TALES FROM TINSELTOWN: Hollywood publicity queen has a stiffchallenge for her throne

When powerhouse entertainment publicity firm PMK merged with Huvane

Baum Halls (HBH) last year, it was viewed as a disparate union. PMK is a

larger, bi-coastal agency representing some of the biggest stars in

Hollywood, ruled by Pat Kingsley, the titan queen of publicists.



Nevertheless, since they joined forces, underdog HBH has compensated for

its smaller bite with a bigger bark, according to syndicated gossip

columnist Liz Smith. She has transferred the dubious honor of "most

feared flack in Hollywood" from Kingsley to her new HBH partner, Stephen

Huvane.



Liz is in a huff over the difficulty a journalist (not confirming

whether that journalist was she) encountered in procuring a cover shot

with Huvane's famous client, Jennifer Aniston. She refers to Huvane as a

"dreaded PR titan," and sniffs about him declining most cover requests

or, should he approve one, dictating camera angles and hairstyles.

Demonstrating her disdain for Huvane's protocol, Smith's column ran with

a photo of Aniston flashing her pearly whites, one of the alleged

no-nos.



Though journalists and publicists frequently argue over access and

coverage of celebrities, it's unusual for their spats to be made public

- especially if that journalist wants future contact with that

publicist's clients.



Although he declined to speak to me for this column, Huvane only does

what publicists are expected to do - protect their clients'

interests.



I'm surprised Smith finds his ground rules perturbing. Such restrictions

have been standard procedure since the late '80s, when publicists gained

the upper hand over journalists in the celebrity access

tug-of-war. Kingsley and PMK were instrumental in that coup-d'etat, and

their clients are grateful.



During the brief time I was a personal publicist, I too established firm

mandates for the media. True, my clients were not so high-profile, and

the publications not so highly read. Nevertheless, I took a firm stance

with the likes of Welding Weekly and Beer Drinker's Digest.



For example, should photographers wish to take a picture of my client, I

made them aware, in no uncertain terms, that they had damn well better

bring a camera. As for interviews, I was even tougher, as they had some

definite ground rules to adhere to. First, spitting or throwing foreign

objects at a client was out. (Okay, I admit I was a bit fuzzy about what

constituted a "foreign" object.) Second, all interviews were to be

conducted in a language my client understood, such as English. Third,

reporters were not allowed to ask questions about a client's personal or

family life, work, outside interests, or political/religious opinions.

Everything else was fair game.



Call me iron-handed, but I was only doing my job. And as long as readers

are content to shell out money for fluff pieces on their favorite stars,

publicists will continue to call, or kill, the shots.



Lawrence Mitchell Garrison is an LA-based freelance publicist and

writer.



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