It is thought that the modern phenomenon of celebrity culture has only recently created the dim-witted agent or publicist. The stupid gene has existed ever since the first press release was issued. The venerable sage Ezra Goodman noted this phenomenon back in the 1950’s. Goodman, was the most distinguished Hollywood reporter of Time Magazine, he later quit journalism because editors in New York were tampering with his copy.
“Performers on the way up are always anxious for publicity. When they reach the top, they may play it cooler. And when they are headed downhill again, as often happens, they start soliciting publicity once more. I had the unusual opportunity of observing the effect of publicity on one show-business personality while he was in the immediate state of transition between being a relative unknown and a celebrity. Comic George Gobel had just come into the television limelight in 1954 and his press agents were industriously soliciting Time Magazine for a story about him. The magazine finally decided to document Gobel. I interviewed him and filed a story to New York. That week, in addition to the upcoming Time story, Gobel’s journalistic star was also in the ascendant with a number of other leading publications scheduling stories about him.
He was suddenly shooting upward in the publicistic and journalistic spheres. As was customary with Time’s operation, I asked Gobel’s manager at the of the week for the comic’s home phone number in case I had to check anything with him over the weekend. (Time then went to press on Sunday nights and it was often necessary to reach people when business offices were closed). Gobel’s manager coldly informed me that Gobel was not giving out his home phone number to reporters.
In effect he was saying that Gobel was already too important by now for his private phone umber to be handed out to a mere journalist from Time Magazine. Of course, what had helped make Gobel that important was the very fact that he was about to be written up in Time. I had caught Gobel in that revealing and fascinating moment between nonentity and fame, between Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, so to speak. In due course, when Gobel’s publicity dropped off, as it was inevitably bound to, his emissaries were again on the phone soliciting Time for another story. And there was no trouble this time about obtaining Gobel’s home phone number, had anyone wanted it. “