Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Obama and Palin: Publicity Saints

Much has changed since I worked in the Fame Factory as an editor, exploiting big names to sell magazines and, in the circular process, enlarging their status as media megastars.

But even in today's climate of disposable celebrities who are quickly used up like Kleenex, there is still the rare publicity saint, where mere mention of a name invokes automatic interest over time, as Barack Obama and Sarah Palin (sorry to say) now do.

Merit is moot--it's the tingle of curiosity that attaches to every sighting or utterance, no matter how trivial or vapid, as evidenced by reports that Palin is signing a $7 million book deal and by a magazine editor's breathless comment that "photos of her just sitting there, looking like a normal person, could go for solid five-figure sums."

At the other end of the substance scale, Obama's imminent presidency recalls the editorial excitement over JFK. I put a black-and-white picture of him with Caroline on his lap on a Redbook cover in 1961, over the protests of the Circulation Department, and it sold out. Now Obama is on the cover of GQ after a photo shoot of less than two minutes, accompanied by a paean from, fittingly enough, Ted Kennedy.

My friend, Dick Stolley, the first editor of People, formulated the rule for best-selling celebrities in the 1970s: "Young is better than old. Pretty is better than ugly. Rich is better than poor. Movies are better than music. Music is better than television. Television is better than sports. And anything is better than politics."

Now that politics has become show business, sports and beauty contest rolled into one, there are, as Bill Maher would say, New Rules. But if we can get an Obama, putting up with Palin is worth the price.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Only if we remove her voicebox :)