Richard J. Tarlow, renowned New York advertising executive known for his work with Revlon, Ralph Lauren, Cuisinart, Pottery Barn and Vanderbilt fragrance, died May 27 at his home on Shelter Island. Tarlow, 81, died peacefully in his sleep with his wife Kristin Kehrberg by his side. He was the heart of his family and is survived by his wife as well as three children Jordan, Wendy and Cody; two step-sons Jonah and Lukas; and five grandchildren Annabelle, Ryder, Logan, Bo and Truly.
Always conscious of making the world fair and equitable, Mr. and Mrs. Tarlow were loyal supporters of John Jay College and the John Jay Justice Awards. One of Tarlow’s proudest moments was joining Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Richard Branson and Peter Gabriel in The Elders, a group of independent global leaders whose aim was working together for peace and human rights. Tarlow acted globally as well as locally. He saw the potential in people and worked to help them achieve it by quietly helping a number of students pay for their education.
Tarlow was born to Ted and Min Tarlow in the Bronx, then raised in New Rochelle alongside his (now deceased) brother Alan. At New Rochelle High School Tarlow proved himself a gifted athlete and attended the University of North Carolina on both a baseball and basketball scholarship before graduating Tufts University in 1962.
Tarlow began his storied career in advertising as a copywriter at the Martin Landey/Arlow agency. He rose through the ranks in advertising and after being executive vice president and creative director of Daniel & Charles, he and fellow ad man Don Kurtz established Kurtz & Tarlow in 1977, which Advertising Age called the fastest-growing agency in the nation. They oversaw Ralph Lauren’s successful expansion from Polo Fashions to becoming an icon of Americana and establishing Ralph Lauren Home Furnishings Inc. in 1982. Kurtz & Tarlow was sold to Geers Gross in 1983 where Tarlow served as Chairman.
Fiercely independent Tarlow took a leap once again to establish Tarlow Advertising on his own in 1988. His gamble paid off and Tarlow Advertising became another of Madison Avenue’s fastest growing agencies with $50 million in billings in only a year and a half. Tarlow Advertising’s clients included Revlon and it’s subsidiaries Ultima and Almay. An account close to Tarlow’s heart was Topps Chewing Gum, maker of the famous baseball cards.
Additionally, Tarlow co-founded Carlson and Partners with his (now deceased) wife Sandy Carlson where he oversaw clients including Ralph Lauren, Victoria’s Secret and Neutrogena.
After retiring from advertising Tarlow pursued his many passions. He established the posh eatery Sunset Beach Restaurant and Hotel on Shelter Island with André Balazs, and authored the 2016 off-Broadway play The Trial of An American President. He and Kehrberg were executive producers of The Wilde Wedding, a 2017 movie that starred Glen Close, John Malkovich, Patrick Stewart and Minnie Driver.
His love of sports never left him, he and his wife could often be found sitting courtside to watch his beloved New York Knicks. Richard Tarlow was a colorful, swashbuckling figure who left everyone in his wake better off for having known him.
The Shelter Island Funeral Home is serving the family.