Posts Tagged ‘fame formula’

‘Twerking’ by any other name… Presenting: the most famous star the world has ever seen. Again!

The marketing and exploitation of the female image as part of the fame trajectory – for good or for evil – has a very long tradition. I first encountered the detail of helpless blind-ambition of fame-hungry starlets, whilst researching my book the Fame Formula. The manipulative craft of the publicist can be detected in the shadowy recesses of the fame factory. Recently, the chatterati have been teeming around the various permutations of the Miley Cyrus ‘scandal’ and resulting stories for weeks, like it is something new. It isn’t.

Although individuals ranging from Sinead O’Connor to Charlotte Church have taken the story as an opportunity to highlight injustices in the music industry, the use of sexualised imagery to promote artists and celebrities is not an invention of the post-Free Love era. Read the rest of this entry »

Jay Bernstein: Still Stunting from Beyond the Grave

The unmatchable Hollywood publicist, agent and stuntmaker Jay Bernstein has shown us all once again how a true publicity superstar does things with a fitting final stunt. The sadly deceased genius has defied having his inimitable profile smothered even by death himself, and has managed to release his book onto an unsuspecting public from beyond the grave. Anyone who cares at all about the art of truly inspirational PR, from understanding clients to launching groundbreaking stunts, should buy it. Right now.

Being a PR, I just can’t resist a quick plug: those looking to understand Bernstein’s remarkable talents could also do worse than investing in a copy of my book The Fame Formula. In it, I dissect, analyse and celebrate the incredible gift of Bernstein and his ilk for capturing the public, as well as understanding so well the stars they catapulted to fame with apparent ease. Their arts aren’t lost, but they are essential background reading for anyone seeking to make waves in the comparatively anodyne world of modern communications. In these uncertain days in the shadow of a certain Lord L, the lessons of the past have never been more pressing.

Bernstein was one of the absolute greats. Unmistakably, he was a true showman of the kind I’ve always admired. His stunts, which ranged from artificially stoking Tom Jones’s sex bomb reputation with hired pantie-throwers to holding his own-televised- wedding underwater, are now the stuff of legend. Like Jim Moran and other ancient heroes of mine, he was a fabulous ringmaster of publicity and pizazz.

However, for all the hype about him being the ‘inventor of the modern publicity stunt’, his greatest talent was far more subtle. While researching the Fame Formula, he was one of the figures I had the pleasure of interviewing during a stint across the pond. A gent and an enthusiast, he gave up his valuable time without complaint. Upon entering his house- formerly owned by Rita Hayward and site of the first Jacuzzi in Hollywood- my eyes were assailed by a remarkable collection of memorabilia. The place was filled with debris from his remarkable time in the industry.

As a hopeless collector myself I was excited by the sheer volume of it (and I particularly wonder what happened to his incredible collection of stuffed animals), but I was also impressed and touched: these deeply personal items were evidence of the highly developed bonds Bernstein had with his clients. His memories of each and every client were fond, full and nuanced. One particularly memorable moment involved him musing as to what John Wayne might have said if he’d been offered the script for Brokeback Mountain, just released at the time.

He took clients all the way, and each of the crazy stories he launched came from a place of deep thinking, considered strategy and mutual trust.

It strikes me that, while Jay’s stunts place him in the vein of ‘publicist’s publicist’, his relationships with clients offer up lessons to those in any line of work. Brand communications in any field can only work from a basis of deep mutual respect between those working within the brand and those pushing it out. Madness, controversy and conversation spring from narratives mutually developed and sculpted over years- Bernstein knew this, but I fear it’s something we’re starting to forget.

Remembering Jane Russell and the Man Behind Her Fame

The sad news that Jane Russell died lat night is perhaps an opportune time to remember the amazing publicist who moulded her erotic brand, the man who coined the politically incorrect moniker: bombshell.

I hope many of Russell’s obituaries credit the strategic mind of another Russell, the Texan Russell Birdwell, for shaping Jane Russell’s narrative. Let’s not forget that behind every Hollywood icon there was an incredibly clever publicist.

Birdwell was a poacher turned gamekeeper, lured away from the Hollywood Reporter to become publicity director for David O. Selznick. Birdwell created some of the most iconic publicity campaigns of the studio era, including the Gone with the Wind campaign that lasted years.

His efforts to explode Russell in the public consciousness are worth remembering. It is quite possible that without Birdwell we would not be celebrating the life of Jane Russell. Given the difficulties surrounding her debut feature, she could easily have been a mere footnote – just another beautiful wannabe who never made a true mark.
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Design an Outrageous Costume for a Star

Pop stars and celebrities all need to match the creative thrust of Lady GaGa and her outrageous, headline-grabbing costumes if they are to rise to the top of the heap, as I discussed in my previous post.

So I have produced a short list of suggestions for for awards ceremony costumes for any star who has run out of outrageous ideas. If anyone has any more suggestions, please post them below – the strangest but most plausible costume idea wins a signed copy of my book, The Fame Formula. Let me know which star the costume would be for and any symbolic relevance.

Here are my suggestions:

1)      A movable maggot farm. Using the idea of an ant farm, mould some plastic chambers to fit the contours of the star’s body and fill it with rotting meat and flies. Once the maggots have reached maturity, head for the nearest award ceremony. Symbolic possibilities: the decay of the music industry. Thematically, it follows on well from GaGa’s meat dress.

2)      A costume made out of hair and fingernails sent in by the star’s fans. The ultimate fan bonding exercise, it would take the idea of the star and their fans being a close knit community that much further.

3)      A plastic external venous system carrying real blood around the star’s body for all to see, feeding through a pump where the heart should be. Like Marc Quinn’s blood head, the blood should preferably all be the star’s, saved up over time. Otherwise, fan donations will do. Symbolically, this is far cleaner and safer than carving ‘4 Real’ in your arm, as Richey Edwards from the Manic Street Preachers did years ago, but still rock and roll.

Dishing the Dirt at Peachy Coochie

Anyone wanting to know a little more about the dark practices of Hollywood in the early days of the 20th century should come along to Peachy Coochie at the Toynbee Hall at 7.30 p.m. this Thursday, October 28th, where I will be revealing more about Maynard Nottage, one of the publicists featured in The Fame Formula.

I will be outing some of Nottage’s darker and more dubious practices, some of which didn’t appear in the book, and illustrating who it affected and how. It will take in ambitious actresses, pornography from the Roaring 20′s, carnival freaks, forgotten Hollywood B listers and even a water-skiing lion.

For anyone who doesn’t know what Peachy Coochie is, it’s a night of lectures, each of which take just over six minutes. Each lecture comes with 20 slides and the speaker discusses each slide for 20 seconds. A Peachy Coochie night will inject information right into your brain so painlessly that you don’t even realise you’ve learned something. Read the rest of this entry »

The Truth? Bend it About Beckham

Conundrum of the week is the strange case of why In Touch magazine ran a story suggesting athletic rumpy pumpy between Beckham and exotic model-come-prostitute Irma Nici.

I might be wrong, but it all feels so fake. Certainly, David Beckham looks set to sue the US magazine for the claims that he went a bit Rooney.

Bauer – who publish In Touch – clearly did not comprehend the chaos that would be unleashed. I suspect their office must have echoed with the cry of: “Bugger the truth, the story is too good to ignore!” The fall out and collective web chatter suggests a plethora of conspiracy theories. My favourite so far is the one that suggests that it is a hoax attempting to derail England’s World Cup bid. Read the rest of this entry »

PR, Mad Men and the American Dream

Season four of Mad Men starts in America tomorrow night, but I managed to get a sneak preview thanks to a friend and, watching it, I realised that most of America just doesn’t know how far back the PR industry’s influence stretches. Of course, if you’ve read my book The Fame Formula, you’d know that the history PR is a far richer seam to mine than that of the history of advertising – but this is largely undiscovered and unrecognised in America.

It’s not the opportunity to win a walk-on part in the series that I’m talking about, either – although that is a fine stunt to grab attention (who wouldn’t want to get dressed up in Madison Avenue finery and appear on screen with the intensely glam Mad Men and Women?). It’s more the homage to the great publicist Jim Moran in the actual episode that piqued my interest.

In the episode, a couple of actors are hired to fight over a ham to garner attention and are then seen being bribed to blow the stunt – it’s a fairly knockabout scene, especially when the cast try to stop the actors blowing the stunt. In real life, Jim Moran staged a row between to New York barkeepers to launch Pimms in America – he had them end up in court, rowing about the perfect ingredients for a Pimms and garnered a great deal of attention for the drink.

If Moran’s elegantly twisted wit and genius is being plundered by Mad Men already, it just goes to prove my point about PR being a richer seam to mine – they’ve run out of real stories from advertising. Is it not time. then, for a truer drama looking at the heart of the American dream? One that looks at the lives of the PR men?

Barefoot Bandit or Barefaced Stunt?

The tale of the Barefoot Bandit in today’s Times (currently locked behind a paywall, otherwise I would of course have encouraged you to click here) is, on the surface, a ripping yarn, a boy’s own adventure. A seventeen-year-old escapes juvenile detention and goes on the run across America for two years: stealing cars and yachts and using them to cross America; caught in people’s houses, naked, before escaping into the woods; leaving semi-anonymous donations to animal charities. The Barefoot Bandit, so called because a footprint was found at the scene of one of his thefts, has now apparently topped it all by stealing a plane and crash-landing it in the Bahamas. Hmmm. Read the rest of this entry »

Orange Skirts, Flying Midgets and the World Cup

Ever heard of the beer Bavaria? Me neither, until FIFA made sure that absolutely everyone got to hear about it after Bavaria sent a team of pretty young female ambush marketeers to Holland’s opening match of the World Cup using tickets bought in the name of (now ex-) ITV pundit Robbie Earle.

One sacking, several arrests (ambush marketing being illegal in South Africa) and a barrel-full of free publicity for Bavaria later and the only clear winner is the beer company, although the attractive young ladies – already described as ‘blonde bombshells’ in tabloids and blogs – will probably enjoy their day in court. Read the rest of this entry »

Looks Like We Got Ourselves a Reader!

A pal sent this snap to Borkowski Towers. I am excited and delighted to have discovered evidence of the person who bought my book – now, I wonder who she is?