The affable and humorous Theo Cowan, was the UK first PR superstar. Before setting up his consultancy in the 1960’s he was head of Rank film publicity. The film company created the legendary Rank Charm School whose graduates included Diana Dors, Honor Blackman, Petula Clark Sylvia Syms and copied the modus operandi of the Hollywood studio system. Rank recruited pretty – and sometimes pretty talent less – boys and girls aged between 16 and 25, and taught them how to walk, behave and talk properly. Cowan made quite a name schooling the starlets in the ways of the media and on the back of this success he created a hugely influencial entertainment PR concern.
I have come across some papers from that period that indicates he had some rather eccentric customers. One in particular was the late great Charlie Drake When a potential client thinks he’s come up with a genius idea and insists on it, but his publicist thinks it’s terrible, it’s advisable to be honest rather than sycophantic. The Cowan papers tell of the Drake’s wheeze to get mythical status. Luckily, Theo, didn’t think it was a good idea, didn’t get involved and sent Drake away.
Drake had been given his first ten minute spot in a BBC Radio Show and he thought it would be a good idea to self generate a fan base. Drake wrote 1000 fan letters to himself and took them on the tube from Elephant and Castle , getting off at every stop to post a handful in each area. Drake thought the BBC would be blown over and offer him his own show. A few days later, Drake’s mother gave him a parcel that had arrived in the post. It contained all his letters, unopened. There was a rule in those days at the BBC that they never opened personal mail.
Cowan had told Drake this fact, but Drake thought he knew better and went ahead anyway!