John Friedkin, a veteran publicist and studio executive who started out as an adman and moved into publicity to represent Tony Bennett, died of respiratory failure on May 11 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He was 81.

Friedkin was born in New York on December 9, 1926, and graduated from Horace Mann High School before going on to obtain his BA from Columbia University.

Following a stint at the renowned Young & Rubicam advertising agency Friedkin moved into public relations and founded Sumner + Friedkin Associates with his friend Gabe Sumner. The business prospered and the client roster expanded to include writers like Paddy Chayefsky, Broadway talent such as Rodgers and Hammerstein and legendary producers David Merrick and Manny Azenberg.

Friedkin was looking for a change and accepted an offer to run the New York offices of Rogers And Cowan in the mid-1960s, before leaving in 1967 to become vice president of advertising, publicity and promotion for 20th Century Fox Film Corp.

During his tenure at the studio he worked on a steady flow of hits including Star Wars, Alien, The Rocky Horror Picture Show and the Mel Brooks films beginning with Young Frankenstein.

He moved to Warner Bros in 1979 as vice president of international advertising and publicity and worked on Blade Runner, The Right Stuff, Mad Max and Chariots Of Fire, among many others.

Friedkin left the salaried studio fold in 1987 to become an independent consultant for the likes of Miramax, New Line and Sony Pictures Classics.

He is survived by his wife Tatiana; son Jay; brother Donald, and sister Renee. Plans for a memorial service in Los Angeles are pending.