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David Horowitz dies at 86; longtime Hollywood publicist

David Horowitz worked on behalf of Oscar-winning films such as "Dances With Wolves" and "The Silence of the Lambs."
(Handout)

David H. Horowitz, a longtime Oscar publicist who helped broker public appearances for Bill Clinton, died Sunday at his home in Los Angeles, said friend and colleague Carl Samrock. He was 86.

Horowitz was a publicist for various Hollywood celebrities, but was known particularly for his Academy Awards campaigns.

He worked on behalf of such winning films as “Dances With Wolves,” “The Silence of the Lambs,” and “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” which not only swept the awards but broke new ground as a sci-fi fantasy epic best-picture winner in 2004.

Horowitz broke similar conventions with “The Fugitive,” an Oscar outlier that did not win but succeeded in getting a surprise nomination.

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He spread interest in films through chatter and word-of-mouth.

Called one of the publicity industry’s top veterans by the Los Angeles Times in 2003, Horowitz excelled at low-key, naturalistic campaigns, said Samrock.

He spread interest in films through chatter and word-of-mouth. He would toss a casual mention into conversations. His pitches were as simple as “‘I’ve seen this movie. It’s great,’” Samrock recalled.

Horowitz had a long-standing interest in left-leaning politics, and occasionally combined his political and professional interests. One such occasion was when he helped arrange for his longtime client Barbra Streisand to perform at the Hollywood Bowl in 1968 to benefit the Southern Christian Leadership Conference after Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination.

Horowitz also did work on behalf of Native American causes, and was active with Peace Now, a group seeking a politically negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

And when the Clinton presidential campaign needed to repair the candidate’s image after a long-winded appearance in 1988, they turned to Horowitz to float the idea to late-night host Johnny Carson.

Clinton’s subsequent appearance on Carson’s show playing the saxophone was “a good night” for the candidate, producer and Clinton backer Harry Thomason later told PBS. Horowitz also reminisced about Clinton’s subsequent saxophone performance on “The Arsenio Hall Show” four years later, in which the publicist said he played a similar role, Samrock said.

Horowitz’s career included stints with Rogers & Cowan, Kirk Douglas’ Bryna Productions, and as vice president of publicity at TriStar Pictures. During the 1970s, he was head of publicity for the film division at Warner Bros. and later a television vice president there.

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Horowitz was born July 21, 1929, in New York City. He came to Los Angeles as a child and graduated from University High School. He went to UCLA as a premed student, but his interests shifted after a summer job with an advertising agency. He started his show business career as a cameraman for KERO-TV in Bakersfield.

He is survived by his wife, Lynn, whom he married in 1959.

jill.leovy@latimes.com

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