexual prostitute" in his car at 4:45 a.m. in West Hollywood. He later explained that Murphy was simply "trying to be a good Samaritan" and giving a woman a ride home. (The actor was not arrested, though the prostitute was taken into custody.)

He also represented Lisa Marie Presley when a British tabloid wrote that she was planning to divorce Michael Jackson. "We don't know where the rumor came from. They're very happily married," he said, though they ended their 20-month marriage not too long after.

And Bloch was Nolte's publicist when the actor was arrested for being under the influence after police observed him swerving into oncoming traffic near his Malibu home. An infamous mug shot of a disheveled Nolte in a Hawaiian shirt emerged from that incident.

A native of Brooklyn, Bloch moved to Los Angeles with his family as a youngster. After attending University High School, he started basic training for the U.S. Army in 1957 at Fort Ord in Monterey, California, and served six months of active duty. He graduated from UCLA with a degree in political science in 1962.

At Rogers & Cowan, Bloch was mentored by co-founders Henry Rogers and Warren Cowan, who eventually brought him onto the accounts of such clients as Kirk Douglas and Chuck Connors.  

Bloch also served as a spokesman for music acts including The Beach Boys, Diana Ross, The Bee Gees, the Carpenters, Trini Lopez, Julio Iglesias, Ricky Nelson and Johnny Ramone. He was named senior vp and eventually president of a new contemporary music division at Rogers & Cowan in February 1975.

In 1991, Bloch received the coveted Les Mason Award from the Publicists Guild of America. Two decades earlier, the organization had honored him for his campaign for the heart-wrenching 1971 ABC telefilm Brian's Song

Survivors include his sister, Lois; nephew Douglas (and wife Dianne); nieces Andrea (Michael) and Victoria (Mark); and great-nieces and great-nephews Jason, Lexi, Chase, Courtney, Jake and Alyssa. 

Funeral services will be private, and a memorial service is pending.   

Chris Gardner contributed to this report.

This article originally appeared on The Hollywood Reporter.