Category Archives: Publicists

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The Publicist

by Nat Segaloff

I didn’t make my boss look like a crook even though that’s what he tried to do to me. 2,692 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


Bobby van Arnold wasn’t corrupt. He just knew how to game the system. “It isn’t cheating,” he insisted. “It’s working the loopholes so guys like us can make a living.” He underscored his point by poking me in the chest when I handed him my first weekly expense report after he’d hired me in 1970.

He grunted, “What’s this?” and went through all my neatly arranged figures and doubled them, turning $5 into $10 and $10 into $20. “How the hell can I turn in my expenses when send them this? You want to make me look like a crook?”

“But that’s all I spent,” I said weakly.

“So what? You think the producer is gonna be happy with a cheapskate publicist? You want him to think we don’t care enough about his film to spend the hell out of it? Fill out a new one and don’t make the same mistake.”

I quickly learned that movies weren’t a job, they were a racket. Bobby made this clear to me right after I doubled my expense report since the company was paying me poorly. That’s how it worked.

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Red Carpet 03a

On The Red Carpet In Cannes
Part Two

by Duane Byrge

The lead actress of the opening night picture at the Cannes Film Festival is murdered – and a Hollywood film critic is the prime suspect. Part One. Part Three. 3,744 words. Illustrations by John Donald Carlucci.


The French National Police gendarmes hurried Ryan Cromwell through reception, which resembled a cheap hotel lobby, and down a narrow brown hallway. They propelled him into an interrogation room only slightly larger than a bread box and painted gas chamber green. A man in his mid-fifties, wearing a dull black suit befitting a homicide detective, studied a copy of the day’s Hollywood Times. The page was opened to Ryan Cromwell’s review of The Ice Princess. The cop looked directly at Ryan. Then looked down at the paper. Then back up at Ryan.

”We have some questions for you, Monsieur Cromwell,” the detective said in a monotone and perfect English.

”Please, tell me what’s going on?” Ryan’s voice cracked, and his mouth was dry. “Why was I dragged down here?”

“My name is Inspector Thiereaux. I wish to talk about your film critique. In your criticism of The Ice Princess film, you wrote, ‘The script is so bad that one hopes that the film’s signature blue scarf would be stuffed down Kristen Bjorge’s throat so we wouldn’t have to hear her utter another word of dialogue.’”

”What do you mean, ‘stuffed down her throat’? I never wrote that.”

“It is right here.” The policeman shoved the review across the table. Ryan grabbed it and scanned the opening paragraph. He had begun with a discussion about lead actress Kristen’s screen presence. None of that was there.

“These are not my words,” Ryan said.

“I do not understand.”

“Sometimes the editors cut or rewrite my reviews. This is appalling. Because it blatantly misrepresents my thoughts. I would never take such a vulgar and aggressive tone. It’s so Internet.”

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jLe Jet Lag Part Four

Le Jet Lag
Part Four

by Peter Lefcourt

The Cannes Film Festival ends and with it the escapades of a film publicist, journalist and producer. See Part One and Part Two and Part Three. 3,614 words. Illustrations by Mark Fearing.


The next morning, American film publicist Erika Marks sat down with Crimea star Hanna Lee Hedson in the luxurious Carlton Hotel on La Croisette and said, choosing her words carefully, “Do you want the film to win the Palme d’Or?”

“Why else would I have shown up in this fucking country?”

“We may have a little obstacle. The French like low-budget art films and this is a budget-busting Hollywood movie. We’d like you to do a news conference today. This will be the last one, I promise. But you’re a fifteen-minute appearance at the Palais away from winning the Cannes Film Festival. With that, you can do any picture you want.”

This thought penetrated deeply into the soft tissue of actress Hanna Lee Hedson’s ego, the place where she lived most of the time. What Erika didn’t tell Hanna was that her film career probably would never recover from all these Crimea press conferences demonstrating her lack of compassion for minority groups. Or that the actress definitely would lose a large chunk of her gross-profit participation revenue when the movie tanked at the box office.

But neither Erika nor her PR boss Larry Moulds cared. They were still focused on ensuring Crimea didn’t win the most prestigious festival award. Or any Cannes award, for that matter. “The Armenians could picket the event. It’d be great pub,” Larry said to Erika an hour later.

“We don’t want overkill. These people get very excited. They could do something really stupid,” Erika reminded him.

“Like what?”

“I don’t know. Some crazy could take a shot at her.”

“So? Could you buy that type of ink?”

In spite of all her years in the business, Erika never ceased to be amazed at what people would do to promote a movie. Kill off the star? Why not? The movie was in the can, and they had all the loops they needed. So who needed Hanna?

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Le Jet Lag Part Three

Le Jet Lag
Part Three

by Peter Lefcourt

The further Cannes Film Festival adventures of a film publicist, journalist and producer. See Part One and Part Two and Part Four. 3,024 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


The Cannes Film Festival jury president, Matthieu Brioche, wasn’t used to getting turned down by women. And he certainly was not used to being left standing in a hotel hallway at two in the morning after an American publicist pushing a film in contention had given him her room number. That was not simply rejection — that was a disgrace. So when his phone rang and he heard the femme in question, Hollywood film publicist Erika Marks – slightly past her prime but enticing none the less, like a bottle of 1975 Chateau Margaux with a leaky cork — inviting him to breakfast, he told her that he had a screening to attend. Erika Marks was proving to be, if not devious, then clueless. He liked that piece of American slang. Though he thought the film with Alicia Silverstone was a turkey. He liked that word, too. He just wouldn’t eat one.

Erika Marks didn’t blame Matthieu Brioche for being pissed. She had given him every indication she was interested. And she hadn’t even been particularly subtle about it. But now that her express orders from her studio boss were to not sleep with the Frenchman, thank God she hadn’t made things worse by jury tampering. Instead, she was just guilty of cock teasing. A misdemeanor.

Outside her door, next to the complimentary copy of USA Today, someone had left that day’s Screen International. Grabbing it, she got back into bed with the trade paper, eager to read the expected hatchet job that film critic Harry Harrington had done on her studio’s picture Crimea. The piece turned out to be great press. It fostered a want-to-see in the reader, which was the name of the game. Her boss Larry Moulds back in Beverly Hills would go ballistic. God forbid, the review could even result in Crimea winning the Palme d’Or. Then they’d really be fucked since their marching orders within the last 24 hours were to kill the film’s Cannes chances.

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Le Jet Lag Part Two v2

Le Jet Lag
Part Two

by Peter Lefcourt

Craziness continues for a publicist, journalist and producer attending the Cannes Film Festival. Part One. Part Three.  4,208 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


Larry Moulds, studio Vice President for Publicity and Marketing, had been there and done that. As a unit publicist, he had accompanied movies and worked his tail off, coming home exhausted, sick, and, worst of all, empty-handed. The Cannes Film Festival was an all-or-nothing deal. No matter how you spun it, if you weren’t a winner, you were a loser.

His boss, studio head Vivian Rakmunis, had threatened to send him but she hadn’t actually sent him. Yet. But if his publicist Erika Marks didn’t produce some buzz soon, his ass was on the plane. He picked up his office phone and dialed the Hotel Carlton. Larry realized that he’d be waking up Erika in the middle of the night in France. Fuck her. It was her job to be on call 24/7.

It took seven rings before Erika picked up the phone.

Oui?”

“I love it when you talk dirty.”

“Larry? It’s…three-thirty in the morning.”

“Vivian isn’t seeing any ink on the picture. You don’t start producing, Vivian is going to send me over there. And you don’t want me there, do you? So what about jury tampering? You invite the Cannes jury president back for a shtupp?

“Larry, I’m not having sex with anyone on the jury. Can I go back to sleep?”

When he hung up, Erika was sitting up in bed, wide awake and furious. The digital bedside clock read 3:40 a.m. She had to be up at seven to flack the studio’s entry Crimea. If Larry arrived, she’d give him the keys to the car, kiss him on both cheeks, take a plane home, and sell real estate. Between the stress and the jet lag, she was not looking forward to the all-important interview with Paris Match for the film’s spoiled star, Hanna Lee Hedson.

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Le Jet Lag Part One

Le Jet Lag
Part One

by Peter Lefcourt

A journalist, publicist and producer try their best to withstand the Cannes Film Festival’s worst. Part Two. 4,883 words. Illustrations by Mark Fearing.


Who do you have to fuck to make sure you don’t win a Palme d’Or at Cannes? Can a studio publicist with a tit job and a smattering of French, along with her boss, a VP involuntarily channeling Golda Meir, manage to sabotage the chances of their own film? Is it possible for a former Academy Award winning producer, fallen on hard times, to find financing for the middle third of a movie after he’s already shot the beginning and end with money provided by a consortium of Canadian periodontists? Will a sympathy slowdown of taxi drivers, chambermaids and Perrier suppliers, in support of local sex workers striking for improved dental benefits, bring Cannes to its knees? All these questions Jack Kemper, bottom-feeding entertainment journalist, would answer in time.

But at the moment, wedged in an economy seat in an Air France jet, coming into the Nice/Cote d’Azur airport after a bumpy flight from Paris, his thoughts were concentrated on who would get the lead obit in the trades if the plane went down.

For Jack’s first trip to Cannes, he’d been a stringer for the International Herald Tribune which put him up in the Carlton. And all he had to do was file 500 words a day — which he phoned in, literally. This time his press credentials were from Moviefan.com, a startup operated by a couple of film geeks in Van Nuys. And he would be staying on the wrong side of the Voie Rapide on his own nickel in a 95-Euro a night room a 20-minute walk to the Croisette and full, no doubt, of middle-market hookers and distribution people from central Asia. What the fuck was he doing here anyway? The glamour of Cannes was long gone. It had degenerated into a bazaar, as tight-fisted and venal as a camel market in Beirut. The place was full of accountants and lawyers doing deals. The screenings, the stars, the red carpet had become the sideshow. The real action was the film market. It was all about back-end financing and capitalizing your production investment with a distribution deal. For every hundred people in town, 99 of them were looking for the one guy with the checkbook.

Kemper deplaned and headed for baggage claim where an American film publicist was speaking bad French on her phone. Kemper took a closer look at her. She had that demented, already exhausted, jet-lagged look just 20 minutes after arriving. But Kemper liked a bit of mileage on women. Ten years ago, all you had to do to get laid during Cannes was stand in one place long enough. These days, if you had a few hours free, you slept or read your email. Or, if worse came to worst, you saw a movie.

Kemper waited for her to click off and, with his best smile, said, “First time in Cannes?”

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Tom Ford Suit - tv

The Tom Ford Tuxedo

by Bernard Weinraub

OSCAR FICTION PACKAGE: The producer of a film nominated for big awards fixates on what to wear. 7,054 words. Illustrations by Mark Fearing.


He didn’t sleep the night before the Oscar nominations, which they announce on television about 7B44E679-DD00-4B87-9873-6B80A7AA57E85:30 am L.A. time in order to catch the prime morning audience on the East Coast at 8:30 am. He took an Ambien. Watched TCM, which played Hitchcock’s Marnie, not one of the director’s best. Charlie had met Hitchcock once, while working at Universal publicity. The old man was neither rude nor arrogant — like so many of the less talented directors now — just indifferent. His mind always seemed to be elsewhere. He was odd. He was intimidating. He was Hitchcock.

By 5 am, Charlie had his television on KNBC. There was a traffic tie-up on the 405 because of a minor car accident near the Getty. A liquor store robbery in Mar Vista. A seeing-eye dog missing in Griffith Park reunited with its tearful owner.

Charlie had lived in L.A. for 22 years. Why was local television so ridiculous here? His hands were shaking when he poured the coffee. On the TV there was some blather that people should bundle up because the temperature would stay at a chilly 63 degrees (arctic weather in L.A.). Meteorologists were predicting heavy rain by late afternoon in the Antelope Mountains then moving towards the Southland. They made it sound like a tsunami was coming. He put a drop of low-fat milk and a Splenda in the coffee cup.

He heard the trucks from the fire station a block away. On some evenings the noise woke him up but he was reassured when he heard the alarm bells. It was not a bad neighborhood. Only a few blocks from Abbot Kinney. But it wasn’t a great neighborhood, either. There was a gang stabbing in Venice a few weeks back. He wished he could move out of the apartment and live closer to Santa Monica or even in the Palisades.

He heard the two newspapers plunk against the door. He lived on the second floor. He had the Los Angeles Times delivered, though wasn’t sure why. It was a luxury to get The New York Times, but he still considered himself a New Yorker. He didn’t have too many luxuries. But getting The New York Times was one of them. He didn’t go to the door.

On the television now, two young actors appeared on the Academy stage with a grotesquely large Oscar statue behind them. The president of the Academy, who inexplicably got the job despite his years of failures as a producer, seemed nervous. He always wore suits like a banker, The trades always called him a "respected producer." Respected for what?

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I want to thank - NEW

I Want To Thank The Academy

by Nat Segaloff

OSCAR FICTION PACKAGE: A director and publicist battle over how to accept the Academy Award. 1,796 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


TO: VICTOR SPOONER, VS-PR
FROM: Corliss “Corky” Monroe
RE: My Academy Award acceptance speech

7B44E679-DD00-4B87-9873-6B80A7AA57E8Dear Vic, I’m writing an acceptance speech in case I get the directing Oscar® next week. You guided my nomination campaign brilliantly, but I thought I’d try my own hand at writing the payoff. Could you take a look at it to see if it does the job? Thanks. Corky.

“I want to thank the Academy more than I can say. As many of you know, I struggled for four years to get this picture made, including shitting out three zombie pictures for the same company. I consider this wonderful award to be in recognition of my perseverance and strong stomach. Making this film was a bitch. After they said yes, everybody fought me all along the way. You know who you are. You’re the vampires who suck the creative blood out of our art. For you, consider this Oscar a middle finger flipped cold and bold for the damage you do. But to those of us who bleed for our art, this Oscar is a glistening reminder that talent and justice always triumph in the end. Thank you.”

TO: CORKY MONROE
FROM: VICOR SPOONER
RE: Your acceptance speech

Very funny. I know you’re still bitter that you had to make the zombie trilogy in order to get a green light for The Keys Of Fate, but don’t you think this is a little over the top, even kidding around with me? Let me put it another way: if you say this, you’ll never work in this town again, not even as a ticket-taker at the Century City AMC multiplex. You’ll have plenty of time to get back at people privately, not on international TV, for crissakes. Just be gracious, thank your agent, your parents, and your producer (in that order) and get off the stage.
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The Campaign - John Mann

The Campaign

by Robert W. Welkos

OSCAR FICTION PACKAGE: A PR woman wages her toughest nominations fight versus He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. 3,748 words. Illustration by John Mann.


It is a most curious job I have, thought Veronica Jasper as she sipped her extra large parsley-kale-spinach and 7B44E679-DD00-4B87-9873-6B80A7AA57E8lemony yogurt smoothie. How could anyone, certainly not her high school chums back in Nebraska, have possibly predicted that she would one day wind up as Hollywood’s premiere Oscar consultant? Even she had to marvel at how destiny had taken hold and shook out the best in her like a soapy mop. The fact is she now had become a tenacious publicist with scads of A-lister contacts in the ultra-rarefied realm of professionals who conduct Academy Awards campaigns.

Veronica’s specialty was creating Oscar buzz around her clients, much like political consultants do for candidates running for public office. True, neither she nor any other Academy Awards consultants had their own golden statuettes for a job well done, but they could be members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ venerated “Public Relations” branch. Still, Veronica had morphed into the kind of person she most loathed about the entertainment industry: a player who takes delight in the misfortune of others.

But enough of such idle musings, Veronica told herself. There’s another Oscar campaign season upon her! Phone calls to make. Dinners to arrange. Producers to placate. Journalists to schmooze. Still, why did she feel so gloomy? Because here she is — again — for the twentieth straight year coordinating the Academy campaigns for another clutch of indie and studio clients. And it’s always the same rat race. Get a grip! One day she’ll retire to that seaside hideaway in La Jolla and forget all of this nonsense. But for now she needs to plot how to win the coveted votes of all these self-involved, self-aggrandizing Academy ilk.

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Sundance 02

Sundown At Sundance
Part Two

by Duane Byrge

A film critic at the Sundance Film Festival finds himself the target of a payoff plot. 2,231 words. Part One. Illustrations by John Donald Carlucci.


“De-lish-a,” the sound came tripping off his tongue, à la Lo-li-ta.

Hollywood film critic Ryan Cromwell wound 8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3his way around the fireplace at the Eating Establishment for Saturday breakfast. He was meeting his friend Delisha at one of his favorite restaurants on Park City’s Main Street. Delisha wrapped her two-iPhone-holding arms around Ryan. She looked him up-and-down. “Is that your Viking film-critic look?” she asked about his Norwegian ski sweater.

“I left my helmet with the horns back at the hotel,” he said. Then Ryan noticed he had buttoned his sweater wrong. When he undid the top connections, his hands shook. He gulped water and noticed his right fingers trembled on the glass. He put it down and placed his hands in his lap. He shifted in his seat.

“You seem edgy,” Delisha said. “Is everything okay?”

“This festival is going haywire for me already,” he said, looking around and lowering his voice. “My second suitcase with mainly my underwear, socks and shaving stuff is all gone.”

“Someone stole your underwear?”

“No, but they’re missing. When I opened the suitcase this morning, it was filled with stacks of $20 bills,” he said. “I was going to call the police, but I thought I’d better do it in person.”

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Sundance 01

Sundown At Sundance
Part One

by Duane Byrge

A noted film critic arrives for what he expects to be just another Sundance Film Festival. 2,544 words. Part Two. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


“Are you going to Shoot Mom?”

Ryan Cromwell pulled off his headset and glanced 8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3up from his airline seat. A guy in a blue Cubs cap hovered over him.

A stewardess came forward, looking alarmed.

Shoot Mom — are you going to the screening?” the Chicago baseball fan repeated.

“Sir, you’ll have to sit down,” the stewardess commanded. “The warning light is on.”

The guy retreated back down the aisle. Ryan Cromwell settled back into his seat. He turned to the woman next to him who’d been watching the incident unfold.

“Sorry about that. Occupational hazard,” he said.

“You must be in a dangerous profession,” she said. “Homeland Security?”

Ryan smiled: “No, more dangerous. I’m a film critic.”

He was one of Hollywood’s chief film critics, headed to Salt Lake City from L.A. for the Sundance Film Festival. His reviews of independent film could make or break the pictures as well as launch or end careers. They were especially important at an indie film festival like Sundance where the discovery of new talent was the paramount focus. Ryan’s film reviews at previous fests had helped catapult first-time filmmakers such as Gina Prince Bythewood (Love & Basketball), Kevin Smith (Clerks), Justin Lowe (Better Luck Tomorrow), Quentin Tarantino (Reservoir Dogs) and many other rookies. January was his favorite time of year because he was reviewing films that were not just vampire, zombie, special-effects and franchise movies that were critic-proof and, in Ryan’s view, brain resistant.

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Lipstick 2 Santa2

Lipstick II

by Michael Burns

CHRISTMAS FICTION: Laurie Blane’s story continues. This holiday season the actress has a lot to be thankful for – especially her agent. 3,410 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


Flying across the Atlantic to London at 600 miles an hour the day before Christmas, investment tycoon 8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3Russ Kelly’s Gulfstream G650 carried six passengers — Laurie Blane; her publicist Jackie Fisher; her agent Ron Astor; her personal assistant Marty Oliver; and two private security men. Russ was in New York on business; he was to join her at the next stop in Paris on Christmas Day. Everyone anticipated that Europe would be festive. After all, this year Chanukah started on Christmas Eve, a rare occurrence.

Laurie sat in a high-back rich beige leather chair in the middle of the plane, meditating. In a facing chair, Marty sat directly across, reading a book on her iPad. Terri, the sole flight attendant, hovered nearby. The two security men, both good-looking hulks, sat close to the cockpit, their expressions showing they were all business. Ron Astor and Jackie Fisher sat together in the rear of the cabin, the two discussing strategies for the promotional holiday trip to Europe in hushed voices, not wanting to disturb Laurie.

Actually, Ron and Jackie were arguing.

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Grant & Lilli & The HUAC

Careers At Risk

by Robert W. Welkos

HOLLYWOOD BLACKLIST SERIES – A superstar couple with a secret grapples with HUAC’s purge of Communists inside the movie industry. 4,474 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


October 1947

“How’s this? Take my right side, fellas. That’s always my best side.”

8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3Grant Strickland and his actress wife Lili Reynolds stood on the U.S. Capitol steps posing before a crescent of jostling still photographers as dozens of fans waved and reporters shouted questions.

“Grant, are there any Communists in the movie industry?” asked one newsman over the din. Strickland and Reynolds hooked arms and leaned toward each other for the press photographers.

“I’m not into ‘isms,’” the actor replied with a chuckle, “—unless it’s capital-ism!”

“And what about you, Lili? How do you feel about your husband appearing before the House Un-American Activities Committee today?” another reporter called out. “Are you nervous?”

The former chorus girl who became one of Hollywood’s biggest draws as the sassy dame-next-door type whom men adore glanced up at her husband and then back at the questioner. “I’m here to support Grant — and also our industry.”

Given the seriousness of the HUAC hearings, though, she ignored shouts to dip her chin and show off her steely sultriness.

“Grant, what do you think of these hearings?” asked another reporter standing at the back of the horde.

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The Seer 2

The Seer

by Robert W. Welkos

A Hollywood publicist and a psychic-to-the-stars have an unscripted close encounter. 2,203 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


We’re anchored off St. Barts on the top deck of a super-yacht belonging to a Reality TV producer. It’s a humid starry evening with a party atmosphere of clinking glasses and glib conversations. I’ve come at the invitation of my pal, director Reggie Morgan, to witness a Hollywood psychic deliver a palm reading to an up-and-coming actress who was delightful in that DiCaprio movie.

Olivia Wallace Grimes holds her palms up and listens as Susan Talmadge intones, “I can sense the aura surrounding you, and I now see your aura. Did you know that you have a spiritual host, my dear?”

Olivia suppresses a giggle as she nods faintly.

“Your spiritual host is named Martha,” Susan is saying. “Do you recognize her?”

“Martha? Martha?” Olivia thinks for a second and bites her lower lip. “You mean, Aunty?”

“Yes, your Aunty. And she is very worried about you. There is a person of great importance in your life who has recently betrayed you. A person whom you counted on. And they have lied to you.”

“It’s Hollywood. What can I say?” Olivia says glumly amid titters from the party crowd.

“What is it, Martha? What’s that you say? Martha says that Emma…”

Olivia straightens. “Did you say Emma? Are you talking about the role of Emma? The part I’m up for?”

Were up for, Martha tells me.” Susan removes her hands from Olivia’s outstretched palms and turns away as the actress begins to tremble with suppressed anger.

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Rita Lake

Also Starring Rita Lake…

by John D. Ferguson

A young actress works for a studio executive on matters more thrilling than movie roles. 2,521 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


Hollywood – February 1938

Inside the gates of Hollywood’s grandest studio, which specifically wasn’t in Hollywood at all but in Culver City, a young woman sat waiting inside the executive suite of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer outside the office of Finbar Gregory, Vice President of Studio Relations. That part, Studio Relations, made her smile. Because he was much more than his benign title would suggest. A former sergeant in the Los Angeles Police Department, he was also the son of an LAPD police captain and had joined MGM in the late twenties as head of security for the studio. He had become the right arm or, more to the point, strong arm of MGM’s Vice President and General Manager Eddie Mannix. Mr. Gregory handled a number of delicate press and publicity issues for the studio. Rumor had it that he and Mannix never exchanged memos but met behind closed doors every morning at seven.

The young woman whose name was Rita Lake looked around the ante room and at Mr. Gregory’s secretary, Marge or Midge or something like that, and wondered if the older woman with light gray hair and a small and efficiently build, thought she was having an affair with the executive. After all, Rita had been to his office several times over the past months and since he had little to do with casting, her presence on so many occasions might be misconstrued as inappropriate.

Rita Lake wasn’t her real name; she was an actress beautiful in an unconventional way with exotic good looks that came from her father, a Russian Jew, and her mother, a Spanish beauty. She had large hazel eyes framed by neatly arched eyebrows, and thick auburn hair recently cut to the new fashion. She had a trim figure, more athletic than voluptuous, and good legs that helped her get more parts than her acting skills.

On this particular morning Rita was dressed in a brown wool suit with a matching handbag and low-heeled shoes, the hem length of her skirt set appropriately at the knee. Rita wondered if it was her wool suit in the mild dry weather or the glacial stares that Marge/Midge was shooting her that was making her perspire. She self-consciously touched the small bruise under her left eye. The swelling had gone down and she hoped that the small amount of make-up she was wearing had been sufficient to cover the black and blue mark.

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Steaks on a plane

Steaks On A Plane

by John Kane

She was a nasty vengeful Hollywood publicist. It’s hard to change even after retirement. 2,571 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


The children at Franklin Elementary School in Santa Monica waved to the aging woman as she passed by their playground every morning at ten. Wearing a sun hat and denim sneakers, she reminded them of a grandmother. They had no way of knowing that she had been, until recently, the most feared woman in Hollywood.

The name Kit Perkins used to bring on a sickly dread among the studio executives who had to deal with her. She had been the first publicist to recognize the power of celebrity in modern culture. Kit understood that if you controlled the star, you could control the story. So she had ridden herd on an enviable movie posse, forcing print and TV journalists to sign over writer approval, photo approval, and quote approval. And, of course, to make her clients always the cover story.

Along with control, vengeance was her mantra. “Don’t cross me,” Kit used to warn people, “because I’ll get you in the end.” Raised on a West Texas ranch by an alcoholic father and an Avon Lady mother, Kit learned early on to take care of herself. At ten her father taught her how kill the rattlesnakes that turned up in the backyard; after that, the Hollywood publicity wars were low cotton to her. Asked one time how it felt to be called “tough as nails.” She replied, “Untrue. After all, nails bend.”

Her game began to go south when the trifecta of social media, the paparazzi and tabloid TV took over coverage of Hollywood stars 24/7. “You can’t control anything anymore,” complained Kit.

The buyout offer came at the right time. Kit never thought she’d enjoy being idle, but now it thrilled her to wave to some schoolchildren. She had divorced her husband twenty years ago, her two sons had their own lives, the stars never called her anymore, and three years ago she quietly ended the discrete relationship with a female tennis player that had lasted for over a decade. For the first time in her life, Kit was responsible for no one but herself. The surprise was how much she enjoyed it.

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