Robert Martin Perlstein, a former Westport resident who was responsible for numerous innovations in media operations and creative program development, died June 16 at Stamford Hospital. He was 87.
Robert Perlstein: ad exec. Contributed photo
Better known as Bob or Perlie, he died of complications from pneumonia. He had been hospitalized the prior week. He was 10 days short of his 88th birthday.
He had an illustrious 30-plus year career in advertising, his beloved field.
He started early on at a church bulletin board company, W.L. Clark in the late 1940s, and then spent two years (1951-52) in the Army during the Korean conflict.
After his honorable discharge, he worked at ABC television in New York City doing station clearance, and in 1957, he moved to CBS television where he was responsible for program production working with the CBS celebrities of the day such as Jackie Gleason.
In 1959, he left ABC and joined the ad agency, BBDO. In a decade at the largest advertising agency, he moved from a media service clerk to worldwide VP media.
He developed numerous innovations in advertising such as rate protection contracts, network clock time so that commercials would run at specified times, and he was instrumental in bringing desktop computers to the media business.
He managed huge accounts for BBDO such as Pepsi, Campbell’s, DuPont, and B.F. Goodrich. He thrived at BBDO but his real love was sports, so in 1971, he left BBDO and joined the fledgling SFM Media Service as VP, program development.
One of his first, and everlasting, achievements was the successful launch of “ABC Superstars” in 1973, sponsored by FRAM Automotive.
Working with figure skating champion Dick Buttons, he brought together the network and a supportive sponsor to create a property that spawned numerous spinoffs and survives to this day with the recent relaunch of the “Battle of the Network Stars” on ABC.
He incubated and launched numerous program concepts during his quarter century at SFM such as “Country Kitchen” starring Florence Henderson sponsored by Hunt Wesson, “The New Mickey Mouse Club” which launched the careers of Lisa Whelchel, Julie Piekarski and Kelly Parsons, and numerous sports programs often sponsored by NIKE.
Extending his reach beyond television, he played an influential role in the launch of “The King Biscuit Flower Hour” on radio, which was first broadcast on Feb. 18, 1973 and featured Blood, Sweat & Tears, the Mahavishnu Orchestra, and an unknown Bruce Springsteen.
In 1993, he was promoted to divisional executive vice president of program concepts and media-related interactive technologies. In 1995, due to health issues, he retired from SFM.
He was born in Brooklyn, New York and attended James Madison High School. He moved to Forest Hills in Queens and married Arlene F. Weil in 1956. They moved to Westport in 1970 where they lived until the late 1980s.
They were married for 48 years until Arlene’s death in 2005 when they lived in Casselberry, Florida. He spent his later life in Stamford.
He is survived by his son, Lawrence, of Westport, and his daughter, Jill, of Tarrytown, New York; also by one grandchild, Avery, daughter of Lawrence and his wife, Jacquie.
He was interred at Mount Carmel Cemetery in Queens during a private family service. A memorial is being planned for late summer.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a contribution to the GoFundMe campaign to assist in his dear daughter-in-law’s medical and rehab expenses related to her stroke last year. https://www.gofundme.com/stroke-rehab-for-jacquie-marumoto