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Artist Mario Zamparelli dies at 91

LOS ANGELES -- Mario Armond Zamparelli, an internationally renowned artist who for nearly 20 years created the distinctive, often colorful logos, images and posters for reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes' many companies, has died at age 91.

Zamparelli, who had homes in the Los Angeles suburbs of La Canada-Flintridge and San Marino, died Saturday of heart failure, his family said.

The artist, who worked in numerous styles and forms, was an illustrator for major magazines and movie posters in the early 1950s when Hughes came looking for someone to design posters for his RKO Pictures' movies. He told his aides to find posters done by people they believed were the best in the business.

"He pointed straight at my dad's poster and said, 'Get me that one,' " the artist's daughter Gina Zamparelli said Monday.

What followed was an association between the artist and the increasingly reclusive billionaire that continued until Hughes' death in 1976.

During that time, and for a few years afterward, Zamparelli created numerous logos, images and designs for such companies as TWA, Hughes Helicopters, Hughes Aircraft, the Summa Corporation and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Among the most instantly recognizable were the bright yellow, miniskirted uniforms he designed for the female flight attendants Hughes Airwest employed in the 1970s.

He also created that airline's signature nameplate, which featured bright blue lettering placed against a bright yellow background on every plane.

As a painter, Zamparelli created the only portrait of Hughes that the billionaire is believed to have sat for.

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