Mr. Zarem, a workaholic, never married and didn’t drink, although he smoked marijuana to relax. He cultivated a devil-may-care style in untucked shirts and New Balance sneakers, but that style belied a fierce temper.
The publicist Peggy Siegal, who once worked for him, swore that Mr. Zarem lobbed a typewriter at her when she erred in taking a phone message. (He responded that he wouldn’t have missed at such short range.) Mr. Schwarzenegger recalled in his 2012 memoir, “Total Recall,” that Mr. Zarem “always talked like he was completely confused and the world was coming to an end.”
He bemoaned the current state of public relations, he told New York magazine in 2010, because the warp speed of digital media pre-empted what to a pro like him was a fine-tuned battle plan of leaks and exclusive stories.
About the state of the art as he practiced it, Mr. Zarem noted, “Nobody knows what a press agent does, and if you’re smart, you keep it that way.”
He claimed that he had gained self-awareness after more than three decades of analysis with Dr. Samuel Lowy, a psychiatrist who specialized in interpreting dreams. Mr. Zarem concluded that he promoted other people to magnify his own self-image.
“I think that’s why I did what I did,” he told Hamptons magazine. “Not feeling that I had anything to communicate, I felt that if I made the rest of the world accept Dustin Hoffman and Ann-Margret and Cher, and all these people, then I would be accepted.”
In retrospect, he said, he saw his role in the “I Love New York” campaign as a breakthrough.
“My therapist once told me, ‘Anyone who saved the single greatest metropolis can’t be that screwed up,’” Mr. Zarem said. “For the first time in my life, I don’t feel the need to jump out a window if someone cancels dinner on me. Now I know who and what I am.”