There was a coterie of nervous Hollywood publicists last week
anxiously awaiting the results of The List. None of them relished the
thought of having to inform their clients that they were on it. The List
is to celebrities what the FBI's "Most Wanted" is to criminals. What the
fat content label on premium ice cream is to dieters.
It is, of course, Mr. Blackwell's infamous "10 Worst Dressed List." (If
you've watched any awards show, you're probably wondering why he stops
at only ten.) This year's list contained several expected culprits, such
as repeat offenders Britney and Bjork. But there were a few surprises -
and I don't envy the poor publicists who had to break the news to the
likes of Destiny's Child and Anne Robinson that they now belonged to the
sorority of the fashionably challenged.
I had the pleasure of sitting next to Mr. B at a Variety Club event a
few years back, and yes, he was smartly, though perhaps overly,
I found him to be quiet but pleasant. I therefore, reluctantly, opted
against asking him a few pointed questions: What is your first name,
What do you do the entire rest of the year when you're not making that
list? I mean, how long does that take, 20 minutes?
Blackwell, (excuse me, Mr. Blackwell) gets an enormous shot of publicity
for issuing his List. In fact, it's the only time all year we seem to
hear about him. If The List is good publicity for Mr. Blackwell, maybe
it's not really so bad for the celebrity listees either. After all,
Britney is usually criticized for what she isn't wearing, so this "Worst
Dressed" distinction has to be considered a somewhat refreshing change
If you remain unconvinced about the upside of negative publicity, look
at all the attention CNN's Paula Zahn got when the network announced
they were pulling a controversial promo spot touting her sexiness.
They got more attention from pulling the ad than airing it. What they
seem to be pulling is our leg. I'd like to think the whole thing was the
work of a devious PR genius, but that's just the romantic in me.
Publicity gimmicks like Mr. Blackwell's List and Paula Zahn's sexiness
are among those frivolous things that were supposed to have become
extinct in our "changed" post-September 11 society. (I'm sure we've
changed: the media keeps telling us so). From what I can see, frivolity
has survived far better than expected. Perhaps that's as it should be.
After all, if we aren't free to wallow in our shallow culture, then the
But as far as The List goes, I think the Blackwell has run dry, giving
Anne Robinson the eloquent last word: "Goodbye."
At least until next year.