Re: “Rules of the Game: The sometimes nauseating, often fun, and always absurd life of a movie publicist” by Reid Rosefelt, CJR, November/December
Reid, I remember dealing with you in your start-up office and how cool and indie you were, the anti-PMK—not that I didn’t have some favorites there, like Lois Smith. Journalists always appreciated publicists who were actually film-literate and not bullshit artists, and we knew damn well we weren’t getting the whole story but were just trying to bring enough to the table that it wasn’t a glorified press release. Part of why I ended up stopping was that access got so dwindly that it didn’t feel genuine.
Now, the culture seems divided between celebrities who tweet and do every magazine cover and those who don’t do any, but I’m just not as interested in reading about them. Maybe the mystery is gone or the artistry is too hard to accomplish in a town that makes fewer and fewer pieces of art.
I hadn’t seen Lois in years, but she remains enshrined in my heart as not just a great publicist but as one of the people who make working in or covering the business feel a little less grubby. I never met Pat Kingsley, but you have painted such accurate portraits of everyone else that I trust you on her. I remember Peggy Siegal letting me into some screening [saying], “Are you gonna be nice?” and daggers in her eyes. I remember nicer dealings with Catherine Olim, Leslee Dart, Alan Eichhorn, Mara Buxbaum—it was like its own studio.
I was ready for this piece to go on much longer. I hope it’s part of a book proposal.
Great article, Reid. I’ll be passing on what you wrote about mystery and intrigue—mystery is at the heart of the creative process, and it’s a relief to hear you encourage artists to value it. So many of my generation of artists are overwhelmed by the promotional demands of the era; I think it’s because they feel a demand to be aggressively self-revealing. It’s a lot more powerful to offer fascinating work, yet remain intriguing. Thanks for the sagacity!
The cover of your November/December issue is a disgrace. I refuse to have it on my coffee table or anywhere else someone should have to see. Shame on you.
Bill Du Bois
The Truman show
I, too, interviewed Marlon Brando (“In Cold Type” by Douglas McCollam, CJR, November/December 2012). It was in 1946. I was 22 and worked for George Davis, fiction editor of Mademoiselle magazine. George would send me to interview persons whom he had spotted as future stars in the Broadway firmament. Brando was then appearing in A Flag Is Born, which predated Streetcar. He did not say much during the interview. I was no Truman Capote.
I also met Truman through George—he published some of Truman’s early works in Mademoiselle. Truman would come and sit outside George’s office in the Chanin Building. It was George’s habit at that time to invite people to drop in Saturday nights for food and libation at his brownstone on 86th Street in Yorkville. One time, my husband and I were there with several other people, including Truman, when a guest arrived at the front door carrying a small monkey. Everyone rushed to greet the newcomer and his monkey except my husband and Truman. The latter was visibly annoyed at being upstaged by the monkey.
Elizabeth Moulton (Betsy Day back then)
A time to die
Re: “What the NY Times obits say about America” by Stephen G. Bloom, CJR, November/December 2012
Your story prompted a flashback. In 1998, I had a dinner date with a certain New York Times bestselling author, who had spent tons of weeks on the list, but had recently been weighed down by a debilitating case of writer’s block. Among his many worries: How prominent would his Times obit be? Curious myself, I called a reporter/friend at the Gray Lady who told me the size of one’s obit had to do with the number of references in the paper and how recent they were. A list topper from two decades ago would warrant much less attention, he explained. In the case of my dinner companion, my Times friend counseled, “Now would actually be the most opportune time for him to pass away.” Fortunately, I can report that said author remains with us today. Now I am anxious about his future obit in the Times.
Chapel Hill, NC
Cut on the bias?