THE A-LIST: Hollywood's top publicists - Lauded by the press andtheir peers for their integrity and their effectiveness, Anita Chabriacharts the achievements of Tinseltown's finest PR professionals

JEFFREY GODSICK, Twentieth Century Fox

TONY ANGELLOTTI, The Angellotti Company

RONNIE LIPPIN, The Lippin Group

DAVID LUX, International Creative Management


DON DeMeSQUITA, William Morris Agency

PAUL BLOCH, Rogers & Cowan

NATALIE MOAR, Dan Klores Communications

MICHAEL RUSSELL, Michael Russell Group


Love or hate the dizzying yet dazzling musical Moulin Rouge, the Oscar

contender left audiences talking, which is exactly what Twentieth

Century Fox's EVP of publicity and promotions Jeffrey Godsick loved

about the movie - not to mention the publicity campaign he spearheaded

for it.

"What makes Moulin Rouge exciting is that people react differently to

it," says Godsick, a native New Yorker now transplanted to the West


"It's a real labor of love for everybody at the studio, and to see it

begin to be acknowledged is fantastic."

While Godsick is quick to point out that the film deserves its

accolades, the heavy publicity push orchestrated by the Fox team

certainly helped raise the film's profile. Six months before its

release, a 12-minute teaser was sent to fashion, music, and design media

as well as potential promotional partners. That early buzz earned a

25-page photo shoot on the movie's costumes in Vogue (shot by Annie

Liebowitz) as well as other PR coups such as a Moulin Rouge-inspired

window display at Bloomingdale's in New York.

Of course, Moulin Rouge wasn't the only film on Godsick's calendar this

year. The father of five - who jokes he "has a focus group in his own

house" - oversaw publicity for 15 other feature films, including Planet

of the Apes and Behind Enemy Lines.

"It's a bizarre business," admits Godsick of studio publicity. "One of

the great benefits of what we do is that each day, if not each hour,

something is different. It's an environment where you can't live by

normal rules. If you kind of groove on that philosophy, then it's the

greatest job in the world. You can get emotionally vested in what you

work on."

Godsick hasn't always been a studio aficionado, though. Before joining

Fox in 1995, he was EVP of entertainment at venerable Rogers & Cowan -

an experience he says he "draws on every day." But his start in the PR

business came through an internship with Columbia Pictures while still a

student at Tulane University in New Orleans. Columbia eventually hired

him in the field department, where he planned local promotions for

Ghostbusters and The Karate Kid.

Godsick makes our list for his reputation not only as a savvy promoter,

but also as a boss who is open to ideas from all levels. He's also known

for treating the press decently.

"We both have important jobs to do," he says of his department's

relationship to the media. "We're not always going to win. It's not

always going to be favorable. But we try to be honest and fair, and

expect the same in return."

"He's the king of the Oscar campaign," raves one trade journalist about

Tony Angellotti, and just a glance at some of the films he's promoted

proves he does indeed have the Midas touch when it comes to collecting

the 24-carat critique.

While he's quick to protest that the credit belongs to the studios,

Angellotti is the strategic Svengali behind awards initiatives for films

such as The English Patient, Erin Brokovich, Shakespeare in Love, and

Chocolat, helping them gain nomination for Hollywood's most coveted

consideration in what one industry professional describes as the

"hand-to-hand combat" of entertainment publicity. This year, he's aiding

the drive behind Universal's A Beautiful Mind (which dominated the

Golden Globe Awards) and Pixar/Disney's Monsters, Inc. - the latter

representing a new Oscar category for animated features.

"I'm just one guy making suggestions," Angellotti says of his campaign

efforts, which involve reaching out both directly and circuitously to

key members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, whose

votes lead to the Oscar's golden statues. "I'm not taking any credit.

I'm just asked to come through the front door and join the club on


Trips through the front door have been frequent over the past years.

Angellotti was Miramax's go-to guy for Oscar work from 1993 until


Before that, he served on the studio side as VP of worldwide marketing

and public relations for horror-flick headquarters Empire Entertainment,

as well as director of worldwide publicity and promotions for New World

Entertainment - in-house experiences that he says proved he lacks the

"tremendous degree of understanding and patience" it takes to work

inside Hollywood's production Meccas.

While patience may not be his virtue, endurance definitely is. The

months leading up to Tinseltown's kudos-fests are intense for

Angellotti, especially with multiple clients to please. "I wake up a lot

of time at 5:30 in the morning and write down notes, then go back to

sleep," he laughs. "After the Oscars, I need to emotionally download.

Then I surge back in the summer."

Downloading means "getting out of Hollywood" to take in hobbies such as

fly-fishing in remote areas where Oscar is little more than a store

clerk's first name. While Angellotti, who started down his career path

as a journalist, clearly loves his work, he admits his dream job is a

"Holden Caulfield" experience that probably doesn't exist.

"People might think I'm jaded," he says of his practical outlook. "But

trust me, I was that way when I was 13."

Don't let Ronnie Lippin's Zen-like demeanor fool you: Underneath that

California calm is a woman with strong ideas and even stronger


"I never want to compromise ethical standards," explains Lippin of her

approach to public relations. "It can be a lonely road once in a while.

We don't accept every client who asks us about representation, and there

are some relationships that are relatively short-lived."

While not every client makes the cut at The Lippin Group, which Ronnie

Lippin heads with her husband, Richard, the ones that do tend to stick

around. With more than three decades of experience in the music

industry, Ronnie Lippin has developed long-term relationships with some

top rock names. (Eric Clapton has been a client for 25 years.) Lippin

credits this loyalty in part to her integrity. More than once, she has

talked someone out of a publicity plan when it isn't a good fit for the

overall picture.

"I believe that my credibility, and that of my clients, is on the line

with every conversation," she explains. "It's easy to pick up the phone

and dial away. But when people call me, I ask, 'What are your goals?

What do you want to achieve by doing this?'"

The Lippins hope to pass on some of their ethical insights to the next

generation of publicists by sparking debates at the university


The couple helped start an ethics program at Brandeis University in

Massachusetts, and a course at Penn State.

"It no longer matters how people get from point A to point B," explains

Lippin of her rationale for reaching out to youth. She uses the

proliferation of Napster use by college students as an example:

"Essentially they're stealing from some performer," she says of the

file-swap service.

Lippin started out in the periphery of the entertainment business,

writing film reviews for Parents Magazine, a job she admits was "not

something I did particularly well since I was not a parent." She quickly

switched to film publicity, and moved from New York to Los Angeles for a

job that vaporized by the time she made the trip. Lippin landed on her

feet in the publicity department at MCA Records, but left a year later

to help Elton John at his new Rocket Records. After taking a break in

the '80s to have a daughter, the Lippins decided to start their own

venture - a decision that put her back at the center of a business she


"For me to be able to go into the office and play music and work with

music and musicians is a joy," says Lippin, who plays piano and guitar.

"I think music has a special place in a lot of peoples lives."

At 37, the boyish and bespectacled Ender - who laments that his young

looks often cause a credibility crisis - is best known for fueling the

publicity firestorm behind the original season of reality-hit Survivor,

and for keeping ratings up through two subsequent generations, with a

fourth on the way. Ender and his team of 35 have also helped CBS reach

younger viewers by promoting shows such as Everybody Loves Raymond and

C.S.I.: Crime Scene Investigation. Along with those successes, Ender

made our list for being a publicist who never fails to return a call and

rarely loses his temper.

"He's very accessible, usually honest and very smart," says one

entertainment trade journalist, in what amounts to praise from the


"The whole Survivor experience has been a little CIA-like," confesses

Ender about the rabid secrecy surrounding the outcome of his biggest


At one point during the original season, Ender's office took so many

media calls that he was forced to create a devious answer to keep the

media's interest while preserving the mystery of the show.

"We can neither confirm nor deny reports about Survivor activities, but

we will allow the media to run false information" became the standard

response to most inquiries.

"The secret is the key to the show's success," explains Ender of the

stonewall tactics. "The process of denying information created a

situation of the media wanting to chase it." The walls of his office are

a testament the payoff of his approach. A half-dozen magazine covers

featuring Survivor cast members hang on laminated plaques above a

blow-up plastic kangaroo.

"Reality programming has been a lot of fun for me," extols Ender.

"Everybody likes to point to Sept. 11 as the knockout punch for reality

TV. If that's true, Survivor has a strong chin."

Ender got his start in public relations by answering an ad in the

Hollywood Reporter for an assistant at Bender, Goldman & Helper (now

Bender Helper Impact) after graduating from the University of Maryland

with a journalism degree in 1986. Within seven months, he was handling

his own accounts, including Playboy home video. He then moved to Sony

Television Entertainment's syndication division, where he handled media

relations for shows such as Ricki Lake, and developed campaigns for the

syndicated sales launch of Seinfeld and Mad About You. He joined CBS in

1996 as VP of media relations.

"This job, you can't say it's always fun on a daily basis," admits Ender

of the network life. "But you really feel involved in this company."

"It's a throwback to the glamour of the '40s and '30s," explains Michael

Russell, public relations guru for the Golden Globe Awards, about the

event he has helped to shape. "You have the top movie and television

starts under one roof, and you have an elegant banquet where alcohol is

served, so you have a lively atmosphere where anything can happen and

usually does."

The Golden Globes are the Oscars' younger, wilder cousin, known for a

relaxed attitude and celebrity antics. Indeed, that carefully crafted

identity has helped the show break out of the kudos-fest clutter and

become second in importance only to the Academy's own statuette


Hollywood insiders give much of the credit for creating the Golden

Globes' feisty personality to Russell, who took over publicity for the

Hollywood Foreign Press Association - the 90-some-member organization

that hosts the show - in 1994, two years before the frolicsome fete

landed its NBC debut.

During Russell's eight-year tenure, the awards show has morphed from a

sleepy network special once considered a Tinseltown "afterthought" to a

"hugely important" celebrity extravaganza that attracts more than 800

journalists from around the world, according to one entertainment


"It was a slow build," says Russell of the Golden Globes' tremendous

transformation. "The first thing I did was organize all of their

marketable photographs and come up with a media kit." From there, he

claims, "the press worked it out about what an incredible event it


The press has also figured out that Russell deserves his own accolades:

"He may be the nicest person you will ever meet - certainly the nicest

publicist you'll ever meet," extols one trade reporter of Russell's

event-side manner.

"There is a lot of pressure," says Russell of the Golden Globes' big

night. "But we try not to run it with a heavy hand. We try to make it

fun for (the media). We try to run it like they are part of the


Joining that party are more than 100 personal publicists walking their

clients down the red carpet, along with a score of public relations pros

from NBC and Russell's own staff of up to 10. Despite the sheer numbers,

Russell maintains that it's personal relationships that keep the evening

running smoothly.

"I know all the publicists and they know me," he says of Hollywood's

entertainment community. "It's a very small town."

While David Lux - known as d.lux to his friends and associates - is the

youngest member of our list (he's just 28), he is far from a public

relations neophyte.

As the communications kingpin at one of Hollywood's top five management

agencies - International Creative Management (ICM) - Lux inhabits an

exclusive position that less than a dozen entertainment public relations

professionals have ever held - or wanted to hold. Publicity head at an

agency is notoriously one of Hollywood's toughest and most thankless

jobs, requiring its practitioners to handle scores of media calls each

day about the town's down-low dealmaking while at the same time

balancing the temperamental egos of agents who want as much press as

possible - as long as it's positive and pre-approved.

"A lot of my job is explaining the press to agents, and agents to the

press," confesses Lux, an avid Los Angeles Dodgers fan. "They are two

different animals."

Introducing those different beasts to each other in as safe a setting as

possible is one of Lux's secrets to success. Rather than take a

confrontational approach to the press that some agencies have tried in

the past, Lux works to build strong, long-term relationships between

agents and reporters.

"I see myself as someone who is here not so much as a gatekeeper but as

a facilitator," Lux explains. "I don't ever want to be seen as someone

who is barring or controlling - which doesn't imply that I am hands


That friendly, hands-on approach has earned Lux a winning reputation:

"He's the most personable publicist I know," says one trade


Despite the delicate nature of his work, Lux - a self-described

"organization freak" who "loves lists" - says he thrives on the

multi-tasking challenges of a talent agency.

"With an agency, you've got all these different areas where you are

expected to know what's going on," he says, pointing out that the agents

he looks out for cover industries from publishing to television and

film. "My job is to know something about everything, or everything about


Although Lux - whose name means "truth" and "light" in Latin - has

achieved industry-insider status at quite a young age, he's determined

to keep a cool head about his accomplishments.

"There are so many factors that go into succeeding in this town, and

only one of them is ability," he says. "I'm like J. Lo - I like to keep

it real."

"Don would call me 'Grasshopper' and give me a little life lesson,"

reminisces one of DeMesquita's former proteges. "He taught me there is

nothing so important in this world that it should affect your quality of

life. It was a great thing to hear from someone who has it all."

DeMesquita may disagree that he has it all, but the head of William

Morris Agency's worldwide publicity does have a reputation as an honest

man always willing to help others. "What I get the most satisfaction out

of is mentoring people I have confidence in," he says. "There's a

satisfaction in watching someone grow into their potential."

That philanthropic philosophy has earned him tremendous loyalty within

the ranks of his profession, but DeMesquita has also cultivated strong

relationships with industry media, attributed in no small part to his

enlightened outlook in a business where screaming "I'll call your

editor" is an acceptable PR tactic.

"The unnecessarily antagonistic and combative publicists undermine their

own reputation and do unseen damage to those they represent," argues

DeMesquita, who spent years on the agency side at Rogers & Cowan. "Those

who invariably believe that the media's interests and ours are mutually

exclusive seem neither to understand the profession nor the rules of


When he's not dispensing droplets of wisdom, DeMesquita is charged with

protecting the reputation of one of Hollywood's most formidable talent

agencies and "establishing William Morris in the eyes of the industry as

the single most attractive place for talent" - a tough job in a milieu

where glossy magazines' annual power lists affect business, and client

perception changes daily.

But DeMesquita says the deck is stacked in his favor when it comes to

helping his firm. "There isn't anyone in the world that hasn't heard of

our company," he says. "William Morris is an American icon."

Ask Hollywood's entertainment community about Paul Bloch and you're

almost certain to get a commentary on his fashion sense. On a recent

day, the head of entertainment at Rogers & Cowan was attired in

blue-and-gray camouflage pants, a purple cable-knit sweater, boots with

the American flag painted on, watches on both wrists, and a silver

concho belt buckle with a raised Indian head big enough to make Gene

Autry blush. While industry insiders debate whether this bold look is

courageous or colorblind, one assessment they do agree on is Bloch's

standing as the best in the business - both for his personal

graciousness and professional talent.

"He's a mensch," says one old-time entertainment publicist. "He's the

godfather of entertainment publicity," says another.

Bloch has surely been on the scene long enough to earn godfather status,

logging almost 40 years with R&C and building a client list that reads

like a program for the Hollywood wax museum (John Travolta, Bruce

Willis, Anthony Hopkins, Robert Zemeckis). But it's his reputation for

integrity and loyalty that earned him a spot on our list. He credits

much of his success to discipline - learned in the Army - and a true

love of the entertainment industry.

"I really like actors, directors and producers," swears Bloch, reclining

on a couch in his office, where every inch of space is covered with

tributes to his life outside of the biz. A saddle - Bloch has ridden

horses since the age of two - has a place of honor near the door, and

antique tennis racquets vie for space between the hundreds of family

photos that blanket the walls. But he quickly adds a disclaimer: "You

have a job to do for these people. Even if some of them are your

friends, at the end of the day it's the job that counts."

Three bulging rolodexes on his desk attest to his dedication to his work

- and to keeping R&C a premiere name in Hollywood publicity. "Rogers &

Cowan is a golden name, and it's my job to keep the fire going," says

Bloch. "Whatever it takes to get it done."

For Natalie Moar's most infamous client, Sean Combs, 2001 started with a

trial and ended with an electric chair. The artist then known as Puff

Daddy kicked off the year with a media-frenzied court appearance for

weapons and bribery charges stemming from a shooting in a New York

nightclub. By December, he had won a not-guilty verdict, released a new

album, gone through two more name changes (P. Diddy and the tamer Sean

Combs), weathered a paternity suit, and acted in two films - playing a

gangster in Made and a dead-man-walking to Louisiana State

Penitentiary's death chamber in Monster's Ball. "It was definitely a

very interesting year," concedes Moar with a laugh, adding that Combs'

legal troubles gave her a "huge learning curve in crisis PR."

A native Australian, Moar hit US shores 11 years ago to pursue a

photography career. Ever ambitious, she turned a job at a Los Angeles

health spa into an opportunity to help the club with press tours. She

was soon offered an assistant position with the spa's publicist, Kelly

Bush. When Bush started her own agency (I/D PR), Moar tagged along and

became a full-fledged PR pro - cutting her teeth on the Rembrandt

toothpaste account.

"That was a good eight years ago, but I always draw back to those days,"

claims Moar. "Anyone who can publicize toothpaste - well, it teaches you

how to think."

Moar has been with New York-based Dan Klores Communications for seven

years, working her way up to senior VP, in part, says Dan Klores,

because "she's got a sense of humor" and "she likes to win." While she

makes our list for keeping P. Diddy's reputation sterling despite a

trying year, Moar is quick to point out that she handles more than

entertainment. She considers herself a "strategic publicist" and counts

among her clients Ian Shrager's New York hotels, Mac make-up's Viva Glam

AIDS fundraiser (with spokespeople Elton John, Shirley Manson and Mary

J. Blige), and magazines Redbook and Cosmo Girl.

Filled with furry-footed hobbits and wizened wizards, Lord of the Rings:

The Fellowship of the Ring teetered on the edge of being a sci-fi

geek-fest for young boys and hard-core fans of Tolkien's trilogy. That

the film is a complex epic adventure with broad appeal is a testament to

auteur Peter Jackson's talent. But without a two-year publicity campaign

by New Line Cinema - spearheaded by Mary Donovan and Christina Kounelias

- general audiences may never have known of the New Zealand director's

accomplishment, eschewing the film as a fantasy flick with limited


"Early on, it was important to establish the pedigree of it. There was

some hesitancy (by the press) to embrace it for what it could be,"

explains Donovan, who headed New Line's publicity efforts until moving

to New York in August to start the studio's new corporate affairs

department. "The challenge was to position it correctly within the

public's mind as something really big and important while at the same

time not overhyping it, because we had nothing very early on to show for


Donovan, an avid runner and cook, targeted trend-defining publications

such as Vanity Fair and The New York Times Magazine to introduce the

picture, then began building an awareness of the diverse ensemble


"We started selling the human elements," explains recently married

Kounelias, who took over Donovan's job in Los Angeles and is handling

the film's Oscar campaign as well as early efforts for the next two

installments, due out on Christmas 2002 and 2003. "It became about

people familiarizing themselves with the characters and the drama. We

were careful to also appeal to women. There are a lot of attractive

males in the movie."

Both Kounelias and Donovan have a long history with New Line, a company

Kounelias describes as having a "family feel." Donovan joined the studio

in 1989 as director of publicity, working her way up to EVP, publicity

and promotions before moving to the corporate comms side. Kounelias, who

founded Miramax's in-house publicity department in the late '80s, came

to New Line in 1991 and stayed for six years before heading to Fox

Broadcasting, where she was SVP of publicity and corporate


While the Lord of the Rings campaign is far from over, the film's box

office success - taking in more than $232 million so far and

ranking as Variety's 26th all-time grosser - wins the New Line duo a

place on our list for successfully displaying the heart of a complex

project to their potential audience and convincing us that hobbits can

actually be cool.


PRWeek's choice of the top public relations professionals in

entertainment is a cross section of the industry's elite. It is not

intended to serve as an exhaustive list, or indeed as a definition of

the most powerful players. But it is testament to the value of

demonstrating openness, honesty, and integrity in your professional


The list was based on a survey of a broad range of entertainment

journalists and PR professionals who are familiar with the workings of

Hollywood, and the music, film, and TV industries.

Survey respondents were asked to list their "most effective" publicists

and rate them according to their honesty and fairness, as well as their

ability to achieve tangible and impressive results for their


We asked respondents not only to think about those publicists who enjoy

the fruits of working with the biggest names in show business, but also

to consider those who have devised and delivered on smart marketing


Those on the resulting list are not only leaders in their field, but

also honest and professional.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in