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Jacqueline Susann's Husband : Publicity Agent Irving Mansfield, 80

August 27, 1988|BURT A. FOLKART | Times Staff Writer

Irving Mansfield, the publicity agent whose best-known client was his late wife, novelist Jacqueline Susann, and who wrote both lovingly and boastfully of the campaign he carried on to make her one of the best-selling writers of all time, died Thursday of a heart attack at his Manhattan home.

He was 80 and had outlived his wife by 14 years. She died in 1974 at age 53 after a 10-year struggle with cancer, some of which was fictionalized in her books.

Mansfield's best-known client wrote a series of sexy best-sellers, including "Valley of the Dolls," "The Love Machine" and "Once Is Not Enough." The Guinness Book of World Records lists "Valley of the Dolls," published in 1966, as the best-selling novel of all time at 28,712,000 copies through May of 1987.

TV Producer

Before deciding in 1965 to devote himself to Susann's career, Mansfield produced numerous television programs, including ones starring Arthur Godfrey and Judy Garland. Later, he was executive producer of the television miniseries production of "Valley of the Dolls."

In 1983, Mansfield wrote "Life with Jackie" about his 35-year marriage to Susann.

In it he wrote how they had met as he was "joyously realizing my fantasy of a Damon Runyon existence in the heart of the Great White Way." She was, he said, "the most stage-struck youngster" he had ever met. He took her to nightspots where she would meet the rich and famous she later would parody in her books. They lived in hotels, made a career and had a son who was autistic.

They kept that a secret for years, much as they did her cancer.

"Our lives were remarkably similar," he wrote. "We both wanted to be someone. We wanted to stand out from the crowd, lead remarkable lives and be surrounded by people of talent and accomplishment."

Stuart Applebaum, head of publicity at Bantam Books, said Mansfield "popularized what is now a staple of book promotion efforts, the author tour."

'First to Use Mass Media'

"Jackie became probably the most famous author of our time because she was one of the first to use mass media, especially television, to reach potential consumers," Applebaum said. He quoted Mansfield as once saying, " 'You don't have to talk any louder to be on national television than to be on local television.' He made the art of book promotion respectable and glamorous."

Susann appeared frequently on "The Tonight Show," as well as game shows, sometimes in the company of her husband.

In a 1983 interview with The Times, Mansfield claimed that it was his brassy manner that had made his wife the success she was.

For instance, he said, when they would tour the country with scant hours between each scheduled appearance, he would insist that they appear first on the TV talk shows or they would refuse to appear at all. And it worked, he said.

In addition to his son, Mansfield is survived by his second wife, Beverly, whom he married in 1983.

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