LOS ANGELES — In the early 1960s Jeremy Tarcher packaged book deals for celebrities, which resulted in such comical titles as “Phyllis Diller’s Housekeeping Hints” and Johnny Carson’s “Happiness Is a Dry Martini.”

He might have continued in that vein if he hadn’t made a stop at the Esalen Institute, the Northern California hub of New Age thinking about human potential, where figures like Carlos Castaneda and Rollo May were challenging conventional ideas about the workings of the mind and body.

Undaunted by New York publishers who thought such ideas had marginal appeal, Tarcher went on to mine California’s counterculture for bestsellers, bringing out such consciousness-expanding works as “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain” by Betty Edwards and “The Aquarian Conspiracy” by Marilyn Ferguson.

“I published books I cared about rather than books people thought would sell,” Tarcher told Publishers Weekly in 2013. “But it turned out that there were thousands of readers out there like me.”

Tarcher, a maverick publisher who specialized in books about health and human consciousness, died Sunday at his home in the Bel-Air neighborhood of L.A. of complications from Parkinson’s disease. He was 83.

His death was confirmed by his companion, Harriet Stuart.

Tarcher had boundless curiosity that “led him to discover the most innovative and exciting voices in the field of human potential,” Joel Fotinos, who heads the imprint that began in the early 1970s as J. P. Tarcher and is now part of Penguin, said this week. “Jeremy’s instinct for upcoming trends in the personal development genres was unequaled.”

Born in New York on Jan. 2, 1932, Tarcher grew up in a prosperous family, with his father the head of an advertising agency and his mother a lawyer. Everybody liked to read except for Tarcher, he later recalled. He was rejected by nearly every college he applied to, but his last choice turned out to be a good one: St. John’s College in Annapolis, Md., known for its “Great Books” curriculum.

“I knew I had found a very significant home there,” he recalled in a 1982 interview with the Los Angeles Times. “I would not be what I am now, where I am now, had it not been for St. John’s.”

Before book publishing, however, he worked in another medium: television.

Starting in the mail room at WNEW-TV in New York, he worked his way up to producer within a few months.

In 1957 he met Shari Lewis, who was, by his recollection, already “the queen of New York television” with Lamb Chop, her beloved puppet sidekick. He and Lewis were married in 1958, and he went on to produce her Saturday morning TV show for several years.

He turned to publishing out of concerns about tying his career to his wife’s fame. One of his first successes was the Carson book, which became a bestseller in 1965. Soon he was packaging book deals for other celebrities, including Diller, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Buddy Hackett and Joan Rivers.

His visit to Esalen in the late 1960s pushed him in a new direction. Excited by the whirlpool of beliefs and practices he found in sessions with figures like Timothy Leary and Linus Pauling, he tried to interest New York publishers in books about New Age topics. Their lack of interest led him to strike out on his own.

His first hit was “Mother Earth’s Hassle-Free Indoor Plant Book,” published in 1973. In 1979, Tarcher published Edwards’ “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain,” which has sold over 3 million copies.