Paul Bloch, a veteran Hollywood publicist for Rogers & Cowan who counted John Travolta, Eddie Murphy and Tom Cruise among his clients in a career that spanned more than five decades, died Friday after a long illness. He was 78.

Bloch died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, said longtime friend and fellow publicist Stan Rosenfield. Rosenfield called Bloch "THE most respected veteran in the business."

The Brooklyn native started with the publicity powerhouse in the mailroom in 1961 after a stint in the Army and his graduation from UCLA, a school he remained dedicated to throughout his lifetime, the firm said in a statement. He was mentored by company co-founder Henry Rogers, rising to president of the music department with The Beach Boys, The Bee Gees and Julio Iglesias among his clients.

Over 58 years, Bloch deftly handled crisis management for A-listers, including Murphy after his traffic stop for picking up a prostitute and Cruise after his couch-jumping incident on Oprah. In 1991, Bloch received the Les Mason Award from the Publicists Guild of America for maintaining the highest professional standard in entertainment public relations.

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Stars Bruce Willis, Sylvester Stallone, Kevin Costner and Michael Keaton were among Bloch's other clients, along with filmmakers Robert Zemeckis, Brian Grazer and Jerry Weintraub.

Rosenfield said Bloch was hard working and dedicated until the end.

"If it's 5:35 in the morning and Paul was not in office, go look for him because something's wrong. That was seven days a week," he said. "He was very personable. People liked him. They liked doing business with him. He listened."

Bloch is survived by his sister, Lois Golden and nephew Douglas Golden, among other loved ones. Funeral services will be private and a memorial service was pending, the company said.