Henry Deas III, Longtime Variety Ad Sales Executive, Dies at 75

Henry Deas III, a longtime Variety advertising sales executive who specialized in film festivals and international markets, died Aug. 6 in Culver City. He was 75.

Deas was known throughout the entertainment industry for his love of film. He was an expert on the world’s largest film festivals and had an encylopedic knowledge of filmmakers around the world. Deas was a perpetual optimist who was rarely seen without a broad smile on his face.

“Henry Deas loved the independent film business and, the industry loved him right back,” said Michelle Sobrino-Stearns, Variety Group Publisher and CEO, who worked closely with Deas and considered him a mentor.

“Henry thrived on doing right by his clients and they appreciated and supported him throughout his career and life beyond the office. We will forever miss our loving gentleman and Cannes legend. There was never a kinder soul, nor a dearer friend to so many,” Sobrino-Stearns said.

A native of Charleston, S.C., Deas came from a prominent local family. He played football for the Citadel military college but he pursued acting as a profession. For high school, he attended the Baylor School in Chattanooga, where he became lifelong friends with future actor Peter Hooten. Deas’ varied interests ranged from writing poetry to his abiding love of baseball.

Deas studied at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, and then he moved to New York to study with famed acting teacher Warren Robertson. He played the role of Obediah Buckhorn in the New York premiere of Romulus Linney’s pay “Holy Ghosts” at the Garrick Theatre. Director Larry Peerce saw him in that play and brought him to Los Angeles to appear in the 1976 action film “Two-Minute Warning,” starring John Cassavetes, Charlton Heston and Beau Bridges. He also logged TV roles including a guest shot on “Wonder Woman” in 1976. In those years, he worked as a body double for Robin Williams; the two stayed friendly for decades thereafter.

While working in New York, Deas met and married actor Beth Grant. The two divorced after five years but remained close friends until his death.

Deas moved into entertainment advertising sales when he joined Moving Pictures International in 1991. By 1995, Deas was handling sales for MPI and Variety (which had common ownership). By 1999, Deas was working full time for Variety as director of markets and festivals. He remained a senior sales executive until his retirement in 2021.

Deas was well-loved internally for his natural warmth and kindness. On Valentine’s Day, every female employee of Variety would receive a single long-stemmed rose from Deas with a note of appreciation.

In his private life, Deas was equally generous. In 1980, as a single man, Deas took in three young brothers – Michael, Gary and Brian Forbes — from Charleston after he learned they had no place to live and were in danger of being separated in foster care. He brought them to Los Angeles and parented them as if they were his own children. “He raised us until we were old enough to face the world as men and stuck by us every step of the way beyond,” Gary Forbes wrote on Facebook.

In addition to the Forbes brothers and Grant, Deas’ survivors include two sisters, Adele and Zan; a nephew, Demian; and Michael Forbes’ son, Henry Rhys.

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