Veteran publicist Frank Liberman was born in Manhattan on May 29th 1917, and educated at Cheshire Academy in Cheshire, Conneticut. He graduated from Lafayette College in Easton, PA, in 1938 with a BA degree. His career in public relations began at Warner Bros’ home office in New York City, following a year’s service on the New York Daily News as a copy boy.
He was transferred to Warners’ Chicago office as a field exploitation publicist. He enlisted in the U.S. Signal Corps an d, after graduating from Officer Candidate School, served as a public relations officer with the Army Pictorial Service while also on temp duty with the War Department’s Bureau of Public Relations at the Pentagon. When he was discharged with the rank of Captain in 1946, Liberman rejoined Warner Bros in Hollywood as a unit publicist. He left the studio 18 months later to establish his own public relations agency.
In 1953 he married (the late) Patricia Harris, former New York talent agent and West Coast casting director. He has two daughters, Meg Liberman, a casting director and producer; and Kay Liberman, a talent manager.
Over a career of more than six decades Liberman was the publicist for Bob Hope (41 years), Phyllis Diller (33 years), David Janssen (16 years), Nat King Cole, Steve Allen, Peggy Lee, Henry Fonda, Jose Ferrer, Dorothy Lamour, Marcel Marceau, Harry Belafonte, William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and hundreds of others. In addition, he handled publicity for motion pictures, books on every possible subject, restaurants, films, legitimate theatre, commercial an industrial accounts, foundations and even countries (Cuba and Haiti).
A member of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences since 1946, Liberman is a member of the Publicists Guild and was honoured with its prestigious Robert Yeager Award in 1991. His book The Greats and the Ingrates is the veteran publicist’s collection of amazing stories from his 63 years in the biz.
In a section of the book called “Star Spangled Banter” he tells this story about Hedda Hopper:
My first telephone conversation with Hedda Hopper in 1946 was a disaster.
“Hello, Miss Hopper, this is Frank Liberman.”
“Wonderful to hear from you again” she enthused. I couldn’t believe her friendliness until she asked “When did you get into town?”
“Two years ago,” I stammered, realizing she thought I was Max Liberman (producer of TV’s Your Show of Shows).
Recognizing she had made a mistake, she promptly hung up. It took another year for me to get her back on the phone.
A tall, imperious, imposing and very handsome woman, Hedda Hopper, an ex-actress, intimidated a lot of people. After all, she’d been on the cover of Time magazine, an achievement many of the people she wrote about would never experience. Time pictured her wearing a typewriter on her head – an allusion to her trademark large hats. She may have been heartless, but she was never hatless.
Hedda was once described as having “all those hats and only two heads”.
Hedda, who created herself, was the first to laugh at the joke. I once picked Hedda up at her home in Beverly Hills. (It was in 1957, just before we left for the South Pacific and two weeks of soldier shows with Bob Hope and his troupe).
I was impressed with the glittering Christmas tree and the couple of hundred gaily wrapped Yule gifts surrounding it. “You know what put these gifts under the tree?” she asked rhetorically. “Fear put them there”.
I often saw her driving her classic Rolls down Fountain Avenue to her Hollywood office (around 10am daily) She once told me that Fountain was such a nice street, nostalgically adding, “It was once lined with old pepper trees. Now they are all gone- as one day so will I.”