Being a part of the Hollywood scene was a life long dream.
My publicist job was only the first stepping-stone to what I hoped
would be greater opportunities. I was not going to wait around,
but I was determined to work hard and make my own luck.
Just five minutes after I was hired as a Metromedia Television staff publicist, I began haranguing the news director for a news reporting assignment. Unfortunately, the answer was always a resounding “No!” Undaunted, I spent many hours hanging around the newsroom desperate to secure that first big break. I’m sure they thought I would eventually give up and go away.
Never. They didn’t know me. I knew that persistence would win the game, eventually…
BETTE DAVIS EYES
Parties are an oxymoron in Hollywood.
The word party brings to mind people gathering in the spirit of friendship prepared to have a good time. Hollywood “parties” are never about having a good time. They are strictly business.
The spirit of friendship, embraced by those folks who fill the theater seats, never rears its ugly head at a Hollywood party. Rather, these star-studded soirées are simply industry events affording attendees the opportunity to smile and kiss-kiss with all those people one usually tries to out think, out produce, out smart, out sell, or just plain sell out..
Sometimes when the Hollywood glitter hits the fan,
you have to spin it into gold.
I think back to the time when the two nighttime soap operas, Dallas and Dynasty, competed with each other for the top Nielsen rating each week. If you’re too young to ponder that far back — imagine Dancing With The Stars against American Idol. At the end of each season, the soaps really went at it, cliffhanger to cliffhanger. It was never really a contest though; Dallas always won! Who will ever forget, “Who Shot J.R.?” Certainly not their advertisers!..
For each season, we — the flacksters in charge of Dynasty’s image — were given a budget of twenty thousand dollars to come up with a September season opening stunt. What, pray tell, could we do this time to light the scorch torch for yet another season of irresistible drivel?…
You can have the best show and the greatest cast.
But if your time slot is lousy, no one will ever know it.
You’ll be cancelled before the season ends.
Some television aficionados go so far as to say that Miami Vice was the most influential television series of all time. It’s remembered for being a huge hit right out of the gate. Sorry to burst that bubble, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
The show’s genesis came in the form of a memo Brandon Tartikoff, then head of NBC, sent to Hill Street Blues producer and writer Anthony Yerkovich, requesting that Tony create a pilot script for a concept which Brandon referred to as “MTV Cops.”…
JAWS THE REVENGE
Many sequels drift out to sea. Others never make it to shore.
…A huge blockbuster success, Jaws and Bruce now belonged to the special hall of fame known as sequel madness — the life-blood of the movie business. If one works you can be sure there will be “too many” sequels to follow. Somehow I managed to miss Jaws II and III. Spielberg didn’t direct either one, and the reviews were fishy to poor. Number three took place in a tourist water park tunnel. Bruce took a wrong turn in this incredibly convoluted script and the reviews were buried at sea.
Even though the sequels were getting progressively worse, Hollywood can never say enough is enough. So here comes Jaws IV: The Revenge. At this time I was hired on at Universal Pictures. This picture would be my first foray into the challenging world of film marketing. Little did I know I was about to be flung, still wet behind the ears, into the deep end of Amity Harbor…
“This is the city. Hollywood, California. 6:00 PM.
We headed west on the boulevard of dreams… “
Dragnet, Universal’s new comedy spoof based on the Jack Webb television series, starred Tom Hanks and Dan Aykroyd and promised to be the summer’s blockbuster. Our two detectives emboldened the cover of Premiere Magazine. So it was no surprise to me when The Miller Brewing Company and MTV wanted to tie in with us and were willing to spend megabucks to do so.
We, and by “we” I mean me, put my head together and came up with the idea of airing the first ever live MTV broadcast of a Hollywood premiere hosted by Universal Studios and Miller Beer. At first this sounded like a perfect idea! I should have known there were no perfect ideas in Hollywood, just plenty of perfectly huge Hollywood egos…
If Opie and Mr. Wow-Wow are two names you wouldn’t
expect to find on the Hollywood A-list, then
you don’t know Hollywood.
Parenthood was the second picture from Imagine Entertainment released through Universal. It tells the story of the Buckmans, an all-American, dysfunctional, extended family. Its stellar cast includes Steve Martin and Diane Wiest. Their performances were Academy Award caliber…
Now a successful box office director, Ron had already earned his place on the Hollywood A-list. Brian, a USC Film School graduate, met his future partner while producing pilots for Paramount. Brian was equally talented, but his personality cast him in the role of a duplicitous court jester. That isn’t to say Brian’s not a good producer. He definitely is. However, producers aren’t generally known for being nice…
ORDINARY BOB’S MILAGRO
Milagro in Spanish means miracle. For this clunker of a
film it was going to take one.
I suspect there aren’t many women, or men for that matter, who wouldn’t want to meet the man behind the face of such compelling characters as the Sundance Kid, Jay Gatsby and Hubbell Gardiner. All of these movie characters were portrayed by Robert Redford, or as we referred to him in Hollywood: Ol’ Ordinary Bob.
For those playing it straight, the nickname is based on Redford’s first Oscar which he won for directing the film, Ordinary People. For the rest of us, call it a metaphor for a mercurial enigma…
THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST
My likeness was crucified and stabbed in effigy on the studio’s front lawn.
My life was constantly threatened. I was forced to sneak into buildings
through the back door, just so I wouldn’t be the next victim of a hate crime.
As a head of publicity at Universal Studios, I became closely associated with each film released — the good, the bad and the ugly. When Universal announced it was making The Last Temptation of Christ, all hell broke loose with fundamental Christians. Universal prudently hired round-the-clock bodyguards for my protection. This period would be the most frightening, and emotionally unnerving of my illustrious career. Looking back on it, it was also one of the most interesting.
…Soon Universal and its parent company MCA was neck deep in a religious quagmire. As the studio spokesperson, I was hurled along with them, head first into this nightmare…
ARNOLD AND DANNY: THE UNLIKELIEST OF TWINS
Bam! Arnold slammed the phone down on me again.
What an asshole, I thought. Can you imagine if Arnold
Schwarzenegger ever had any real power? Could you see
him as an elected official?
Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito were Twins. At least they were in the soon to be released potential holiday blockbuster movie, Twins. A Presidential Premiere was planned for the Kennedy Center benefiting Special Olympics, the organization headed by Arnold’s mother-in-law Eunice Shriver. I was delighted to have a potential hit on my hands and, at the same time, have the opportunity to work for such a great cause and organize it in tandem with such a fabulous woman.
Naturally, Universal would pick up the tab for everything. And “everything” turned out to be a State Department luncheon, a VIP cocktail reception, followed by a screening at the Kennedy Center, and capped off with a huge dinner dance at the Shriver’s Potomac, Maryland estate. Slated for the last week in November, the party would require a tent the size of Texas to be erected on the Shriver’s back lawn…
ROBERT REDFORD HATES MY GUTS
My job at Universal did not discriminate between the great Oscar
caliber films and films that lacked movie magic. It was my task to
make each and every film appear desirable to watch and Oscar-worthy.
The film Havana, directed by Sydney Pollack, and starring Ol’ Ordinary Bob, lacked movie magic. Redford, beloved for his usual streaked tussled main, had his hair slicked back which was very unbecoming. He attempted to portray a roguish 1950s Miami gambler headed to Havana to try his luck. He looked old, displayed absolutely no chemistry with co-star Lena Olin, and seemed remote. Let’s not mince words — the film stunk…
Following the first screening for the executives we all bravely, but unsuccessfully, tried to hide our disappointment in the picture. Unless I misread his subtle hints (which I didn’t) Ol’ Bob knew it wasn’t good. As a result, I strongly suspected Ol’ Bob was about to make life miserable for the studio…
The 1987 Universal release of Cry Freedom fell into the
imperious category of “an important film.” Translated
into Hollywood-speak this often meant a
socially-significant, politically-correct box office bomb.
… Cry Freedom was the first really important film I was responsible to market. Sir Richard flew into L.A. for the first screening of the picture for Universal executives. I was delighted to meet Dickie, as he directed me to call him, and to spend time with such an accomplished director. The screening was followed by a luncheon to discuss potential marketing opportunities. I was anxious to hear everyone’s initial thoughts about the direction we were to take with the campaign…
Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.
THE HOLLYWOOD WIVES CLUB
Here’s an inside tip for ya! If you’re a single woman with
a job in Hollywood, stay as far away from the
“Hollywood Wives Club” as possible. This is one reality
show that is just too frighteningly REAL.
Hollywood wives don’t have a clue what to do with all their time. Married to alpha males, these beautiful women are often just window dressing for some horney hound’s life.
There are exceptions. But I’m talking about the ladies who, after snagging Mr. Sugar Daddy, hiring the architect, selecting the interior designer, grilling the personal chef, road-testing the chauffeur, maligning the manicurist, harassing the hairdresser, interviewing the personal shopper, handling the household staff and nitpicking the nannies, are exhausted from waking up each day with so much time on their hands…
BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY
I read the book Born on the Fourth of July several times. In the book,
Ron Kovic described his war experiences in a way that inspired pathos.
The film, directed by Oliver Stone, inspired raw anger. Born on the
Fourth of July would be a tough picture to market.
I met Tom Cruise when we both attended the initial full-cut screening of Born On The Fourth of July (BOFJ) directed by Oliver Stone. Sorry to say, I wasn’t blown away by his star appeal. He’s one of many in Hollywood who photograph far better than they look in person. At the time, he was still married to his first wife, actress Mimi Rogers, who tagged along for the evening. They lacked that positive vibe you would expect from a young couple. By the end of that year, they split, and in April the following year Nicole Kidman entered the picture…
Personally, I found this picture almost unbearable to watch. I grew up in the eclectic, free-spirited 60’s of Berkeley, California. Along with legions of my generation, I actively protested the war… I watched many of my friends go out to protest the war, only to come back with their heads smashed and bloodied by police batons…
Bugsy Siegel once said, “Class, that’s the only thing that
counts in life. Class. Without class and style, a man’s a bum.
He might as well be dead.”
Paramount Pictures brought you The Untouchables starring Kevin Costner, Sean Connery and Robert De Niro. Warner Brothers, in association with Martin Scorsese, brought you Goodfellas starring Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Ray Liotta. Tri-Star released Bugsy with Warren Beatty and Annette Benning.Not to be outdone, our consigliere bootlegged The Mobsters. You remember this one don’t you? You don’t? Must be because the critics put their own contract out on the movie and its stars Christian Slater, Costas Mandylor, and Dr. McDreamy himself — Patrick Dempsey.
The Mobsters was short on style and without any class whatsoever. It went straight to video or should I say The Mobsters was put on ice. Mowed down in cold blood. Deep-sixed with cement shoes. Or as Mickey Blue would say, “Forget about it.” …
THE MUHAMMAD ALI EFFECT
In the entertainment industry the African American community
of incomparably talented men and women are beloved for
their champion spirit—they have led the way up
…When the kids spotted Ali they broke rank and went wild. Not the least bit shy, they clapped and cheered at the top of their lungs while racing up to give the big man a hug. It was wonderful to see these kids express pure joy so easily. Ali hugged the kids right back. It was impossible to tell who was happier to see whom. He lifted each wiggling torso into the air. He mock punched and ducked. Every kid followed his lead. They had Ali’s full attention, and he had theirs. It was a moment I will never forget. Pure magic…
MR. SMITH GOES TO VEGAS
Every March the largest and most important gathering of
movie theater operators in the world takes place at
Bally’s Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.
ShoWest is where manufacturers of new or updated movie theater products, services and technologies showcase their wares to all the major theatre circuit representatives. Mom and Pop independents and international film distributors alike attend the ShoWest Convention en masse. So it stands to reason that studios would use this opportunity to start buzzing, spinning — or when all else fails — fabricating ludicrous falsehoods about their upcoming roster of films.
Studios unveil their lineup with posters (called one-sheets) and trailers of coming attractions. In the rare instance a film is considered good, the attendees might get to see the entire picture…
FIELD OF DREAMS
The movie Field of Dreams never had anything to do with
baseball, Iowa or a cornfield. Absolutely nothing.
Field Of Dreams tells the story of an Iowa farmer who walked out into his cornfield one day, and heard a voice tell him, “If you build it they will come.” In response, he takes down part of his cornfield, plants grass, and builds a baseball diamond…
Those in the movie business know how indispensable research is. The trick is to know when to conduct it. Unfortunately, The Chairman got the research drill ass-backwards. He’d already green-lighted this picture before he ordered up the research which indicated that women loved Kevin Costner but hated movies about baseball. I pointed out to him that Bull Durham seemed to do okay with the female demographic. But what did I know? …
BURGER KING RALPH
I have seen my fair share of leading men. Cary Grant enthralled me.
I got lost in the eyes of Paul Newman. Richard Harris was my fantasy.
Tom Hanks tickled more than my funny bone. And John Goodman
was about to give me — indigestion!
John Goodman, talented co-star of the television series Rosanne, never turned in a bad performance in front of the camera. But when it came to playing King Ralph, I doubt any actor, no matter how skilled at his craft, could have pulled off this 1991 Universal release. Because of this film, John Goodman abdicated his place in the Hollywood royal lineage of leading men.
A lousy script to begin with, the film was poorly directed by David S. Ward, who later went on to bring you such woofers as Major League. This picture was made because it was executive produced by Sydney Pollock, a man Universal wanted to keep happy…
MY TRAMP SHINING
Some events that take place in this world are simply
predestined by fate. My chance meeting with actor
Richard Harris, the lovely Irish rogue with the
lilting voice, clearly falls into this category.
In the early seventies, I was besotted with English Repertory Theatre. The Rep offered amazing young talent fantastic opportunities to hone their craft. For instance, one brilliant Royal Shakespeare Company production of As You Like It, directed by the great Trevor Nunn, featured an ensemble cast that included a young Helen Mirren, Patrick Stewart, and Ben Kingsley…
…Flash forward to May, 1992. After fifteen years in Hollywood, I was fed up with everything and everyone. I was on the verge of selling my soul to the highest bidder. So it was time for another rejuvenating horseback ride along the Emerald Isles’ Connemara Trail heading south around the Ring of Kerry. The majestic scenery, lovely people, and enervating activity would give me the spiritual lift I needed…
If the ride American Tail breaks down, at least Fievel
won’t get loose and eat the tourists. Wanna bet?
Universal Studios’ first foray into the world of theme parks was in Orlando, Florida marked with a giant celebration, incredible hype, and total disaster.
Although I didn’t usually get involved with theme parks (I don’t even like them), I was asked to attend the Orlando opening. I was charged with the responsibility of corralling the celebrities in attendance, making sure they showed up to scheduled events on time, and, for the most part, intact.
I arrived on the scene two days before the grand opening. The humidity in Orlando was wilting my enthusiasm fast. Within eight hours of arrival, I’d already had it with the whole scene. Not only was I forced to suffer through frizzy bad-hair days, but almost everything else was on the fritz as well…
AND THE OSCAR GOES TO…
When people learn I’m a member of the Academy of
Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), they inevitably
whisper to me that they would dearly love to attend the
Oscars just once in their life.
No, I tell them, you actually wouldn’t. Unless nominated
or presenting, most Hollywood A-listers prefer to head
straight to the Oscar after-parties, skipping the main event.
That’s really where all the action is.
Every year, millions of viewers worldwide tune in to watch the Oscar telecast from the comfort of their homes. These lucky people (I am now one of them) can view the festivities in their pajamas. Or, they can watch Joan Rivers trash the stars’ outfits, while they wear absolutely nothing at all. When, not if, things start to get boring, they can hit the refrigerator for something alcoholic and cold. They are free to make all the noise they want opening the bag of potato chips and they can jump up and go to the bathroom at will. Best of all, they can switch the channel during the really dull parts…