February 27, 2014
Richard Weiner, APR, Fellow PRSA, was among the first people to congratulate me after I became editor-in-chief of Tactics in late 1996. That call started a friendship that lasted nearly 18 years.
Weiner, a distinguished 50-plus-year member of PRSA and a recipient of the Society’s prestigious Gold Anvil Award, died on Jan. 29 in Miami Beach, Fla. He was 86.
He took me to lunch once or twice a year, usually at an upscale restaurant where we could have an unhurried conversation. (He was also the first person I knew who ordered cheese for dessert.)
I enjoyed his anecdotes about growing up in Brooklyn, visiting his father’s printing business in Lower Manhattan in the 1930s and living in Madison, Wis., after college. He also shared his thoughts about the evolving PR profession, though he was interested in hearing what I had to say too.
That’s one thing that I liked so much about him: The discussions were always two-way. He wanted to know my thoughts and opinions, and always seemed genuinely engrossed in the topic.
He joined Ruder & Finn in 1953 in New York City (at a salary of $100 per week). He later became a senior vice president and partner there. In 1968, he founded his own firm, Richard Weiner, Inc., and by 1985, it was one of the 15 largest PR agencies in the United States. The firm’s work included the campaign that introduced Cabbage Patch Kids dolls in the early 1980s.
Somehow during his long career, Dick also found the time to write 23 books, including “Webster’s New World Dictionary of Media and Communications” in 1996. His work appeared in The New York Times Magazine and Writer’s Digest, among other publications.
He also wrote a monthly column for Tactics called “Media Jargon,” which explored common usages of language and acronyms, and educated readers on terms such as a “ding letter” (a rejection letter). We published the column from September 2000 to December 2007, when he decided that he needed more time to work on a book about a new favorite topic: gossip.
I hadn’t heard from him in recent months, though I knew he gave a TED Talk on gossip last October in Miami, where he had been living with Florence, his wife of 57 years.
His last email to me, from April 2013, was characteristically concise: “In 2017, I am planning a ‘surprise party’ for my 90th birthday. I will send you a handwritten invitation! Stay well!”