Robert James Syers of Sag Harbor died December 14 at Southampton Hospital. The advertising and entertainment executive and actor was 77.
Mr. Syers was born June 1, 1936, in New York, to Henry and Dorothy Syers. He grew up in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, and graduated from James Madison High School in 1954. He completed basic training at Fort Dix, where he was assigned to paint wall murals, and served in the Army National Guard of New York from 1958 to 1961. He earned his bachelor’s degree in advertising at Brooklyn College in 1964.
Mr. Syers began a lifelong love of theater as a seven-year-old autograph hound, who, tagging along on the subway with his older brother Harry, became a fixture on Broadway known to stars from Laurence Olivier to Marilyn Monroe as “little Bobby.” He was called “king of the second acts” for the many performances he saw using tickets that were abandoned by their original owners at intermission.
His professional career began in the mail room of the advertising agency BBDO. He quickly rose to account and media management positions and became one of New York’s top media buyers, buying for such clients as DuPont, Gillette and Philco. His secretary, Deanne Merritt, worked diligently to intercept calls from his female suitors, which inevitably led to his proposal of marriage to her and their union of 53 years. He later joined the American Broadcasting Company (ABC), working in the ABC Radio and ABC Daytime divisions before joining the cable TV division as one of its first employees.
During the worldwide expansion of television in the 1980s, Mr. Syers created RJS Marketing to syndicate “Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling” (GLOW) and other programming around the world, and later a children’s programming company, CATS TV. Throughout his New York career, he sustained his interest in theater as a member of both the Players Club and the Lotos Club. Mr. Syers began his career as a background actor in 1986 with the film “Sweet Liberty” and continued with the television series “Law & Order” and “Royal Pains” and the films “Masquerade,” “Deep Impact,” “The Nanny Diaries,” “Something’s Gotta Give” and “Town and Country.”
As a Sag Harbor resident, he was known for his work at top cultural institutions on the East End, including Guild Hall, Bridgehampton Chamber Music, the Hampton Classic and Bay Street Theatre. He also practiced real estate at Prudential, Sag Harbor and Brown Harris Stevens, East Hampton.
Mr. Syers wintered in Naples, Florida, where he was active with ACE Golf and Tennis Classics, the Naples Opera and the Humane Society of Naples.
He is survived by his wife, Deanne; a brother, Harry of Texas; and a daughter, Kelly and granddaughter, Kaitlyn Syers Raphaelson of California.
Memorial donations may be sent to ARF, www.arf.org, or the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, www.lls.org.