Forget fashionable parties. Rubbing shoulders with celebrities. Peeking behind the curtain.A Hollywood publicist's ultimate goal is to get fired. Sacked. Tossed out on the deck like empty beer cans.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Before the desired ousting occurs, the first step is to sign a contract that runs at least four years. That's critical. Since studio administrations and marketing departments seem to turn over about every three years, the odds of getting fired with 12 months or so left on the contract are pretty darn good. Because the first thing new bosses do is get rid of people - or how else would their bosses know they're doing anything? You're practically assured of getting a year's pay without having to do a year's work. Hell, a day's work.
The Hollywood job market is a merry-go-round. Getting fired is expected. It just happened to Blaise Noto, VP at Columbia Pictures. Noto was at Paramount in the early 1990s when I was a cub publicist. The department went through three publicity heads in the span of 18 months, so he obviously learned the drill early. After toiling 10 years there, he joined Columbia in 2000 - and this week he went out in a Blaise of glory.
I've got about 18 months before I even have to think about working again, he basically said. And I want to thank all the little people who made this possible.
One of the aforementioned canned Paramount publicity chieftains, discarded upon the arrival of a new studio head, traveled to Italy for months, then came home to start her own company. Now, that's quality - being able to fire yourself whenever you like. Why wait? Imagine the satisfaction of looking yourself square in the mirror, snarling and saying, "Me, you are so fired.
Then breaking out in a huge grin. "Pack our bags, we're goin' to Spain!"
It's not just publicists that are getting green with pink slips. The ultimate sack, the all-time big kahuna, the one everyone aspires to, was the firing of Michael Ovitz from Disney after less than two years of confused employment. He reportedly walked away with a now infamous $100 million.
Subsequent hopeful Mouse executives use this to their advantage when negotiating terms. "Listen, I'm not that greedy. When the time comes, I'm willing to be let got for $10 million, $20 million tops. No need to quibble."
I once came close to enacting phase one of this quick riches strategy, but couldn't close the deal. Like a poker play drawing three aces, my over-anxiousness was evident. Pen in hand, the excitement simply too overpowering, I couldn't refrain from blurting out, "How soon can I expect to be fired?