Nanci Ryder, the longtime Hollywood publicist and PR agency exec whose clients included Robert Downey Jr., Woody Harrelson, Sarah Jessica Parker and Michael J. Fox, died today of ALS complications in Los Angeles. She was 67.
Ryder had been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, in 2014. She lost her ability to speak, walk and more but was adamant about keeping up the fight against ALS however she could — mostly using a tablet to communicate. Many friends and colleagues joined her in the battle against ALS.
During her 30-year-plus career, Ryder earned a reputation as one of the industry’s most influential publicists, with an ability to recognize and cultivate emerging talent. She mentored many of the mainstays in talent public relations, some of whom have gone on to establish their own practices.
Born in Orlando, Ryder spent her youth on Long Island. In 1979 she moved to Los Angeles, where she became a talent agent with the David Shapira Agency. After three years there, she joined Goldberg-Ehrlich Public Relations and Management, focusing on network TV. This led to an account executive position at Michael Levine Public Relations, where she represented such clients as Demi Moore and formed a relationship with Michael J. Fox that lasted many decades.
Ryder established Nanci Ryder Public Relations in 1984, and her clients included Paul Reiser, Helen Hunt, Paul Rodriguez, Downey, Harrelson and Parker.
After successfully operating her business for four years, she merged with Paul Baker and Larry Winokur in 1987 to form Baker/Winokur/Ryder Public Relations. She went on to guiding the careers of such stars as Renée Zellweger, Reese Witherspoon, Viggo Mortensen, Jennifer Lopez, Leonardo DiCaprio, Mariah Carey, Courteney Cox, Jennifer Garner and others.
She also served as a link between the worlds of talent and fashion, advising such prominent design houses as Prada, Gucci and Armani.
A breast cancer advocate upon her own diagnosis, she worked closely with the Revlon UCLA Cancer Research Center, serving as a tireless campaigner for fundraising and research.
Ryder is survived by a step-brother, Stanley Schwartz. Due to the coronavirus, funeral services will be held privately, and a celebration of her life will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Ryder’s memory to teamnanci.org in support of the mission and vision of the ALS Association Golden West Chapter.