Someone once told me that, with rare exceptions, the sign of a great rock and roll drummer is that you don’t notice he’s even there. He is there to keep things sure and steady. Usually, publicists are like that: rarely the center of attention, although they are always around keeping the place in the news, controlling uncomfortable situations, being an honest steady ear and an independent but inside-voice. R. Couri Hay is a boldface name that handles and sometimes creates boldface names. I have known him for decades, and adore and respect him as one of the top guns of PR. I asked Marie Assante who works with Couri to tell me a bit about him and got this:
"R. Couri Hay specializes in media relations and image/brand development. He is a creative strategist, image counselor, and campaign and crisis manager. Known as a social commentator with a focus on Hollywood, high society, and philanthropy, he has been featured on The Today Show, CBS Early Show, Extra, VH1, Fox News, CNBC, CNN, ET, and ABC World News Now.
In print, his experience is vast. He started his career as one of the original contributing editors of Andy Warhol’s Interview Magazine, and went on to help create the chatter column for People magazine and write for Town & Country. He currently is a Society Editor and Columnist for Gotham, Hamptons, and Avenue Magazines."
If the party is good, Couri is there either working or mingling. He has a sharp wit and tongue to go with it – I have been on the good and bad side of it. He is always a gentleman, a concept that has great meaning for me. He has always been there for me, often the voice of reason in unreasonable situations. He is the consummate professional and can be found on every major players’ list of potential PRs. With the infamous Black Party looming, I caught up with him and asked him about his involvement and other stuff.
Five thousand gay men are converging on Roseland Ballroom for the Black Party, and you are the publicist? How does one do publicity for this world?
To clarify, the publicist for the Black Party is Dan DeMello. My only involvement is that SaintatLarge.com
is generously and bravely excerpting the last chapter from my novel Secret Lives
. The reason they’re doing this is that the last chapter takes place on March 21, 1981, the day of the inaugural Black Party. I take the reader back in real-time to that night and my friendship with Robert Mapplethorpe
, who was the party’s official photographer. I bumped into Stephen Pevner, who is Bruce Mailman’s cousin and now owns The Saint, at the LGBT Center’s Art + Sin Black Party Poster Party last week and he told me all of the statistics on the March 24th event, which I was happy to share with Emily Smith
at Page Six.
Because Stephen Pevner allowed me to excerpt my novel Secret Lives
on SaintatLarge.com, it’s getting the party some additional attention, which it deserves. It was the first gay circuit party on Earth and remains the gay world’s premiere S&M "convention." Pevner has published a special magazine about the Black Party and has a major advertising machine in GLBT publications around the world, which have been covering the event since its inception. Their website has a series called Stories from the Saint
, in addition to video testimonials. My observation is that you publicize this circuit party in the same way publicist’s publicize the Oscars, only it’s targeted to the gay press rather than the mainstream media. In essence, the Black Party is the Olympics of the S&M world.
You have been a publicist for a good minute. Tell me about your clients over the years. What boldface names stick out and which were the easiest to work press for?
I’m very proud of the work I have done for the children of my friends. I helped launched the careers of Amanda Hearst
(the daughter of Anne Hearst the publishing heiress), Lydia Hearst
(the daughter of Patty Hearst one of John Waters’ favorite actresses), Lauren Bush
(the daughter of Sharon Bush) who I helped when she became the UN’s spokesperson for the world’s hungry children, and Sarah Bradford, the half sister of Matt Damon who became Page Six Magazine’s #1 It Girl.
I represented Harry Winston, Bergdorf Goodman, and opened the Prada, Bulgari, and Chopard stores in Aspen. I had a lot of fun representing the champagnes Krug and Vueve Clicquot where I got to giveaway tens of thousands of glasses of champagne to celebrities ranging from Catherine Deneuve to Naomi Campbell. While I was the publicist for Grand Classics at Soho House
and Cinema Society, I did screenings with dozens of movie stars ranging from Gwneth Paltrow and Philip Seymour Hoffman, to Signourney Weaver and Dennis Hopper. This week (March 13th), I did publicity for Paper Street Films producers Austin Stark and Bingo Gubelmann around the screening of their new film Detachment
, starring Adrien Brody, Lucy Liu, and Blythe Danner.
In nightlife I’ve worked with Studio 54, Tatou, Nell’s, MK, Red Zone, Pink Elephant Club, M2
, and most recently Pacha
, District 36, Hudson Terrace
, Viktor & Spoils
, and STASH
, which have played host to an endless stream of boldfaced names.
These days, many clubs are not looking to get traditional press as a way to protect their clients privacy. Is this really new or was it also sometimes your job to keep things quiet?
It was always my job and is still my job to keep 90 percent of what I know under wraps. It’s the other 10 percent that ends up on the front pages of the Post and the Daily News, in Page Six, Gatecrasher, People, US Weekly, etc.There’s always a fine line about what’s acceptable to write about a celebrity, such as a sighting, and what’s unacceptable, which would be brawls and other naughty acts they wouldn’t want to see in print.
Tell me a damage-control story.
Most of my damage-control stories have been on behalf of victims. I worked with both women that ended up letting Oscar De La Hoya talk them into their underwear. Both of these stories ended up on the front pages around the world. I did my best to control the public’s perception of these women. I also represent George Soros’ ex-girlfriend Adrianna Ferrera who is now suing for $50 million.
Tell me about the book.
The novel Secret Lives is about a bisexual designer, partially based on my ex-lover Halston and other designers I knew in the ’80s. The fictional Rodney Sparrow marries Blandy Bradford, the debutante of the decade, who shoots him in the first chapter after discovering that she’s pregnant and that he infected her with the AIDS virus, which he contracted during his secret gay sex life. The book then flashes back to both of their personal and family histories. The lead characters are based on composites of real people that I knew intimately. Secret Lives is set within real events including the Oscars, Grammys, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute Galas. The book has cameos by virtually every boldfaced name that mattered from the ’80s. Secret Lives is a first-hand diary of the times that I lived in.
Are you attending the Black Party and, if so, what are you wearing?
Sadly, although I’ve attended 27 of the 31 Black Partys, I’ll be skiing in Courchevel France with my family and goddaughter who is on spring break. The last one I attended was in 2009 where I danced alongside Marc Jacobs
and his then-lover Lorenzo Martone.