"Hollywood publicists polish their clients' images in one of two ways: either by making news or by extinguishing it," writes Tad Friend in the 9/23/02 New Yorker.
Publicists in today's entertainment industry return calls at midnight or never, unless they badly want to shape a story, writes Friend. In return for access, they demand that journalists agree to such specific preconditions as:
* Don't ask Arnold Schwarenegger if his father was a Nazi;
* Don't ask Eddie Murphy about the night the police stopped him for picking up a transsexual hooker on Santa Monica Boulevard;
* Don't ask Mark Wahlberg about the time he beat a Vietnamese man with a stick and called him a "slant-eyed gook motherfucker";
* Don't ask Tom Cruise anything personal (once rejected 14 writers proposed by Rolling Stone until selecting one who wrote a puff piece).
"In Hollywood, there are two ways to promote the product. The first is marketing: paid ads. The second is public relations: press that might as well be paid for, free speech harnessed to the purposes of commercial speech.
"Publicity campaigns for big-budget movies are as noisy and purposeful as a cloud of locusts. Studio publicists view every magazine cover as a potential movie poster, and they adhere to a strict formula: each of a film's stars should appear on two or three covers..."
"It is in everyone's interest (except, perhaps, the reader's) to pretend that P.R. consultants are not involved in stories. It behooves the journalist, because it suggests that he has penetrated a rarefied realm; it behooves the star, because he looks fearless and unattended by handlers; and it behooves the publicist, because it always behooves the publicist if the star is behooved." (TNY)
A famous publicist tells the 9/23/02 New Yorker: "If a newspaper calls to check a negative story about my client and it's true, my first response is flat-out denial. Then I hav ethe attorneys send a 'we'll sue' letter."
Pat Kingsley, the head of Hollywood's most powerful PR firm, PMK/HBH, is known as Dr. No. She likes to restrict access to the stars she represents. "Some writesr like to get close and nail the celebrity. Not on my watch!" (TNY)
"I've even had publicists ask if they can read the story ahead of time," says Jim Meigs, the former editor of US and Premiere. He says he always refused. "When a magazine is launching or struggling, publicists make a lot of demands. They're the wolf pack that follows the caribou herd, looking for the weak cub or the sickly old bull." (TNY, 9/23/02)