Herschell Gordon Lewis, considered the “Godfather of Gore” as well as the “Godfather of Direct Marketing,” died early this morning from congestive heart failure. He was 87.
An avid tennis player and scuba diver, Lewis was a member of the Direct Marketing Association Hall of Fame. News of his death briefly cracked the top 10 topics trending on Twitter this afternoon.
Lewis is remembered as a pioneer of campy schlock horror, with seminal movies like “A Taste of Blood,” “Gore Gore Girls,” and “She-Devils On Wheels.” His 1963 movie “Blood Feast” is considered “the horror genre’s first splatter film,” according to Variety magazine.
Lewis is credited with 37 films in all, some under the name H. Lewis Gordon. All but two of his films were made between 1961 and 1972. His films were considered a precursor to grindhouse filmmakers like Tobe Hooper (“Texas Chainsaw Massacre”), Sam Raimi (“Evil Dead”) and Quentin Tarantino. His last film was the “Uh Ho! Show” in 2009.
Lewis also was a prolific writer, penning columns about direct marketing, fundraising and copy writing for a number of publications. He wrote a column titled “Burnt Offerings” for The NonProfit Times for more than a decade. He continued to consult on direct marketing through his firm, Lewis Enterprises in Pompano Beach, Fla.
Among his clients over the years were 1-800-Flowers and Omaha Steaks. Lewis met with client AAA as recently as last week. “Dad was as sharp as ever right to the end,” said his son Bob Lewis. While the death was not immediately expected, he had been in failing health and was frail, Bob Lewis said.
Lewis’s wife of 37 years, Margo, said that he had three damaged heart valves. “He died peacefully without pain,” she said. He had been dependent on a walker and scooter for the past few years, which took him away from tennis and made him “very unhappy,” Margo Lewis said.
He was the author of 32 books, including “Internet Marketing Tips, Tricks and Tactics,” “On the Art of Writing Copy,” “Asinine Advertising,” “Burnt Offerings,” and “Creative Rules for the 21st Century.” He also taught college literature and produced and directed television commercials.
Lewis was former chairman of Communicamp, a full-serve direct marketing agency, that became a division of Interpublic, an advertising holding company.
Born on June 15, 1929 in Pittsburgh, Pa., Lewis earned a master’s degree in journalism at Northwestern University. He was an adjunct lecturer to graduate classes in mass communications for 20 years at Roosevelt University in Chicago.