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|Subject: George Barrie, Songwriter, Producer and Fabergé Executive|
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Date Posted: November 29, 2002 2:30:47 EDT
eorge Barrie, an executive who not only created the men's fragrance Brut but also produced movies and received two Oscar nominations for his songwriting, died last Saturday in Aventura, Florida, where he lived.
He was 90.
A former owner and chief executive of Fabergé, the perfume and hair-care company, Mr. Barrie was a pioneer in using celebrities to pitch products. He successfully deployed endorsers including Joe Namath, Roger Moore, Farah Fawcett, and Muhammad Ali to peddle Fabergé brands. His reported $1 million contract with Margaux Hemingway, a model and a granddaughter of Ernest Hemingway, to endorse a perfume line called Babe was estimated to have been the largest ad contract for a woman at that time.
Although Mr. Barrie introduced Brut when the market for men's cologne was a sliver of what it is today, he turned it into the worldwide best seller.
He parlayed the success of Brut into Brut Productions, a movie and television production subsidiary of Fabergé, which made a dozen movies. He was the co-writer of many songs with Sammy Cahn, and the team was nominated for Academy Awards for best song twice: for "All That Love Went to Waste," the title song in "A Touch of Class" in 1973, and for "Now That We're In Love," from "Whiffs" in 1975.
Born on Feb. 9, 1912, in Brooklyn, Mr. Barrie grew up in Pittsfield, Mass., where he taught himself to play the saxophone and piano, among other instruments. He soon moved back to New York to perform.
By his 20's, however, Mr. Barrie was married to his first wife, Lucille, and needed to make a steady living. So he became a salesman at Rayette, a hair products company. His success there enabled him to start his own company, which he named Caryl Richards, after his two children, and eventually merged with Rayette.
In 1964, Mr. Barrie and Rayette bought Fabergé for $26 million. After several attempts at men's colognes, Brut achieved international success.
Meanwhile, Brut Productions released movies including "A Touch of Class," starring Glenda Jackson and Robert Segal, and "Night Watch," both in 1973; "Nasty Habits," in 1976; and "Thieves" in 1977.
Many of his efforts had a show-business angle to them. In addition to the heavy use of celebrity endorsers, he brought Cary Grant onto the board at Fabergé.
But the reliance on entertainment and star power had drawbacks. Babe perfume and Ms. Hemingway's fame both peaked early, and Fabergé's shampoo line carrying Ms. Fawcett's name was introduced just as Ms. Fawcett's star was fading.
Amelia Bassin, a longtime Fabergé executive, wrote in 1993: "Joe Namath, Lola Falana, Margaux Hemingway, Farah Fawcett, Polly Bergen — everybody, everything got a jazzy media party except the once-famous fragrances that had put Fabergé on the map."
In 1984, the McGregor Corporation acquired Fabergé, and Mr. Barrie retired to Aventura. He remarried three times, twice to his last wife, Dorothy.
Mr. Barrie is survived by his wife; a brother, Milton, also in Aventura; his daughter, Caryl Kaplan, in Hollywood, Fla.; his sons, Richard, in Sarasota, Fla., and Craig, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; and 10 grandchildren.
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