LOS ANGELES -- In the early 1960s Jeremy Tarcher packaged book deals for celebrities, which resulted in such comical titles as "Phyllis Diller's Housekeeping Hints" and Johnny Carson's "Happiness Is a Dry Martini." He might have continued in that vein if he hadn't made a stop at the Esalen Institute, the Northern California hub of "New Age" thinking about human potential, where figures like Carlos Castaneda and Rollo May were challenging conventional ideas about the workings of the mind and body.
Undaunted by New York publishers who thought such ideas had marginal appeal, Tarcher went on to mine California's counterculture for bestsellers, bringing out such consciousness-expanding works as "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" by Betty Edwards and "The Aquarian Conspiracy" by Marilyn Ferguson.
"I published books I cared about rather than books people thought would sell," Tarcher told Publishers Weekly in 2013. "But it turned out that there were thousands of readers out there like me."
Tarcher, a maverick publisher who specialized in books about health and human consciousness, died Sunday at his home in the Bel-Air neighborhood of complications from Parkinson's disease. He was 83.
His death was confirmed by his companion, Harriet Stuart.
Tarcher had boundless curiosity that "led him to discover the most innovative and exciting voices in the field of human potential," Joel Fotinos, who heads the imprint that began in the early 1970s as J.P. Tarcher and is now part of Penguin, said this week. "Jeremy's instinct for upcoming trends in the personal development genres was unequaled."
Born in New York on Jan. 2, 1932, Tarcher grew up in a prosperous family, with his father the head of an ad agency and his mother a lawyer. Everybody liked to read except for Tarcher, he later recalled. He went to St. John's College in Annapolis, Maryland, known for its "Great Books" curriculum.
Before book publishing he worked in television. Starting in the mail room at WNEW-TV in New York, he worked his way up to producer within a few months. Later he was the station's public service director.
In 1957 he met Shari Lewis, who was, by his recollection, "the queen of New York television" with Lamb Chop, her puppet sidekick. He and Lewis married in 1958, and he went on to produce her Saturday morning TV show for several years.
Tarcher could have profited from publishing the authors in his family. Besides Lewis, a prolific writer of children's books, his sister, Judith Krantz, was a queen of the bestseller lists with her novels "Scruples" and "Princess Daisy." Lewis died in 1998. Besides Stuart, he is survived by Krantz; a daughter, Mallory; and a grandson.