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Remembering Metropolitan Museum's John O'Keefe

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NEW YORK (MYFOXNY) -

John O'Keefe, who died in June, was the smiling face of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He spent 25 years showing it to the rich and famous like actresses Margaret O'Brien and Gloria Swanson. O'Keefe worked as the museum's public relations adviser on several fronts. He is most remembered for launching Friday and Saturday nights at the Met.

It's now a New York City tradition; visitors enjoy cocktails, live classical music and wander through the exhibits.

"He emphasized the romance in Friday and Saturday nights, it really was one of the things that made his reputation," said Harold Holzer, the senior vice president for public affairs at the museum. He said O'Keefe helped make the Met one of the premier museum merchandisers in the world.

"Reproductions became part of the Met tradition, now almost taken for granted at every museum," he added. "John was on the road promoting that."

O'Keefe was known as New York City's PR man. He worked for Robert Moses and helped promote the 1964 World's Fair. In the 1970s, O'Keefe served as the vice president of public relations for Lincoln Center.

But his career at the Met brought two of his favorite things together: art and people.

With all of the beauty in the Met, O'Keefe's favorite section was the European paintings. Many days he would sit down on the benches and take in the paintings.

"He was just extraordinary," Holzer said. "Being charming, and being a great representative of the museum."

The museum plans to honor O'Keefe with a dinner at his favorite Brooklyn restaurant this fall.

O'Keefe is survived by his two sisters. He was 84.

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