Boldface Publicist R. Couri Hay On the Next Week’s Black Party and His Book “Secret Lives”

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 TerraceViktor & SpoilsSway, Snap, and STASH, which have played host to an endless stream of boldfaced names.
R. Couri
 
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, GatecrasherPeopleUS 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. 

Post-Page Six Blast, Michael James Can’t Speak For Himself: PR Friend’s Gibberish Explanation

The other day I was called by a friend of club/event promoter Michael James, asking me to write something nice about him. He had just been vilified on Page Six of the New York Post and wanted an opportunity to set the record straight. I had heard something about this earlier in the day but didn’t give it much thought until a PR of note forwarded me the article:

“Tactless party and event promoter Michael James of Epic Group seemed to mistake Tiffany & Co.’s 57th Street flagship jewelry emporium for a meat-market Wednesday night,when he abruptly informed guests right before the event that only models would be allowed in. “Any models who RSVP’d will be admitted to the event, but they cannot bring any guests unless thier sic guests are models too,” he said in an e-mail blast to his guest list. Despite his charming effort, the party — featuring Solange Knowles and street style photographers Scott Schuman and Garance Doré — was still short on glamazons, with only a handful of long-legged beauties mingling with a roomful of industry types. But James didn’t stop there. He followed up at 1:09 a.m. Thursday — hours after the event ended at 9:30 p.m. —with an e-mail titled, “Correction re: Tiffany event,” stating, “We have been informed that the best looking guests will be admitted wether sic  they are models or not . . . We were worried that good people might be turned away at the door, but have been assured that the best looking people will have no problem.” A Tiffany rep yesterday distanced the store from the fiasco, responding: “While Tiffany & Co. did host an event last night, e-mails received relating to a closed list originated from a promoter who is not associated with nor employed or contracted by Tiffany & Co.” Those who got past James included Piper Perabo, Charlotte Ronson and Leigh Lezark.”

I agreed to talk to Michael about what happened. He told me that the timeline was wrong and that the second e-mail was sent while the event was still happening. He said that they were afraid of overcrowding and Michael had delegated someone he referred to as a “new intern” or “new assistant.” It seems this newbie meant well but, being new, went a bit overboard. Michael said he saw the first email and “flipped out” and immediately told the newbie to send out a clearer message. The newbie, still unsupervised, sent out something at least as bad. Michael claims he only saw these transmissions when it was too late. Michael’s “dog ate my homework excuse” seemed believable until I started trying to get him to answer the following four questions:

1. A tough way to get 15 minutes of fame. The New York Post called you tactless, and said you mistook Tiffany and Co. for a meat market last Wednesday night. Explain yourself to my adoring public.

2. Isn’t bringing the beautiful people what they hired you for? Isn’t that what all promoters are hired for? Isn’t that what door policies at clubs/lounges and events are geared for? Did your company, via an overzealous new employee, just say aloud what everybody does?

3. Tell me about Epic Group. What you have worked on and what are working on?

4. Tiffany seems to have sought to distance themselves from  you. Who actually paid you and what were they asking you to do for your money?

We talked again and he objected to my 15 minutes of fame question and said he would take that out and answer them in a couple of hours. I told him to get them before midnight as I wanted to get this in. I didn’t hear from him for hours and I subsequently got messages from the original friend telling me she couldn’t reach him but was trying. She finally did, and said he was waiting for a PR friend to get out of an event who would help him. I told them I wanted to write this soon as I had a busy day coming… but alas, no answers came. Then, I got a message from his PR friend Keri Ingvarsson at 12:44am last night telling me she had the answer to the Michael article. At 4:24am I got this from Keri:

“MJ,

THE HUMAN THAT HAS MOVED A GENERATION.

FOR 17 YEARS.

THE REASON THAT ISABELLA, AND MADELEINE AND HENRIK INGVARSSON EXIST.

MICHAEL JAMES THREW A PARTY ONE NIGHT IN 2004, AND I MET MY HUSBAND.

A MOVEABLE FEAST GATHERED WHERE HE DECIDED THEY WOULD GATHER.

THAT WAS A FORCE OF PEOPLE, MAINLY BORN BEFORE 1980 AT FIRST, BUT NOW, THEIR KIDS ARE COMING.

MICHAEL KNOWS AND RESPECTS ZELDA KAPLAN.

MICHAEL REMEMBERS THE BUILDING ON WALL STREET THAT STANFORD WHITE BUILT.

AND THE OTHER ONE NEAR WEST 27TH STREET IN 2003, WHEN IT WAS BARRON AND LAWLESS AND WHEN THE WORLD BEGAN TO WONDER ABOUT STEVE LEWIS AND LIZZIE GRUBMAN AND NOAH TEPPERBERG.

NEW YORK CELEBRITIES WERE THE OWNERS, BUT YOU NEVER HEARD OF US.

THE AMAZING LATE NIGHT FRIES AT FLORENT, BEFORE TRUFFLES HAD A PLACE – THIS IS THE NEW YORK WE HAVE WALKED AND KNOWN AND LOVED.

THIS IS THE NEW YORK MICHAEL JAMES GAVE US ALL.

HE IS THE NEXT BIG NOTHING, BUT STILL YOUR EVERY BIG SOMETHING.

YOUR ONE AND ONLY, MICHAEL JAMES.

HE HAS LOVED YOU MORE THAN YOU NEVER DESERVED.

EVERY MOMENT IN TIME WAS MADE POSSIBLE – BECAUSE OF HIM.

JUST DOING HIS JOB.

HE MADE FAMILIES HAPPEN.

BECAUSE HE HAS LOVED NEW YORK.

THAT MUCH.

HE IS OUR EXISTENCE, AND OUR PULSE.

“GOOD NIGHT MR. LEWIS” AND SLEEP TIGHT THOSE OF YOU WHOM HAVE MADE LIFE WORTH LIVING.

YOURS,

KERI INGVARSSON

ON BEHALF OF

MICHAEL JAMES”

I didn’t like the 4am non-answers to my questions or the poem or whatever that was, and said that this was dumb. Keri said dumb questions deserved dumb answers and I told her something to the effect that she wasn’t helping Michael’s cause and a heated exchange went back and forth through the morning. I can’t figure out why this became such a mess, but I haven’t taken my eye off the ball.

Michael apparently was tasked to bring beautiful people to a Tiffany’s event. His internal transmission was obtained by Page Six, which made him look terrible. In reality, bringing the beautiful people to an event is what people like Michael do. Door peeps at every club have their marching orders and promoters are paid to bring the fabulous. It is a beauty-brings-money business and if you dont have much of the latter, you better be the former. Michael’s mistake is he got caught saying it aloud. It does seem tactless, but it is the reality. Michael blamed someone else. I pointed out that it is his company and he is therefore responsible, and he agreed. He then delegated a friend to contact me to write a puff piece and then he delegated a PR rep to answer the questions I sent for him to answer. He seems either too lazy or unable to handle his own shit. Maybe he is otherwise distracted. I have known Michael for a very long time and adore him. I think he needs to pay attention to his world. Given the opportunity to set the record straight and come off as a good guy, he set the record straight but not in a great way. He repeatedly delegated responsibility when he should have stepped up… and that’s how this whole shebang started.

Christopher Abbott Is Breaking Up With ‘Girls’

Welp, so much for that Marnie and Charlie reconciliation we saw in the season two finale: Christopher Abbott has abruptly left Girls. The actor was apparently at odds with creator and star Lena Dunham. “He didn’t like the direction things are going in, which seems a bit odd since the show put him on the map,” a source told Page Six. (Abbott’s publicist confirmed his departure with the tabloid.) Perhaps Abbott found his character’s actions and storyline to be as ridiculous as I did! Of course, Abbott had a pretty good role in an episode of Enlightened (RIP!) this year, as well as a role in the star-making Martha Marcy May Marlene (which didn’t hurt the careers of Elizabeth Olsen and Simon Killer‘s Brady Corbet), so I think Abbott will do just fine without Girls.

[via Page Six]

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What Does It Mean That I Know Who Lena Dunham Is Dating?

For one thing, there’s officially no surplus room in my mind for additional information.

For another, it means my media diet is completely fucked. Do you want to know how I found out that Lena Dunham, the auteur behind a movie (Tiny Furniture) and TV show (Girls) I’ve never seen, and Jack Antonoff of the band Fun, whose name I refuse to quirkily punctuate and whose album I’ve heard maybe three times, are dating? It was a link from The New York Post’s Page Six, retweeted by the n+1 interns. That I clicked on. Willingly.

And what, knowing this shard of trivia, do I really know? That two people, somewhere out there, have had sex a few times and will continue to do so? Now there is an a priori truth—a fact quite empty of meaning. Sure, the names adhere to specific referents, but as I know nothing of the people themselves beyond what artistic traditions and recent trends they currently seem to represent, it’s symbols about symbols. There is no solid ground. I’m drowning in the void of reality.

Don’t save me.    

Big Surprise! New York Hotels Blacklisted Charlie Sheen

Charlie Sheen has begun to book hotels for his cross-country ‘Violent Torpedo of Truth’ tour, making his New York appearance on April 8th. His top choice for hospitality? Why The Plaza, of course. Sadly, after Sheen’s last less-than-quiet stay (he trashed the hotel room and locked an adult film star in a bathroom, to jog your memory) the Plaza isn’t rolling out the red carpets. Same goes for a slew of other New York hotel properties.

After Sheen racked up $7K in damages done to his Plaza suite last October, the iconic hotel has blacklisted him. According to Page Six, Sheen has also been banned from The Waldorf Astoria and the Trump Soho (actually, it may be safe to put all of the Trump properties on that list thanks to Sheen’s mom). It’s good to know that the whole world is not on crazy pills!

One source told Page Six, “Many of the big New York hotels don’t want the drama. He is now looking at renting a private residence.” But another dismissed this reason, claiming, “The real issue is finding him a hotel that allows smoking. He has to be able to smoke. And it’s hard to find a place that will accommodate him, plus his entourage that will be more than 30, including the lighting people and of course the goddesses.”

I’m filing those hotels under “Classy Establishments That Don’t Need a Media Circus to Stay Relevant.”

(Photo)

Gossiping About the Gossips: One of Many Farewells to ‘Page Six’s Richard Johnson

Last night, Jason Binn decided to get in on the action bidding Richard Johnson farewell (he’ll be leaving Page Six for a News Corp endeavor) by hosting a small going away party for the gossip icon at 675 Bar in the Meatpacking. To be honest, I’m not even sure if it actually was Binn that hosted the bash (it might’ve been Niche Media), but that was the story I heard most amid the many stories being bandied about by the crowd, which was comprised of employees and friends of the New York Post. It was a small gathering, which might have made someone like me, who has no real affiliation with the Post, feel wildly out of place. But they’re a quite crew – a friendly family of enfant terribles, charmers, and story-tellers, which made it easy to get caught up in their special brand of raucous fun. And, between all the fond Richard Johnson memories I overheard, I also learned a little bit about the changes that lay ahead for the Post gang.

The Girls “The Page Sixettes,” one former columnist noted as Emily Smith, the new heiress to Richard Johnson’s title, posed for a photo with Six gossips Tara Palmeri (previously from Washington Examiner) and Stephanie Smith (from WWD). “It’s tough right now because there are only three of us,” Palmeri noted.

The News Corp Gig Richard will be heading to Los Angeles with his family to join News Corp’s iPad ‘Newspaper.’ News Corp announced plans to distribute a “national digital newspaper” as a paid app on phones and iPads in August, and now we know who will edit the digital endeavor. You know who else will join? It’s rumored that former Sixer Chris Wilson, targeted for his off-beat ideas and experience with Front of Book funnies at Maxim, has come on board as an editor. No one had answers for the following: What it will be named, when it would officially be released, and whether or not it will work. “It’s worth a try!” was the general consensus. One thing that was shared: the video is going to be awesome.

The Party Someone joked that Richard “would need to rent out Madison Square Garden” for his official going-away party, but this gathering was filled with friends and former colleagues of the scribe. Paula Froelich popped in for a minute and shared this gem with former reporter Corynne Steindler: “I remember Richard once at a late night summer party. He was going down a twisty slide in his boxers, with his legs in the air, and screaming like a 5-year-old child.” Nick Denton, Chris Tennant, Steve Garbarino, and 230 Fifth owner Steven Greenberg bid Johnson adieu after 25 years of editing Page Six. At the end of the evening, a small group hung around with Johnson and decided on the best piece of advice Johnson had ever given them about doing their job well. “Richard said, if you’re extremely hungover from the night before, you have to dress better.” Richard agreed. “I could have bloodshot eyes, but if I was wearing a nice suit no one would notice anything but how nice I looked.”

(The photo of the young Johnson via The Daily)

Abe & Arthur’s First Birthday & Other Childish Things

Last Friday night, I landed at Abe & Arthur’s approximately one hour early—a first for me, seeing as I’m nearly always late for after-work engagements. But it seems that just as bad as being late for something in the nightlife world is being too damned early. An establishment needs some time to set up properly and hide the bodies, or whatever they’re always scrambling to do. So I left to walk around the Meatpacking District, but after seeing several undercover cops bust some junkies in front of Catherine Malandrino, I decided it was time that I settle into Abe & Arthur’s front bar to wait out the start of their first birthday celebration.

Though I was solo, as I usually like to roll, I was about to be breaking bread (or having cake) with Justin Rocket Silverman of Urban Daddy New York, the Shadow PR gals, Lizzie Brown from Quest magazine, the new Page Six lovely, Tara Palmeri, and several others. We were gathering for the first anniversary party for the first restaurant venture from the EMM Group, and more specifically, for Abe & Arthur’s new menu reveal and the most enormous cake —made by cakemaster Thiago Silva—I’ve seen outside of Ace of Cakes.

The new menu is basically the same as the old, but I wouldn’t have known. (Although I almost fell down the stairs of Abe & Arthur’s trying to hunt down a canape tray last year, I had never come close to experiencing the food.) The menu newcomers include a grilled octopus dish and a delectable grilled “Chairman’s Cut” pork chop. What’s interesting about the nightclub-turned-restaurant (it was once the home of Lotus) is that it still maintains the slickness of a late night boite while forgoing menu items of the same ilk. Instead, chef Franklin Becker focuses on comfort food of all sorts: steaks, sliders, arctic char, and cod, and sides like garlic mashed potatoes, truffled-herbed Parmesan fries, and hearty mac n’ cheese. To explain to you just how far they take the comfort aspect of the menu, the Irish Cereal Milk cocktail that Silverman bravely ordered (Jameson Irish whiskey, cinnamon toast crunch cereal milk, with real Cinnamon Toast Crunch floating at the top) is the stuff your 6-year-old self’s dreams were made of.

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The atmosphere jibes with your prepubescent self, too. It’s glittering in design and grown-up in feeling, a combination that naturally attracts youth—young professionals and old pros toting youngish models. It’s one of those joints that inspires you to stay a little longer, to dress up for dinner, and to relish in the peculiar theater of evening entertainment. More importantly, it’s a restaurant that, while being upscale, remains unstuffy. In the few hours I was there, I witnessed a grown businesswoman hop up on her chair in a raucous gesture to her table. Perhaps Abe & Arthur’s still hosts the club ghosts of venues past. Or perhaps it was time for that table to head down to the actual club, SL, located within easy tripping distance just below the restaurant

Madonna Tell-all: Not a Big Deal

There are five other people in this world who have lived in the same womb as Madonna. That’s hot. One of them, a Madonna-sibling named Christopher, is about to do something very nasty to his sister. Page Six is reporting that he’s written a tell-all tome about his sister’s early-career transgressions that is “extremely graphic and devastating” and will be “brutal.” Apparently Madonna’s bromance with Chris—who used to be close to the singer—ended several years ago, and this is his paycheck, er, payback. But for a woman who’s built her career on shock and awe, what “brutal” details can he possibly reveal? Multiple partners—yawn. Sex with beasts—we just checked our watch. Drug abuse—who doesn’t? The only deadly weapon he could possibly have in his arsenal of revelations is that Madonna’s got a small civilization of Panda Bears hidden in her garage, but even then it’s Madonna, so like, who cares?