Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Where Talent Meets Ballyhoo; the ?Ber-Publicist: Pat Kingsley Is Said to Have Had an Iron Grip on Tom Cruise That Stopped Him from Looking like a Loon for Many Years

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Where Talent Meets Ballyhoo; the ?Ber-Publicist: Pat Kingsley Is Said to Have Had an Iron Grip on Tom Cruise That Stopped Him from Looking like a Loon for Many Years

Article excerpt

Byline: NICK CURTIS

The Fame Formula: How Hollywood's Fixers, Fakers and Star Makers Created the Celebrity Industry by Mark Borkowski (Sidgwick, ?16.99)

AT THE 1990 Edinburgh Festival, PR man Mark Borkowski arranged for Cynthia Payne, the oncenotorious brothel owner, to be kidnapped in the middle of her onewoman show by the punky French circus Archaos, who then tied her to their central tent-pole and juggled chainsaws around her all evening. The media me included lapped it up.

The stunt reflected Borkowski's fascination with the showmanlike history of his trade, and this gleeful romp of a book is his attempt to trace the influence of publicists on the entertainment industry from the days of PT Barnum to the knickerless antics of Britney Spears.

Barnum was the pioneer, stoking a national outcry when he bought the temperamental elephant Jumbo from London Zoo, then having the pachyderm plough the field of the poorest farmer in each town his circus was to visit. The first press "flacks" were Barnum's spiritual offspring, who learned their trade in carnivals, vaudeville and burlesque shows and perfected it in the fledgling movie industry, using animals to engage the public or the whiff of sex to stoke specious moral outrage.

Borkowski draws here on an unpublished memoir by the forgotten Maynard Nottage, who promoted the 1903 film The Great Train Robbery, once set a lion loose to promote a circus, and turned gawky Theodosia Goodman into the vampish, exotic star Theda Bara.

The stunts Nottage and his great rival Harry Reichenbach pulled were playful, sometimes risqu?, but the rise of the studio system, when stars were bound by "morals clauses" and the strictures of the Hays code held sway, meant that publicists had to become fixers, or "suppress agents", as well as promoters.

Men like Howard Birdwell, Russell Strickling and Henry Rogers created the template for the modern movie promotion (with their artful campaigns for Gone With the Wind and The Outlaw) and the manipulation of the Oscars (when Rogers ensured Joan Crawford won for Mildred Pierce in 1945). …

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