THE PUBLICIST: Lakers' early playoff exit spurs LA publicists into state of panic

Publicists all over LA held their breath as our beloved Lakers fought for survival against a superior San Antonio Spurs team. Unimaginable! The three-time NBA champs on the verge of elimination from the playoffs and primetime TV?

Publicists all over LA held their breath as our beloved Lakers fought for survival against a superior San Antonio Spurs team. Unimaginable! The three-time NBA champs on the verge of elimination from the playoffs and primetime TV?

With big-budget summer movies on the horizon, the nightmarish possibility of the Lakers being bounced from the playoffs meant a precious publicity platform would be lost during crucial sweeps. No more TV cutaway opportunities for Ben and J-Lo, Andy Garcia, Michael Douglas, Denzel Washington, Eddie Murphy, Billy Crystal, and the parade of other Hollywood stars who treat an LA Lakers playoff game as if it were The Tonight Show or Access Hollywood. Some of the well-known attendees are actual fans; some are not. As is expected in LA, they are there to be part of the scene. Unlike other sports where the seating can stretch to infinity, basketball provides the perfect, cozy setting to spot famous faces in the crowd. No wind or lighting variables, either. Ready for my close-up, Bill Walton. A personal publicist at a big LA PR firm confided in me that she encourages high-profile clients to attend nationally televised Laker games when they have a film, TV show, or concert approaching. "It's exposure to millions of young male adults - a crucial demographic for mainstream entertainment offerings," she says. "I remind them, 'Look nice, be aware of when the camera is on you, and act like you know what's going on.'" Of all the teams in pro sports, the Lakers are indisputably the most glamorous. They are, geographically and psychologically, the best team for celebs to associate themselves with. (The mark of a Hollywood "B" celebrity is being spotted at an LA Clippers game.) Indeed, one actress has for the past 10 years - despite a lack of film or TV work - kept her high alphabet status merely by attending Laker games. "I didn't know she was still around," the guys always exclaim when she appears on camera. "She still looks good - for her age." I'm not saying that all celebrity Laker fans are just there for publicity. Clearly Jack Nicholson is a rabid, if not disturbed, true fan. He may star in Anger Management, but he doesn't always demonstrate it. So you can imagine his genuine pain - and numerous publicists' panic - when the Lakers' and their celebrity sideshow ended early. Sorry, no game seven, Kate Hudson. Better call Conan O'Brien and see if he's got an opening.
  • Lawrence Mitchell Garrison is an LA-based freelance publicist and writer

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