The lights of Broadway shine a little less brightly today after the death of Lois Smith, a star publicist colloquially known as “Earth Mother” whose “strong, steady hands” helped shape the careers of some of the 20th century’s biggest names on stage and screen.
Smith died of a brain hemorrhage after falling down a staircase in Maine; Cindi Berger, current CEO of PMK*BNC—a company originally started by Smith—confirmed her passing on Sunday. She was 85. A very brief list of former clients gives you some idea about the extent of her influence:
- Marilyn Monroe
- Robert Redford
- Meryl Streep
- Martin Scorsese
- Warren Beatty
- Whitney Houston
Lois Smith was a trailblazer who brought big changes to a business dominated by men. In 1969, she co-founded the all-star PR agency PickWick, which later merged with Maslansky/Koenigsberg and then joined BNC in 2009 to form the firm that we know today as PMK*BNC. Between those two dates, she had a hand in organizing and promoting some of the biggest movies ever made; in short, she all but created the modern-day entertainment PR industry.
Smith was also connected to the acting world in more ways than one: she was often confused with an actress who shared her name; her daughter, Brooke Smith, currently stars on the ABC drama Grey’s Anatomy and played a key role in the classic 1991 film The Silence of the Lambs.
For a more personal recollection, check out fellow publicist and colleague Peggy Siegal‘s remembrance in today’s Huffington Post. Smith is survived by her husband Gene and three children.