Known for driving car with license tag ‘C ME 4 PR’
By: Dale King Contributing Writer
Veteran Boca Raton public relations guru Barry Epstein had a knack for the unorthodox. The man who found eccentric ways to promote causes, cranked out eye-grabbing press releases, led campaigns for politicians regardless of party, mingled with celebs and celebrity wannabes and attended just about every important gathering in Boca Raton and its environs for about a half century, died in early July at age 76.
The maven of the PR market passed away at a suburban Boca Raton rehabilitation center following a long battle with a neurological ailment, said his family.
Nearly every public relations person, writer, columnist and reporter in Boca Raton knew Barry, worked with him and often depended on him to deliver the goods – a quality at which he was adept.
President and CEO of barry r. epstein associates, inc. – his firm’s name written in lower-case letters on business cards — he opened his PR, marketing, association management and political consulting firm on Friday the 13th in July 1979. A New Yorker by birth and graduate of Kent State University in Ohio, he served the Chamber of Commerce community in Hollywood and Orlando, Florida, during the eight years before he founded his company, and continued his association with chambers later.
Noted for his extensive network of contacts, including media and business leaders throughout the country, he’d frequently open doors to accommodate the high-echelon needs of his clients, which included international, high-tech, medical, consumer, hospitality, restaurants, entertainment, political and nonprofit entities.
Even his wife, Joanne, said her husband “never met a stranger. We traveled the world and no matter where we went, any city or country, he ran into people he knew.”
Joanne recalled that while on a cruise, Barry spent three days without meeting an acquaintance. “This may break my record,” he said. But the next day, he was walking the deck when he heard someone yell, “Hi, Barry!”
“The dust never settled under his feet,” she added.
Barry was particularly well known around Boca. His car, usually a Cadillac, could be found in the parking lot of venues where civic, social or political events were being held. The license plate read: C ME 4 PR.
Epstein engineered a number of election campaigns for then-District 5 County Commissioner Burt Aaronson, a fierce Democrat. But atop the page of Barry’s Facebook is his photo with GOP ramrod Rudy Giuliani.
The PR pundit also helped Aaronson engineer his “Derail the Bullet Train” effort. The county commissioner and others wanted to challenge the proposed high-speed train approved by voters in 2000. They hired Epstein to pour out press releases, set up media events and help lobby the government to kill the project. Which it did.
In Boca, Barry meandered beyond PR to create the Gold Coast Tiger Bay Club, a circle of folks who espoused periodic, intense political discussion. Epstein wrote travel articles and a gossipy column for various local newspapers, including the former Boca Raton News, and until his death, for the Boca Raton Tribune.
“We are saddened by the loss of one of our beloved columnists,” said Douglas Heizer, publisher of the Boca Raton Tribune. “Barry was a well-respected and honorable man who was filled with joy and loved every minute of life.”
He also hosted an internet TV show.
The late PR boss wrote an online blog and theater reviews and was often spotted in the crowd at entertainment locales such as the Wick Theatre in Boca Raton or the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in West Palm Beach. Even during this past season, Barry and Joanne were frequent Kravis attendees.
In 2003, Epstein founded the Gold Coast Public Relations Council, South Florida’s largest independent group of PR, marketing and communications professionals from Palm Beach, Broward, Martin and Miami-Dade counties.
Though known for his jovial manner and his love of joking around, his life has been touched with tragedy. Eight years ago, Larry Epstein, a son from his first marriage, died of a heart condition in Orlando at the young age of 46. Barry was heartbroken by his son’s passing and was visibly shaken for a long period of time.
But he managed to bounce back. Once asked in an interview for the most outrageous client request, he answered: “There are no outrageous client requests. The difficult things we do immediately. The impossible takes a little longer.”
Besides his wife, Barry Epstein is survived by his son, Jaret Epstein; brothers Ira and Lenny Epstein and two grandsons.
A memorial service his family described in a Facebook post as “appropriate for a person as colorful and vibrant as Barry,” was held two days after his death. Joanne Epstein said many friends showed up to praise and also to “roast” their longtime friend for some 45 minutes.