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In memoriam

#MediaFail: Westboro Baptist ‘Church’ Thinks JFK is in Hell

westboroAs the world plans on descending on Dallas next week for the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination, guess who else is coming to my fair burg? Westboro. (As a seminarian, I refuse to call these nefarious douchenozzles a church.)

With all the goodwill in Dallas, conspiracy nuts coming to town in their unmarked white vans and global press, why is Westboro coming to…oh, wait a minute. And there lies the rub. Media, this is your fault.

Here’s an example: Westboro has posted on its website that JFK has been in hell for 50 years. Why? November marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of JFK.  You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy, than the JFK Whitehouse. (Someone see Darth Vader around here because that smacks of a rejected line from a ‘Star Wars’ script.)

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The ‘Man on the Moon’ is Still Alive, According to ‘His Daughter’

Used (to prove my point) from "Life in the Funhouse: The Life and Mind of Andy Kaufman"

Used (to prove my point) from “Lost in the Funhouse: The Life and Mind of Andy Kaufman”

Hollywood truly is “Hollyweird.” So, if you’re a publicist, fasten your seat belts for this outer atmosphere story. In case you didn’t get the 70s, 80s…hell, even the 90s reference, the “Man on the Moon” refers to the 1999 biopic about the offbeat, kooky and late Andy Kaufman.

The guy was a certified nut. We’re talking suit him for a padded room, nut. Nonetheless, thanks to his erratic schtick on ‘Saturday Night Live’ in the 70s and more famously, his “acting” on the  legendary TV sitcom “Taxi” (TRIVIA: The great Bob James wrote the iconic intro song to that show called “Angela,” jazz lovers.) Even pro wrestling fans know this guy when Jerry Lawler put his stamp on Kaufman’s career by giving him a “piledriver,” landing Andy flat on his noggin and sent his odd duck tail straight to the ER.

So, he died in 1984 of lung cancer. Another SNL guy bites the dust too soon. That is, until this report from FOX News came out today creating “WTF” thought bubbles among the many who loved that show.

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Veterans Day: The Best CSR Campaign Ever

VA posterIt’s June 28, 1919. Our commander of the U.S. Allied Forces is inside a lovely palace called Versailles in France. A 440-article, 15-part treaty named after that palace was signed that day to end “The Great War,” more commonly known as World War I.

(Never mind those hundreds of articles jacked-up trade for Germany so badly, it kinda led to the rise of Nazis and another world war, but that’s another story.)

Although the Treaty of Versailles “officially” ended World War I, seven months earlier — the 11th month, the 11th day on the 11th hour (no kidding) — an armistice was reached. The temporary halt of hostility was considered “Armistice Day.”

The following November, President Woodrow Wilson made a national address with these words:

“To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…”

And that, dear Americans, is how this day came to be. That was then, and this is now. Are you reflecting? Filled with solemn pride? Or just pissed the banks are closed?

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In Which Your Editor Reveals His Favorite Anonymous Tips

This blogger’s anonymous tip box is something like the “leave a penny, take a penny” jar in that it can be both used and abused. Now, I have received a couple of good story ideas via “the box.” But more than anything I’ll miss opening my email account each morning to find little nuggets of wisdom like the following list of my favorite anonymous PRNewser tips, reprinted verbatim for your amusement:

“good”

Glad you think so!

“stupid, stupid, ignorant, sophomoric, get a pizza pie in the face you”

Say hi to your mother for me!

“for dry skin ini winter, add 4 to 5 drops of lemon juice in 4 table spoon of cream mix it well and apply it on your face. now rub it gently and after 10 mins wash your face with warm water. your skin will become soft.”

Thanks! Now my skin is super soft!

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RIP Ed Koch, Master of Media Relations

This morning marked the passing of former New York City Mayor Ed Koch. We weren’t around when he was patrolling the city, and he didn’t go for the big-money advocacy of Michael Bloomberg or the “bad cop” bluster of Rudy Giuliani. But he was a master of media relations. Always ready with a quip for the press corps, he knew how to work reporters to get his message out. In honor of his life, we would like to join others in posting some of his best quotes.

  • On public relations: “I’m the sort of person who will never get ulcers. Why? Because I say exactly what I think. I’m the sort of person who might give other people ulcers.”
  • On damage control: “You punch me, I punch back. I do not believe it’s good for one’s self-respect to be a punching bag.”
  • On messaging: “Tone can be as important as text.”
  • On career advice: “Enjoy what you’re doing or don’t do it. That doesn’t mean it isn’t difficult or won’t challenge you, but if you are involved in something that’s causing you to say, ‘Why am I doing this?’ then you’re in the wrong business.”
  • On politics: “If you agree with me on nine out of 12 issues, vote for me. If you agree with me on 12 out of 12 issues, see a psychiatrist.”
  • On falling out of favor with the public (and losing elections): “People get tired of you. So they decided to throw me out. And so help me God, as the numbers were coming in, I said to myself, ‘I’m free at last.’”
  • On privacy: “Whether I am straight or gay or bisexual is nobody’s business but mine.”
  • On Donald Trump: “Piggy, piggy, piggy.
  • On mortality: “I had a conversation with God: ‘Take me totally or don’t take me. No salami tactics.’ He’s been very good about it.”

RIP Twinkie, 1930 – 2012

Today we say goodbye to the Twinkie: an object as important to the American childhood experience as popsicles, jumping through the spray of a lawn sprinkler (or open fire hydrant), scraped knees, bicycle training wheels, and believing that everything in life—from bumble bees to moon craters—was there just for you.

Sadly, that innocence is lost over time (more quickly for some than others) until ultimately we’re adults, blundering through the real world as heroes to the children we used to be. As adults we know everything is temporary. Everything dies. And today, adults of all ages mourn the loss of the Twinkie.

This is horrible, horrible news for the public. The Twinkie–famously known as the one packaged food that would never spoil if left unopened–will one day drop from our lexicon, destined to be known by no one on earth save for a few scholars who specialize in this bizarre period known as the present. Until then, however, it is important for us—the living—to acknowledge the Twinkie and its innumerable contributions to our society and our memories.

Invented in 1930 by baker James Alexander Dewar, the Twinkie originally had a banana cream-filled interior, until World War II when bananas were rationed and the maker, the Continental Baking Company, was forced to switch to vanilla cream. From its early years the Twinkie was already making great sacrifices for America, and it eventually wove its way deep into the fabric of our culture. Millions of children throughout the ensuing decades would be rewarded with Twinkies for good behavior.

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RIP Lois Smith, ‘Publicist to the Stars’

The lights of Broadway shine a little less brightly today after the death of Lois Smith, a star publicist colloquially known as “Earth Mother” whose “strong, steady hands” helped shape the careers of some of the 20th century’s biggest names on stage and screen.

Smith died of a brain hemorrhage after falling down a staircase in Maine; Cindi Berger, current CEO of PMK*BNC—a company originally started by Smith—confirmed her passing on Sunday. She was 85. A very brief list of former clients gives you some idea about the extent of her influence:

  • Marilyn Monroe
  • Robert Redford
  • Meryl Streep
  • Martin Scorsese
  • Warren Beatty
  • Whitney Houston

Lois Smith was a trailblazer who brought big changes to a business dominated by men. In 1969, she co-founded the all-star PR agency PickWick, which later merged with Maslansky/Koenigsberg and then joined BNC in 2009 to form the firm that we know today as PMK*BNC. Between those two dates, she had a hand in organizing and promoting some of the biggest movies ever made; in short, she all but created the modern-day entertainment PR industry.

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Remembering Steve Jobs on the Anniversary of His Death

Steve Jobs died one year ago today.

The best thing about time is that, when given enough of it, we can gain perspective on just about everything.

This sad anniversary is not only a time to reflect, as Apple has done in the above video, but to assess and even speculate. It’s what Steve Jobs would have done. People typically don’t like change because we’re afraid of what we don’t know. So when Steve Jobs passed and an uncertain future faced Apple, many feared the worst, whispering in gloom-and-doom tones like that paranoid aunt we sit next to at Thanksgiving dinner. But instead of veering into financial collapse, the Apple brand awoke this morning as the most successful company in America.

And you can thank Steve Jobs for that. The public is discerning and critical by nature, but what Steve Jobs gave the public wasn’t just a string of innovative, sleek and disarmingly useful products that many of us can’t live without; he gave us a legacy. For most of us legacy is relegated to family members, but we’re not exaggerating when we say that Steve Jobs changed the world–and the way we interact with it.

A legacy takes a lifetime to create, and through energetic diligence, bombastic discipline and a humming internal nuclear reactor of creativity, Steve Jobs revolutionized our lives to such a degree that his death was much more than just a physical event. He lives on through the way we use technology in our everyday lives both personal and professional–and these changes will extend to our children and their grandchildren. The public still loves Steve Jobs, flaws and all, because he made a positive and lasting impact on the world (unless, of course, you are a button).

With each passing year the anniversary of Steve Job’s death will receive less and less coverage. But as PR people, today, we’d like to do what we can to stem the tide of time and call attention to a true innovator. RIP Steve Jobs. The public knows what you did. Thanks.

Happy 100th Birthday, Julia Child

In case you hadn’t heard, Julia Child–longtime chef, TV fixture and inspiration to every single domestic media goddess who followed in her footsteps (including Martha Stewart and, yes, even Rachael Ray) would have turned 100 this week.

Most of us were too young to watch her in her prime, but she remained active until the ripe young age of 90, and today she stands as a perfect example of one woman who transformed her passion into an enduring brand–Mastering the Art of French Cooking remains a bestseller today, and we don’t think Meryl Streep can take all the credit. Everyone—including the White House’s executive pastry chef—seems to have taken a moment this week to weigh in on the woman who changed not just French cuisine but the art of cooking in general.

Grub Street collects some of the better remembrances here, and this auto-tuned PBS “remix” must be seen to be believed (we can’t quite decide if this is a good thing). As the woman herself said, “Everything in moderation…including moderation.”

Old-School Hollywood PR Man Irving Fein Dead at 101

In yet another reminder of the generational shift within the PR industry, old-school Hollywood rep Irving Fein has passed at 101. Never heard of him? Your age is showing: As reported in the Los Angeles Times, Fein did quite a bit of work in the century-plus he spent on this planet, most prominently representing blast-from-the-past personalities like George Burns and Jack Benny, who was a “radio comedian” when Fein first began doing PR work for him in 1947.

Feel young yet? The Brooklyn-born Fein worked as an aspiring novelist in the early part of the 20th century before shifting gears to do publicity work for nearly all of the major studios back in the pre-”Mad Men” days when Lana Turner was big business and people still took the phrase “pinup girl” literally. Later roles included vice president of advertising and promotion at CBS.

In a 1988 Associated Press interview, Fein said “I’ve been lucky. I’ve been able to work with the best of them.” In a sense, we all aspire to accomplish as much as Mr. Fein did during his career–though, to be fair, he had more than 100 years to do it.

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