I’ve always regretted that I never thanked Goldie Hawn for launching my career as a publicist. Goldie became my client when I was hired as an account executive at PMK in 1981, a movie PR firm in New York. (It is now called Pmk*Bnc.) I knew I didn’t want this job and had already turned it down when my friend Anne took me to lunch. I’d set up a few interviews by that point in my life, but publicity was only a fraction of my professional and personal activities, which ranged from designing posters to composing music. In fact, at lunch I handed Anne my Walkman so she could hear some music I had written for the soundtrack of a Super-8 Adam Brooks feature called Ghost Sisters (the cinematographer was Jonathan Demme!). And yet she somehow talked me into taking her spot in this obvious hornet’s nest. She said that this job would give me “power.” I truly had no idea what that meant.
Anne was the New York contact for Hawn and Lindsay Crouse (an actress I loved). Anne took me to Circle Rep, where Crouse was appearing in a production of Childe Byron opposite William Hurt. Hurt introduced himself to me, as did John Lithgow, who had come to see the play. Maybe what Anne meant by “power” was that people I was in awe of would come over and say hello to me? Crouse was married to David Mamet, and later that night, it was the same deal—David Mamet giving me a firm handshake and saying, “David Mamet.” Like I hadn’t seen his plays and read every fricking word he’d written. Years later, I would rep three of his movies.
All this was cool, except I had no clue how to do the job. My little coffin room in the PMK office had a great view of the city that Anne had probably enjoyed, but when I got there they were building a skyscraper a few floors down that within a few weeks walled in my view. Down the hall were the more palatial offices of Peggy Siegal and Harriet Blacker and, at the other end, in a junior suite like mine, Catherine Olim—now a powerhouse publicist but who then had only just been promoted. Everybody had an assistant whom presumably they had hired and could fire, but I was stuck with Anne’s assistant, a voluptuous young woman whose golden globes were always peeking out of blouses that would have made Jessica Rabbit blush. She was extremely popular with the men on the client list, which made her far more important to the company than I was, even if I had been able to do my job, which I wasn’t.
Before this, I had worked for a small but prestigious distributor of foreign movies called New Yorker Films. I was hired because I had some graphic-design skills, and the ultra-cheap boss Dan Talbot realized that I could do their posters and catalogs in addition to threading projectors and filing. When I was hired, he said that I was going to have to work with the critics. As he saw my face light up at the prospect, he looked at me with pity. If you loved foreign cinema, New Yorker Films was a surreal place to be: It was a “Bertolucci on Line One” kind of place; it was a “pick up Fassbinder at the airport” kind of place. I set up press for Isabelle Huppert, Gerard Depardieu, Fassbinder bombshell Hanna Schygulla, and directors like Claude Chabrol, Werner Herzog, Joseph Losey, and Eric Rohmer. I had no idea how to manage publicity. All I did was show the films, which were really good. Editors came and requested interviews, and I made the arrangements. This kind of experience hardly qualified me to work at PMK.
The actual “power” at PMK rested in the partners, who all worked in LA: Pat Kingsley, Michael Maslansky, and Neil Koenigsberg. Michael and Neil came often to the office for meetings, but Pat never did during the short time I worked there. She was the one who signed and handled Goldie Hawn and Lindsay Crouse. Hawn was red-hot at the time, having just broken out with Private Benjamin. When the media wanted to interview her, they called Bill Murray of Celebrity Service (no, not that Bill Murray) and asked who Hawn’s New York contact was; Bill would give them my number. I would call Pat up, my voice chirpy with excitement, and say, “The Sunday New York Times wants to do Goldie!” and she would cut me off and say that no, Goldie didn’t have a movie coming out and there was nothing to sell. This was something I’d never heard before. The purpose of media coverage is to fulfill our client’s needs?