TALES FROM TINSELTOWN: BilBob mess reminds publicists that gettingpersonal has perils

I dabbled in the art of being a personal publicist briefly in the '90s, but quickly bailed. Just couldn't stomach the thought of spending a career commenting on a star's love life or arrest record. Don't mind sharing my own sordid details in those areas, but not someone else's.

I dabbled in the art of being a personal publicist briefly in the '90s, but quickly bailed. Just couldn't stomach the thought of spending a career commenting on a star's love life or arrest record. Don't mind sharing my own sordid details in those areas, but not someone else's.

The recent buzz about the apparent breakup of Billy Bob Thornton and Angelina Jolie reminded me again of just how embarrassing the job can be.

As the gossip columns and news-wires have reported, new mother Jolie was apparently left at home with the baby while BilBob went on a moonlighting tour with his band. She said she hadn't heard from him in a month, and was obviously, well, not pleased about it. Essentially, the marriage was over, claimed the abandoned mother.

Anyone in possession of good ol' American values (not sure what those are, exactly, but I have a credit card issued from them) hissed and booed Thornton - having already done once before if they sat through The Movie That Wasn't There. "Inconsiderate, neglectful, and selfish! was the outcry.

Hint: If a person has been married five times, it's a pretty good bet they're not pegging the "unselfish meter.

Anyway, with the court of public opinion poised to render a "shame on you verdict to the man from Arkansas (oops, hope I didn't spoil the ending for those who haven't seen The Man Who Was There, But We're Not Sure Where), his publicist jumped in to try wrench the gavel from the judge's hand. And it's a big hand, too. It can hold 200 million opinions at once.

Press and fans waited with bated breath for the publicist's Clarence Darrow/Thaddeus Finch courtroom moment, saving an innocent victim from the electric chair of bad karma. The hangman's noose of negative vibe.

The poisoned arrow of, well, that's enough, I think.

Has the defense anything to add? demands People. Yes, your dishonor, chimes the publicist. What say ye? asks the Entertainment Tonight tribunal.

"They're still very much married."

Come again? What was that? "They are still very much married? Not quite the stirring, impassioned, Mr. Smith plea the guitar picker from The Movie That Was There but We Couldn't Find the Theater needed to save his PR skin.

Excuse me, but didn't you just hear his wife say she hadn't spoken to him in a month, and he left them to tour with his band? And what exactly is "very much anyway?

It's a difficult and sometimes humiliating job, covering up the messes of the rich, famous, and musically inspired. Myself, I would have taken the offensive. "My client likes to hit the road with the band. So what?

It's not like he can't e-mail, voice mail or video phone his family once in awhile. I mean, c'mon, this is the information age. Stop being so 20th century."

Like I said, not everyone's cut out for the personal publicist gig.

Lawrence Mitchell Garrison is an LA-based freelance publicist and writer.

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