Deborah Raffin Dies at 59, Audiobook Entrepreneur and Actress

Deborah Raffin Divorce

Deborah Raffin passed away on Wednesday, November 21, 2012 at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center due to leukemia. According to her brother, William, she was diagnosed with having blood cancer about a year ago.

The 59-year-old had starred in a variety of films as well as many appearances in television miniseries. Some would say, however, that her major accomplishment was as an entrepreneur. Her company, Dove Books-on-Tape, ended up being a huge force in regards to the audio book industry.

Deborah Raffin was the daughter of Trudy Marshall, who worked at 20th Century Fox during the 1940s as a contract player and Philip Raffin, a restaurateur and meat broker. Deborah was born on March 13, 1953 in Los Angeles and grew up in Bel-Air and Beverly Hills. She graduated from University High School and was in her second year at L.A. Valley College when a talent agent discovered her in an elevator.

The California-born, blond actress became noticeable during the mid-1970’s as she was known for playing “pretty girl” roles in movies such as “Once Is Not Enough” that was based on the salacious novel by Jacqueline Susann and “Forty Carats” with Liv Ulman. It was during this time in 1974 where she met Viner, a music producer, on a blind date. Four months later, the two would end up getting married.

During the 1980’s, things began to thrive for Raffin as she landed more substantial roles but in television miniseries. In 1980, she starred in “Haywire” and played legendary actress Brooke Hayward and in 1988, played a businesswoman in “Noble House” that was based on James Clavell’s saga of intrigue and love in Hong Kong.

While her acting career was moving along, it was during this time that she and her then-husband, Michael Viner, decided to launch Dove from their Coldwater Canyon home. It started out in their garage as a hobby but matured into a multimillion-dollar business that offered a mix of low-brow-and-high titles. These titles ranged from physicist Stephen W. Hawking’s opus on the cosmos, “A Brief History of Time,” which was the first bestseller for Dove, to Sidney Sheldon’s bestseller “The Naked Face.”

The launch of the Dove Books-On-Tape company was in 1985 and they later would expand in book publishing as well as television and movie production.

The origin of their books-on-tape company actually originated as the result of a backgammon game. During the game, novelist Sidney Sheldon had lost $8,000 to Viner. Viner decided he did not want to take Sheldon’s money but was able to arrange producing two of Sheldon’s bestsellers into audio books.

The name for the company was inspired by one of Raffin’s films, “The Dove,” that was made in 1974 and starred Joseph Bottoms. Others who later performed on audio books for Dove were Ruby Dee, Jason Robards, Roger Moore, William Conrad, Elliott Gould and Burt Reynolds. Unfortunately, the couple was forced to sell Dove in 1997 as a result of financial setbacks.

Though they later decided to launch together New Millennium Entertainment, Viner and Raffin ended up divorcing in 2005; Viner died of cancer in 2009.

Raffin is survived by her brother, William in Malibu, her sister Judy Holston and her daughter Taylor Rose Viner, both of Brentwood. It has been reported that services will be held in Culver City on Sunday, 1 p.m., at Hillside Memorial Park.

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