Day 4 I had a wonderful morning chewing the fat with the legendary long-time Broadway and Hollywood publicist, Bobby Zarem immortalised by Al Pacino in the movie People I Know. Zarem was the first press agent to be called a superflack, by the Washington Post.
It’s clear that his style of publicity is greatly misunderstood. Zarem skill is to manipulate the zeitgeist to create a genuine buzz. His greatest achievement was to produce the I Love New York campaign. New York was on the edge of an abyss debt ridden and forlorn. Zarem cooked up the idea, to kick it out of the 1970s slump. What a success! Bobby did it for free, all for the city that he loved, it’s a shame that so many charlatans claim the campaign as their invention.
He told me about managing Saturday Night Fever and the encounters he had to get the studio to believe in the way he wanted to sell the movie. He talked freely about his confrontation with Paramount’s head of marketing. “He was trying to stop me from getting colour pictures to the magazines!” Zarem recalls. “The studio thought they were going to get a couple weeks of business from high-school kids before the movie was ridiculed out of existence. I shoved the guy onto his couch, ran down the hall to the stills department, grabbed six pictures, and ran out of the building. After that,” he adds, savouring the memory, “I was physically expelled from Paramount.”