Funeral services will be held Friday in Simi Valley for Sheldon “Shelly” Arthur Saltman, a promoter of major sports and entertainment events, including the Muhammad Ali/Joe Frazier heavyweight boxing matches, the Billie Jean King vs. Bobby Riggs tennis match and Evel Knievel’s failed Snake River canyon jump.
The Boston native, who served in the U.S. Army near the end of the Korean War, died Saturday in Los Angeles at the age of 87, according to publicist Michael Saltzman.
The original president of Fox Sports, Saltman began his career as an announcer. He moved into promotion with an NBC program, “Gillette Cavalcade of Sports,” before opening up his own public relations firm, where his clients included Andy Williams, The Osmonds, Roger Miller and Ray Stevens. From there, he segued into production and management, representing, among others, NHL superstar Wayne Gretzky, NFL Hall of Famer John Mackey and singer Vicki Carr.
Saltman had a hand in creating such made-for TV events as “Battle of the Network Stars,” “Celebrity Challenge of the Sexes” and “Battle of the NFL Cheerleaders” and produced the movie “Ring of Passion” about the fights between American boxer Joe Louis and German champion Max Schmeling in the years leading up to World War II.
As an author, his titles included “Evel Knievel on Tour.” The book angered its subject, who attacked Saltman with a baseball bat on the Fox lot in September 1977. Saltman took Knievel to court and won $12.75 million in damages.
Tip O’Neill Jr., the longtime speaker of the House of Representatives, was Saltman’s godfather, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Saltman’s survivors include his son, Steven, daughter-in-law Betsy and their two children, Samuel and Hannah; his daughter, Lisa, her husband Dan Medford and their two daughters, Sarah and Jilian; sister Barbara Marder of Boston and half-brother Jack Saltman of Orlando.
Funeral services will be held at Mount Sinai Simi Valley at noon Friday. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the University Kidney Research Organization (ukrocharity.org/).
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