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George Christy 01-23-2009

    “An open bar, plenty of finger food, come and celebrate.”  Beauty Michelle Phillips, of Knots Landing and Mamas and Papas fame, who not long ago was profiled with 16 pages in Vanity Fair, telephoned with the invitation to let’s-watch-the-inauguration-together. At her charming house in Cheviot Hills, pals poured in, sipping margaritas and crunching on chips and salsa, as they viewed Barack Hussein Obama sworn in as our 44th President of the United States.   Michelle planted a life-sized cut-out of Barack in her garden, and a few fair ladies stopped by and kissed the image before partying, Bridget Hedison among them, others confessing “he turns us on.”  

    Walking the dog in the garden was Michelle’s mate, Dr. Steven Zax, noting that we just missed “by minutes” his ex-wife, Corinna Fields, but the art crowd, Billy Al Bengston, Ed Moses, Joan Quinn, rocked in conversation.  As did George Segal, Harry Dean Stanton, David Hedison, Grainger Hines, Geoff Tozer,  Brian and Kevin Goff (sons of producer Ivan Goff), Mollie and Richard Mulligan, proprietors of Sunset Cottage, near Sunset Boulevard and Crescent Heights, where they assist the famous and infamous seeking vintage treasures.  A friendly lady astrologer was off to the late Carroll Righter’s Hollywood residence that’s now an astrological foundation, where she was convening with fellow astrologers anxious to decipher Obama’s chart and future.  

    History points to Carroll Righter indelibly stamping astrology on the Hollywood map.  He was renowned for  hosting monthly parties for each of the 12 signs of the zodiac, which dates to the Babylonian era.    In honor of the Taurus the Bull sign (late April and May), Carroll kept a live bull (highly medicated, of course) bullpenned on the lawn; for Leo the Lion (late July and August), a caged long-in-the-tooth lioness; crabs in tanks for Cancer the Crab (late June and July), etc.   Word is that Carroll, who wrote a daily syndicated column for 166 newspapers, had a following that included Grace Kelly, Arlene Dahl, Marlene Dietrich, Joan Fontaine, Tinseltown car dealers, supermarket and insurance tycoons.    Nancy Reagan was rumored a client, before encountering San Francisco horoscopist Joan Quigley.

    January 26th begins the Chinese New Year, designated as the Year of the Ox, or the Buffalo, and continuing through February 13, 2010.  Ox people are stable and persevering, loyal, not demonstrative or the most exciting people romantically, and make excellent parents.  They include Barack Obama (1961 being an Ox year), while George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jack Nicholson, Heather Locklear, Princess Diana were born during other Ox years.  The sign symbolizes prosperity through fortitude and hard work,   Oxen are  patient, but beware when their temper is provoked.

    “Seven years ago the seed was planted,” says PRmeister Howard Bragman, about Where’s My Fifteen Minutes.  “A personal journey, with three co-writers, three agents, rejection after rejection, and the first reaction for the book came from my mother Myrna, who called from Florida, sharing her pride and fascination with the story.”   Howard was autographing copies at the Chateau Marmont penthouse, where his hosts, Oscar-winning producer Steve Tisch and TV producer Larry Lyttle, served Perrier Jouet champagne, provided by Luxury Marketing’s Larry Griefer.  

    Coming and going were clients LAPD chief Bill Bratton and wife Rikki Klieman, Universal’s Ron Meyer, Mandalay’s Peter Guber, Debi Mazar, TMZ’s Harvey Levin, Oscar-winning producer Cathy Schulman, Stan Rosenfield, Ricki Lake, John Waters, Kathy and Rick Hilton, Mario Lopez, Roxanne and Jack Carter, Laila Ali, 24’s Annie Wersching, RuPaul, Isaiah Washington, Christopher Ciccone (Madonna’s younger brother), Beth Broderick,  Project Runway’s Santino Rice.  

    Howard’s counseled Frank Sinatra, Martina Navratilova,  Monica Lewinsky and her family.  He writes that “after Bill Clinton finally apologized to Monica about their dalliance, her father Bernie mentioned how disappointed he was that Clinton had not apologized to her family as well.  ‘He tore our family apart … Monica’s not the only victim here.’ I leaked the story that the Lewinskys were not happy, and within twenty-four hours Clinton apologized to the entire family.”

    Where’s My Fifteen Minutes, written with Mike Levin, is subtitled Get your Company, Your Cause or Yourself the Recognition You Deserve.  Distilling his years of knowledge and experience, Michigan-born Howard founded Bragman Nyman Cafarelli in 1989, later sold in 2001 to the Interpublic marketing company.  In 2005, he established Fifteen Minutes, his media and public relations agency.  It was the late director Billy Wilder, who remarked, “Mr. Bragman, you have a much better name for public relations than either Mr. Rogers or Mr. Cowan. You will do very well in this business.” (“Brag Man,” in case you missed Billy’s point.)  Howard’s  Fifteen Minutes firm alludes to Andy Warhol’s quote, “Everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes.”  When we were asked by Andy to write a column that we titled, In Hollywood, for his avant-garde Interview Magazine, we found he was quite the quipster.  “Don’t pay any attention to what they write about you,” was another Andy comment.  “Just measure it in inches.”

    For five years, Howard’s mentored USC students at the Annenberg Center for Communication.  He founded the Jewish Image Awards, and remains the go-to guy with the media for gay and civil rights, having advised gay and lesbian athletes and actors on “coming out.”  The book is dedicated to horse trainer Chuck O’Donnell, his mate, and they are coveted hosts at their posh Hollywood Hills aerie, where Howard’s photo collection is on view.

    Within days of publication, praise for Where’s My Fifteen Minutes was forthcoming.  “Howard makes things happen, and tells you how,” affirmed Larry King, and television’s Pat O’Brien reflected, “In a field where there are imitators, phonies, liars, con men, and poseurs, he walks through the jungle draped with honesty and integrity.  If I need a PR victory, I speed-dial Mr. B.”   Variety’s Peter Bart lauds Howard’s “skills in navigating the always treacherous combat zone between the press, stars, corporate players, and he has a few purple hearts to show for it.”  From Steve Tisch: “At the end of the seventh day, God realized he needed a publicist.  So God made a couple of calls.  The rest is history.”

    Within the chapters, Howard cites names and more names, what clever ploys he’s observed from Angelina Jolie and Ricky Martin, and delves into the Piñata Syndrome on dealing with crises, self-inflicted or otherwise.  “Once you’re in the public eye, it’s inevitable that someone’s going to take a poke at you, as if you were a piñata.  What’s the point of building someone up, the media reasons, if we can’t knock them down?”   He cites chapter and verse about keeping your reputation, career and sanity intact.  And staying out of hot water.

    Gary Pudney is the cruise world’s popular conversationalist, lecturing on the high seas about such as Marilyn Monroe (“very popular with the crowds”), Elizabeth Taylor, Lucille Ball, Princess Diana, Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Johnny Carson, both Hepburns (Audrey and Katharine), Maria Callas, Luciano Pavarotti.  A major talent executive in broadcasting, his New Talent Program at ABC discovered Tom Hanks, Bruce Willis, and others.  As for the  events he’s produced here and elsewhere, I’ve often maintained that nobody does it better.

    Lately in Dubai, he was invited by His Highness Sheikh Saud bin Sagr al Qasimi, the Crown Prince, to serve as a founding member of the Advisory Board of Regents for the Emirates College of Media Arts and Sciences of the United Arab Emirates.  Sailing on the Oceania Cruise Line ship, Nautica, off the coast of Oman en route to Dubai, he and the passengers were summoned to stop eating breakfast, rush to the center of the dining room and lie on the floor under the tables.  “We’re being pursued by Somali pirates firing guns only 1,000 yards away from the ship,” announced the officer.  Gary kindly offered to assist a confused elderly lady who was dining alone. “We’re being attacked,” he repeated.   “Pirates? Schmirates?” she sighed. “If it’s Johnny Depp, let Johnny jump aboard already!”
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