TALES FROM TINSELTOWN: Supply and demand: Kingsley’s best contribution to celeb PR?

Is it news or is it gossip? And what’s the difference?

Is it news or is it gossip? And what’s the difference?

Is it news or is it gossip? And what’s the difference?



The legitimate press certainly seems confused nowadays. Rare is the

newscast or publication that does not tease with a celebrity tidbit -

and feeding America’s insatiable lust for gossip is the celebrity

publicist.



In her new book, Dish: The Inside Story on the World of Gossip, MSNBC

correspondent Jeannette Walls exposes what journalists will do to gain

access to a star. Walls credits Pat Kingsley, the dowager of all

Hollywood publicists, with changing the rules of engagement. ’She was

the first to realize that the way to keep the public’s appetite for a

star is to withhold information,’ she explains.



Kingsley, whose clients include Tom Cruise and Courtney Love, is

notorious for requiring journalists to sign contracts stipulating that

they will not write anything that casts a client in a negative light

Surprisingly, reputable news organizations like ABC frequently play

along.



’It’s a sellers’ market,’ Walls says. ’There are many, many more media

outlets than there are top stars.’ She says reporters either accept the

conditions or risk getting blackballed.



One of the few news organizations that has stood up to the pressure of

celebrity publicists is NBC’s Today. When the show’s producers refused

to cede to Kingsley’s request that they not ask Calista Flockhart about

her weight, Kingsley pulled the interview.



Manhattan PR man Dan Klores sees things differently. ’Competitiveness in

the culture of celebrity has become greater, but it’s an illusion that

Kingsley is powerful because she can dictate the rules of an interview,’

he says.



Klores explains that what were once unwritten rules are now out in the

open. Of past celebrity reporters, he says, ’Of course they knew Babe

Ruth was a drunk; of course they knew Rock Hudson was gay.’ But before

Watergate, reporters wouldn’t even think to write about such personal

issues.



Klores was recently enlisted as the guardian of Julia Roberts, who used

to have a terrible reputation among reporters. She supposedly fired

three publicists in two years - including Kingsley. But Klores credits

the star’s own maturity for improving her relationship with the press,

and says media training is also key. ’There are some PR people that

create and build on uncertainty and panic, which exacerbates tension in

an interview,’ he explains.



For her part, Walls says after writing her book, she better understands

the position celebrity publicists are in. ’When I first started writing

it, I thought Pat Kingsley was pure evil,’ she says. ’Then I realized

that it’s the publicist’s responsibility to protect the client. If

journalists agree to publicists’ demands, it’s their own fault.’



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