As a freelance reporter in the early ’90s I was obliged to deliver the tart, punchy, sometimes adversarial attitude that my Entertainment Weekly, N.Y Daily News and L.A. Times employers wanted in their Hollywood news and trend stories. Everything that I felt and knew about the film industry deep down — all the personal quirky passion stuff that I try to put into Hollywood Elsewhere — was not what sold, and so out of necessity I had to occasionally deliver hardcore “gotcha” stories.
This made me less than radiantly popular with some of the publicists at the time, and one result was that I occasionally had problems in getting one-on-one interviews with movie stars. This became a major problem in late 1993 when, as a weekly Sunday columnist for the N.Y. Daily News, I tried to arrange a Tom Hanks interview during the Philadelphia junket. The always-friendly Tristar publicists said they couldn’t fit me in — nothing personal, strictly a scheduling issue — but I knew I’d been zotzed, probably by the publicist who represented Hanks directly.
I tried again with the publicists, assuring them that my piece would be fair and respectful and non-gotcha and that I just wanted to deliver a nice Hanks piece for my Daily News bosses. “Jeffrey, it’s not you,” they repeated. “It’s Tom’s crazy schedule. We’ve had to tell a lot of people no. Please don’t take it personally.”
So I went to Tristar chairman Mike Medavoy, whom I’d spoken to on background for two or three stories and whom I knew slightly in a social context. I told him my situation and asked if he could help. “I’ll get back to you,” he said. A day or two later he called and said, “You’re off the shit list.” I thanked him profusely. “But do the right thing,” he added. I never intended to do the “wrong” thing but I said “yeah, of course, I get it….and thanks very much, Mike.” And so I was allowed to speak to Hanks at the junket and the piece I ran was fine. No big deal.
All to say that knowing and liking the big guys and being liked or at least respected by them helps enormously in this town. I’ve never published this story before, but I’m figuring it’s okay to tell tales after 19 years. And thank you again, Mr. Medavoy. It meant a lot.