Dennis Shields was raised in New York by his neurologist father and his lawyer mother. Shields was found dead inside of his 42nd-floor apartment in Trump Tower on August 10, reported the New York Post. He was 51 years old. An overdose is the suspected cause of death.
The New York Times wedding announcement for Shields and his then-wife, Jill Schwartzberg, from 1990 refers to Shields’ father as a neurologist and his mother as an attorney in New York. Shields was married at the Plaza Hotel on August 25, 1990. Online records show that Shields’ parents were divorced in December 1989. In June 2016, Bethenny Frankel, Shields’ on-off girlfriend at the time of his death, said that she went to high school with Schwartzberg.
Schwartzberg, under the name Jill Shields, told the New York Post that despite her and Shields’ separation, the two remained extremely close. Jill Shields said, “We are all heartbroken. Dennis was, and will be, the love of my life. His spirit lives on in our children. Please respect our family’s privacy at this time.” The couple had four children together. A friend told the newspaper that Shields and his former wife spoke every day.
In paying tribute to Shields, the New York Times called him a “native New Yorker” who graduated from New York University before going into business with a medical services company. That article describes Shields as being in the same “social circle” as President Donald Trump’s longtime confidant Michael D. Cohen.
Shields wrote about his father in a January 2018 article titled, “A Time to Plant Tears,” saying, “My old man, a doctor by trade and a cynic by nature, said attitude meant nothing. It was all staging, type, and origin.” During the same article, Sheilds wrote about his mother having a kidney removed, at that time Gail Shields said, “As a girl, I believed in everything. Then I met [Shields’ father], and now I believe in nothing.”
The co-creator of Billions, Brian Koppelman, wrote a touching tribute to his friend on Twitter, “Dennis Shields, who died this morning, was my close friend for 30 years. One of the smartest, most generous, people I ever came across. He was also one of the great storytellers in the world. And understood life’s endless absurdity in his bones. I loved him. And love his family.” Koppelman followed that statement up with, “Dennis had a huge impact on my life. But also on my work w Dave through the years. Each of our movies contains a piece of him. There would be no Grama without him. No 500 fights. And definitely no guy in a diaper in The Girlfriend Experience (that was actually Dennis in a cameo).” Koppelman went on to confirm that he had named Jerry Weintraub’s character in Ocean’s 13 after his friend.
Speaking to the New York Times, one of Shields’ colleagues said, “Dennis Shields was a unique and visionary person. His friends and work family at LawCash all feel a sense of great shock and loss, and all of our thoughts and prayers are with Dennis’ family at this extraordinarily difficult time.”