citesc biografia unuia dintre cei mai mari publicisti de la Hollywood, Jay Bernstein – Starmaker: Life as a Hollywood Publicist with Farrah, The Rat Pack, & 600 More Stars Who Fired Me – un domn care a lucrat pentru Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr si muuuuulti multi altii.
Bernstein nu se fereste sa dea detalii din viata lui profesionala, sa explice strategii, sa arate cam cum gandea cand isi transforma clientii in vedete. (capitolul despre Farrah Fawcett si decizia de a-i promova … sfarcurile intr-un poster e mai mult decat un studiu de caz)
Cum a fost unul dintre cei mai influenti oameni de la Hollywwod (a murit in 2006) nu prea i-a apasat f tare de indiscretiile pe care le-a facut prin biografia lui, asa ca exista si intamplari care poate n-ar fi trebuit sa fie acolo, mai ales cele legate de viata lui amoroasa cu diverse actrite.
Dincolo de asta, iata o poveste despre cum Jay Bernstein a stiut sa speculeze sex appealul lui Tom Jones si sa-l transforme dintr-un cantaret de hol de hotel intr-un sex simbol mondial.
Welsh singer Tom Jones was already a bona fide hit when I became his publicist in 1968.
In previous years he had been part of the swinging music scene, scoring hits with movie themes like “What’s New, Pussycat?”and James Bond’s “Thunderball.”
He was a powerful singer, masculine and roguish in appearance, with an onstage bare-chested presence that at least one nameless woman found extraordinarily sexy. Gordon Mills, Tom’s manager, hired me to launch the singer’s first American performance, at the famous Copacabana in New York City. The Copa was a supper club with an intimate atmosphere that allowed an entertainer to move about in the room as he performed. I had a front-and-center table with half a dozen guests in case Tom’s debut needed extra bodies. It didn’t. The place was packed on opening night.
During his performance a strange incident occurred. Tom was moving from table to table, stopping here and there, singing directly, as if personally, to some of his female fans. Suddenly a woman stood up, slipped off her panties and handed them to him. Gordon Mills told me later that Tom was startled; women had slipped him dinner napkins with their telephone numbers written on them, but never their underwear.
Later that year, Tom opened at the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas. After a few days Gordon called me. The crowds were small and lukewarm. Tom wanted to be more than a saloon singer who had to compete with the clink of cocktail glasses. “Think you can do something for us?”Gordon wanted to know.
I flew to Vegas and took in the Tom Jones show. It was sexy and dynamic, but I didn’t think it had the oomph to put him over the top as a long-term Vegas hit. It needed a push, a headline-making push. I talked to Tom and Gordon. They had old-fashioned concepts and came up with the same type of stuff rockers had been doing for years. I went to my suite to think about it. In the process I remembered the knickers incident at the Copa. I had an idea that might work.
By this time, through Sammy and other clients, I was well-known in Vegas by management. It wasn’t difficult to persuade the hotel to give me a couple dozen bogus keys with the Flamingo logo on them. I then went to a lingerie shop and bought several pairs of ladies’lacy silk underwear.
That night I stood at the entrance of the Flamingo showroom. When I saw a good-looking young woman without a date, I approached her. She was usually with another girl or one of a trio. I chose the ones who seemed extroverted and hungry for a laugh. I offered one of two deals. I would give twenty-five dollars if she would throw a room key on the stage while Tom was performing or fifty dollars if she would throw a pair of panties. I had no trouble getting girls; they were like actors at central casting.
Now I had to choreograph the show. I wanted one girl here, one there; I needed them spread throughout the room, planted in strategic spots. Furthermore, timing was everything. They needed to wait until Tom had supposedly worked them into a frenzy with his sex appeal. Tom was in the dark; he knew nothing about my gambit. The show began, and in his usual way Tom began working up to his most popular songs—“It’s Not Unusual,”“Delilah”and “Help Yourself.”
He had great presence, his own style (helped by his friend Elvis) and a sort of waterfront masculine appeal. He wore tight pants and his shirt open to his navel. He was belting away when the first girl threw a room key. Tom paused ever so briefly, swept up the key and looked at it in one quick gesture, and then continued singing. A couple of minutes later another girl tossed a pair of panties.
Tom picked up his pace. Another girl tossed a room key. It was like shots of electricity suddenly bolting through the room. Tom really began to sing and move, convinced that he was motivating the women by virtue of his sexuality.
The women responded in kind, and the more they did, the more magnetic Tom became. The room keys, the panties, Tom’s gyrations and his sensuous songs—they added up to an explosive performance, both onstage and off. I stayed in Vegas a week, repeating the same routine every night. Gordon and I purposely left Tom out of the loop.
By the time I went back to L.A., Tom thought he was the most magnetic man on the planet. During the second week, however, without panties and room keys, the show lost its magic. It was good, but it lacked that indefinable dynamic called sex appeal. Gordon gave me a call; I returned to Vegas. I got more keys and another bunch of panties.
This time, however, I invited members of the press to attend and gave them the Bernstein royal treatment before the show. The same thing happened: Tom began to jive and the women went nuts. Each night was wilder than the one before. The press coverage gave the campaign its needed kick. By week’s end, the hotel had enlarged the letters of Tom’s name on the marquee and women were lining up at the ticket window.
I went back to Los Angeles and kept up with the coverage in the papers. There were no more bogus keys and panties bought at wholesale. The real things were now landing on the stage. Tom was transformed into an authentic Vegas star. What began as a gimmick had become a phenomenon. Tom eventually moved to ever-larger showrooms—the Hilton International, Caesar’s Palace, and the last I heard he was packing the room at the MGM Grand.
I’ve always felt a sense of pride in that particular campaign. I was a ghost, an invisible man who motivated the audience in obscurity.