Robert James Syers

June 1, 1936 - Dec. 14, 2013
Robert James Syers - June 1, 1936 - Dec. 14, 2013

       Robert James Syers, an advertising and entertainment executive and actor who lived in Sag Harbor and Naples, Fla., died Dec. 14. He was 77 and had been ill, his family said.

       Mr. Syers was born in New York City on June 1, 1936, to Henry Syers and the former Dorothy Bentham. As a 7-year-old, he would follow his older brother to the theater district, where he began collecting autographs of the celebrities who frequented the shows, among them Marilyn Monroe and Laurence Olivier.

       “He called himself ‘the king of the second act,’ ” recalled Josh Raphaelson, his son-in-law, “because to get into the shows he and his brother had to find tickets discarded by the previous owners after the first act.” Mr. Syers’s autographs remain in the family.

       Mr. Syers grew up in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, graduated from James Madison High School, and served in the Army National Guard from 1958 to 1961, after completing basic training at Fort Dix, where he was assigned to paint wall murals. He earned a degree in advertising at Brooklyn College in 1964.

       He began his career in the mailroom of BBDO, a worldwide advertising agency, where he rose to account and media management positions and became a media buyer for such clients as DuPont, Gillette, and Philco. In 1960 he married Deanne Merritt, who had been his secretary. She had visited the East End with her family as a child, and she and Mr. Syers purchased their house on Noyac Road 50 years ago.

       “They’ve always loved it there,” Mr. Raphaelson said. “My wife and I were married at their Bridgehampton house, off Scuttlehole Road. They spent every summer on the East End, but were also there so much during the off season that they felt like full-time residents.”

       Mr. Syers joined the American Broadcasting Company in 1970, working in the radio, daytime, and cable television divisions. In the late 1980s, he founded RJS Marketing, which syndicated television programming around the world, and CATS TV, a children’s programming company. He also practiced real estate at Prudential in Sag Harbor and Brown Harris Stevens in East Hampton.

       His love of theater took a new turn when he began a career as a background actor at the age of 50, appearing in the films “Sweet Liberty,” “Masquerade,” “Something’s Gotta Give,” “Town and Country,” and “The Nanny Diaries,” and in the television series “Law and Order” and “Royal Pains.”

       Mr. Syers was active in local cultural organizations, including Guild Hall, where he was a house manager and usher, the Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival, the Hampton Classic, and the Bay Street Theatre. “He had a particularly strong tie to Guild Hall,” said Mr. Raphaelson. “We had a reception there after his memorial. They were very sympathetic, and big supporters of Pop’s.” He was also a member of the Lotos Club and the Players Club in New York City.

       In addition to his wife, he is survived by his brother, Henry Syers of Georgetown, Tex., his daughter, Kelly Syers of Santa Monica, Calif., and a granddaughter.

       A funeral service was held at the O’Connell Funeral Home in Southampton last Thursday, the Rev. Peter Devaraj officiating. The family suggests donations to the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons, P.O. Box 901, Wainscott 11975, or the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, 61 Broadway, Suite 400, New York 10006.