Wishing to ring in 2004 on a positive note, I planned to devote this New Year's column to the wonderful deed the postal service does for children during the holidays.Here in Los Angeles, and other cities, I'm sure, they assign personnel to sift through the many letters kiddies write to Santa, and then forward the neediest ones to volunteers who answer and fulfill expressed wishes. For several years, I've responded to dozens of such letters, and distributed others out to guests at my annual Egg Nog Social. But I didn't do it this season. I bought presents online and went to a few parties, but mainly I just sat pathetically transfixed at the TV images of Saddam Hussein. Next thing I knew it was Christmas. Sure, I neglected the kids, but worse, I was stuck for a column. Until, while watching all that redundant news coverage, I noticed the US military named the Hussein capture Operation "Red Dawn." Wait a darn minute! Not the Patrick Swayze movie directed by John Milius? Oh, yes indeed. Apparently someone at the Pentagon is a fan of this adventure tale of Colorado youths defending our country from a post-nuke invasion of commies. (If you buy this movie at Amazon, they respond, "If you liked this piece of drivel, you may also wish to waste your money on Red Heat or Red Menace.") Talk about a Christmas publicity gift! Milius' once rising star has all but dropped off the radar the past few years, and this little shot in the arm may land him a TV series or the next Ben Affleck flick. Curious if the military plug caused a bump in Red Dawn rentals, I called a couple Blockbuster stores. One didn't even carry the film, but the other, according to a guy named Jason, experienced a whopping 100% increase in rentals. After I expressed due admiration, he went on to say, "Well, what I mean is, we rented one copy. Last week, last few weeks actually, no one rented it at all." There it is, publicists. If you want your client's dusty film to fly off the shelves, better start lobbying the Pentagon to use its title for their next military operation. I myself am pitching a Jean-Claude Van Damme film I worked on in the '80s. Hey, Osama, how'd ya like some operation "Kickboxer" upside your head? Hopefully the army won't wait until next Christmas to apprehend that evildoer. I'll need all the make-up time I can get next Yule for those Santa letters. Lawrence Mitchell Garrison is an LA-based freelance publicist and writer
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