Pat Kingsley eats lunch regularly at Orso's, the Los Angeles
trattoria where the prices are as modest as the greetings. No one ever
uses her name or gives her special treatment. "She likes the fact it is
unpretentious," says Peter Bart, editor-in-chief of Variety.
"Pat is very down-to-earth and business-like and I think people respond
to that attitude. There is so much flakiness and she's no flake," he
Kingsley can't afford any nonsense. Her company, PMK, not only deals
with a client roster that reads like an Oscar party guest list, she's
now part of a public company, Interpublic Group.
Under the banner of Momentum Worldwide, the event marketing arm of
McCann-Erickson, PMK is detached from the other IPG PR businesses and
Kingsley is left to her own devices.
In May, PMK effectively made its first ever acquisition, buying rival
celebrity publicity shop Huvane Baum Halls, with revenues of around
dollars 1 million. The agency is now called PMK/HBH.
"On average, we've grown annually between 15-20%," says Kingsley, who
estimates that revenues are now dollars 10 million. But while her roster
of 300 celebrities remains core, Kingsley is doing more to attract
lucrative corporate clients. In the last year or so, PMK has picked up
magazines such as Harper's Bazaar and Marie Claire (both the subject of
much press attention given Hearst's ouster of Harper's editor Kate
Betts, in favor of Marie Claire's Glenda Bailey).
Then there are film projects including Tom Cruise's Vanilla Sky and the
upcoming Leonardo DiCaprio flick, Gangs of New York. PMK also has a
nascent corporate division working for the likes of Motorola.
"We are looking for more synergy with the people who bought us," she
admits. "We are seriously addressing it, we want to work with
Kingsley started in the business back in the 1950s when "you didn't
study PR, you just learned it." She spent around 12 years at Rogers &
Cowan, before forming PMK in the early 1980s. Back then clients included
Steve McQueen Sally Field and Billie Jean King.
Of course the media has changed radically since then. "It is far more
complex," but on the flip side, "there are far more outlets to go to,"
Kingsley says her job is to help clients select outlets that will propel
their careers in the right direction. Kingsley says one of the best
aspects of her job is watching her campaigns play out. "Courtney Love
hired me the year Kurt Cobain died. She wanted to develop into a film
actress. She was willing to do whatever she needed to do and she's been
But if things don't go her way, Kingsley is ready to come out all guns
blazing. In a recent New York Post story, Kingsley admits she no longer
deals with a GQ writer, Stephanie Mansfield, who refused to dump an
interview with one of Tom Cruise's old classmates. But when asked if
she's fair with the press, she asks indignantly, "Are they fair?"
Kingsley's every move is documented by a press obsessed by the power she
wields in Hollywood. In January she sent a letter to around 30 media
outlets, correcting stories which estimated the budget for movie Town &
Country at dollars 120 million. Kingsley told the Los Angeles Times, "I
just wanted to nip this in the bud."
Other publicists say her talent is in knowing exactly how much pressure
to apply to stop the media from running with the ball. Kingsley says the
worst part of the job is "when there is not enough time and you're
Sometimes she's accused of going overboard. She was widely criticized
for the secrecy on the plot of the final Stanley Kubrick movie, Eyes
Wide Shut. PMK secured interviews for the film's stars, Tom Cruise and
Nicole Kidman, but they were not to discuss content.
The diligence with which Kingsley serves clients has led to a fair
amount of coverage for PMK. For example, Vanity Fair featured a picture
of the partners, Kingsley, Lois Smith and Leslee Dart, under the
caption: "Not since the heyday of MGM have three little letters wielded
so much power."
Kingsley argues she has nowhere near the same control as the old studio
system. "The studios ran PR. The press did not write if Clark Gable was
living with Carole Lombard. Now everything is fair game."
Kingsley watched All The President's Men on TV a few weeks ago saying,
"I think it was one of the finest hours of journalism." She has great
admiration for the work of journalists. But to the majority of gossip
writers she says: "The people who pry into private lives, that's a
farce, it's not investigative journalism."
Of course Kingsley's firm has been on the speed dial of every major news
outlet around the globe since it announced the Cruise-Kidman
But perhaps an indication of just how valued PMK's advice is, neither
Cruise nor Kidman have given up using the agency, despite the divorce
Variety's Bart says, "People who are successful come through for their
clients. She comes through big-time."
As well as dealing with media politics, Kingsley is also interested in
national politics. She was involved in lobbying for a nuclear freeze in
the '80s, is a friend of former Senator Bob Kerrey, and recently
organized a fundraiser for Massachusetts congressman Ed Markey. That
said, public affairs is not an area the agency is likely to expand into
because, she says, politics is not a money earner. Kingsley is also a
huge sports fan and an avid reader of the sports pages, but perhaps
tellingly, she cheers for no single team.
For Kingsley, 68, who does Pilates every night, the next phase of her
career is just getting going. When asked whether she'll ever retire, she
says it would be unthinkable.
1959: Rogers & Cowan
1971-1980: Pickwick PR
1980: Forms PMK
1983: partner Leslee Dart joins PMK
1985: partner Lois Smith joins PMK
1999: Sells PMK to Momentum (McCann-Erickson)
2001: Acquires Huvane Baum Halls