TALES FROM TINSELTOWN: To get best buzz, even the Boss takesdirection from PR people

I was chatting in a bar with a preacher about what a Hollywood publicist does, exactly. The minister seemed pretty hip to it all, responding, "Well, then, I guess you could say I'm a publicist for Jesus. Amen, sure, but who pays the retainer?

I was chatting in a bar with a preacher about what a Hollywood publicist does, exactly. The minister seemed pretty hip to it all, responding, "Well, then, I guess you could say I'm a publicist for Jesus. Amen, sure, but who pays the retainer?

He asked why stars need publicists at all, since everyone already knows who they are. Good question. The good answer is, I'm not exactly sure, but I've learned through experience that even the biggest of Very Big Stars need help getting the word out about new films, albums, tell-all books, rehab adventures, and career or personal milestones. A fifth marriage, for example.

Case in point is the new album by Bruce Springsteen. I shouldn't mention the name, lest it seem like a crass promotion. (I'm all for that, mind you, when I'm being paid.) The CD shot to number one its first week out, selling more than half a million copies. Sure, it's a great album, but contributing to its instant success (topping all his previous albums' first week sales) is the unprecedented amount of publicity he orchestrated.

There was a time when Springsteen wouldn't grant interviews and refused to appear on television. No promotions, no plugs, no nothing. His philosophy seemed to be that music should speak for itself. A noble sentiment indeed, but impractical in this day and age. Music can speak for itself, but publicity clears the earwax from the masses' distracted attention.

In the span of a week, the Boss appeared on the Today show (performing live on the Jersey Shore), The Late Show with David Letterman, Nightline, and more. He even turned up on Rise and Shine, the 5am weather and farm report airing on public access channel 12 in Claremore, OK. (Bruce went on right after a fourth-grade student recited the Pledge of Allegiance and gave the daily wheat futures forecast.)

Credit Bruce for changing with the times, and realizing it takes a bit of drum beating to be noticed. We are living in the temple of Babble On, where talking heads appear nightly on 100 channels to yak about the trivial and the overblown. Breathless gossiping about the love lives and dirty laundry of "celeb-pretties is sandwiched between "serious news about things that never seem to change.

All set to catchy music. "The sky is falling. Even worse, the market is falling. Pay attention during the commercial breaks, because, after all, it's up to consumers to spend our way out of the dark recesses of a faltering economy.

Naturally, this clamor makes it harder for us professionals with important things to discuss - such as an exciting new action flick starring Vin Diesel - to be heard. But encouragingly, thanks to a barnstorming publicity push, a lot of people last week heard something worthwhile piercing through the din: The Boss is back. Hallelujah.

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