Posts Tagged ‘celebrities’

The News of the World: Tapping on Heaven’s Door?

It seems, of late, that sleaze is a gift worth giving and that it’s for life, not just for Christmas or for politicians. The latest example – the News of the World phone tapping scandal – is, in Variety’s slanguage, a “dramedy”. It has the potential for seriously succulent consequences, which might be deeply costly for News International. The potential scale of the scandal is enormous.

Most agents and celebrities will be trying to find out if Nick Davies’ research is robust, wondering if they are one of the thousand celebrities whose phones were hacked. If nothing else, the alleged espionage will result in a welter of wealthier celebrities – all thanks to Davies’s diligence.

These are dark times for executives in the Wapping gulag. The sound of gnawing of fingernails will do nothing to deaden the relentless hum of prurient, smug outrage from the celebrity commentariat. For some battle-scarred PR flaks it will come as no surprise that the tabloids have deployed the dark arts of espionage to root out succulent showbiz sweetmeats.

But, from my standpoint, I am expecting the hacking scandal to empower prominent celebrities to wreak legal havoc in a bout of retrospective revenge. Wasn’t it Edward Gibbon who said: “Revenge is profitable, gratitude is expensive”? Celebrities will certainly be riffing on the first part of that quote in the coming months – the genie is about to be escape the bottleneck of secrecy and those affected will almost certainly start suing News International.

I guess that the News of the World will struggle to contain the details of the Taylor settlement, the details of which they have, to date, been able to withhold from the public domain. Once out, however, the paper will be forced to pay out and the ensuing costs will cripple the title. I expect a snowstorm of writs and a couple of spectacular court cases – all of which will make the News of the World look very feeble. Many celebrities will want to follow the Taylor example and will be eager and greedy to extract their own a six figure sums – I know that various high profile legal figures have already attempted to discover who the targets were.

It’s a fact that many misguided public figures feel that their treatment by the likes of News Of the World, who leverage mundane and routine facts and turn them into highly pejorative and prejudicial reports, is entirely unjustified. To achieve monetary reparation for what they see as unfair treatment will certainly be a revenge of sorts. And the paper has played into their hands.

But can you image the chaos the likes of Max Mosley, David Beckham, Gordon Ramsey or even Max Clifford, aggrieved and determined to get some reparation, might create if they can prove that the News of the World has gained access to their phone messages? Revenge may be a dish best served cold, but I’m certain it’ll be heating it up in the microwave of public attention soon enough.

The wrath of a celebrity is impossible to underestimate. There is an apocryphal tale about a celebrity crimper, apoplectic that he had been turned over by the News of the World. To ease the pain he created an effigy of Andy Coulson out of a teddy bear, which he threw it into the bathtub, doused it with lighter fluid, and set it on fire in a fit of voodoo celebrity therapy. Now it is possible that he will be calling Messrs Schillings instead to achieve a more satisfactory – and conventional – form of retribution; a financial sting.

The likely consequence of this potentially seismic activity is that the world of celebrity will have the upper hand in tabloid land in the future. Journalistic research will have to rebooted and the honourable profession will need their own PR to rebuild a tarnished reputation. It’ll be interesting to see what happens next.

David Blaine: Word of Mouth Showman Supreme

A breakfast meeting with David Blaine last week was a very pleasing and revelatory experience; it’s good to sit and talk with someone who really, really gets true showmanship, spectacle, creativity, word of mouth and viral publicity and who has encountered many of the same things I’ve encountered, even the Russian circus act with a coat of living minks.

Blaine is a great, great grandson of Barnum and has built his persona on the Barnum and Houdini models, always connecting with his audience and constantly astonishing them. Most importantly, he is always sure that they are talking about him. He knows that without promotion something terrible happens. Nothing!

A perfect case in point is the trick he showed me. I didn’t dare ask – it felt too gauche – but Blaine offered. He got me to shuffle a pack of cards and lay out two lines of ten cards, making sure that each one was different. Then he asked me to take ten of them and hold them behind my back. Next, he suggested I look at the remaining cards and mentally pick one. “Not the Ace, it’s too obvious,” he said.

I chose the four of diamonds and told him that I’d chosen. Next, he made a gesture and told me to place the cards I held behind my back on the table. The ten cards I had hidden behind me were now eleven in number and sure enough, the eleventh card was the four of diamonds. I was gob-smacked. I have absolutely no idea how he did it – it seems an impossible trick.

But this is the reaction Blaine is constantly seeking, since he instinctively knows I would go away and talk to several people about the trick and how astonishing it was and, in this way, his reputation would be perpetuated. Now, of course, I am also blogging about it. The chances are that his reputation will spread in ever increasing circles if everyone who is astonished by him does as I have done.

Just as interesting was the revelation that Blaine actively thrived on the people who came and taunted him with food and insults whilst he was attempting to live on only 4.5 litres of water a day in a Plexiglas box above the Thames. “I needed people to react in the way that the did to get through the stunt,” he told me.

Their antipathy during his 44 days of starvation gave him something to prove to the haters and became a media focus for the endurance stunt, guaranteeing it more coverage and even comments from then-President Bush. No wonder he was heard to murmur “I love you all” when he finally completed the stunt.

He is the greatest modern showman / illusionist and will remain popular as long he can maintain the incredibly high creativity, the quality of his unique stunts and continue to amaze and astonish. Celebrities, brands and publicists have a lot to learn from David Blaine.