Sunday, February 27, 2011
Me, Madonna, Jellybean Benitez, and Tim Ransom at Limelight in September 1984.
This photo by Patrick McMullan appeared in his 2003 book So 80s
My friend Tim Ransom wrote a few comments to my last blog on Madonna. His words were so impassioned that Kenneth M. Walsh wrote another post about Tim’s comments on his blog, followed by another one by Matthew Rettenmund on his blog.
Anyway sharing correspondence with Tim made me think of the photo above with Tim, the Divine Ms. Madge and me taken by another well-known photographer I introduced to Madonna, Patrick McMullan.
Orion Pictures, the studio behind Desperately Seeking Susan, was setting up a theme party at Limelight for their film, “Amadeus.” The concept was that he was that Mozart was pop star of his day, so they wanted to get as many well known young singers and musicians as they could. I asked Madonna if I could take her to the party, expecting her customary insolence, but she said that would be fine. That wasn’t the answer I was expecting, so I added, “why don’t you bring [her boyfriend] Jelly too?”
Tim, who was the stand-in for Aidan Quinn, was on the set every day, and was close enough with Madonna to give her regular foot rubs. She adored him and eventually he was cast in the role of the Bellhop and played a brief scene with her. (Photos can be seen here.) Tim asked if he could come too, so I asked Orion to put him on the guest list.
Madonna lived a few blocks away from me in those days. My place was on Centre Market Place in Little Italy, across the street from the old Police Headquarters, which was deserted then. (Now it is a very upscale condo). She had a Soho loft on Broome Street, on the northwest side of West Broadway, a few flights up. Her buzzer didn’t open the door, so she had to throw the keys down from the window. Oddly, I had actually looked at this very loft when it was up for rent. It was more than I could afford, but not that much more. Her debut album, Madonna, had been out a year, and while it had done very well, I’m pretty sure she hadn’t banked much money yet. She told me she’d already completed the tracks for her follow-up, Like a Virgin, but Warners/Sire had pushed back the release because sales of Madonna continued so steadily. She did her infamous “Like a Virgin” dance rolling around the stage at the MTV Awards during an off day from Desperately Seeking Susan shooting. She told me that Cyndi Lauper wouldn’t even look at her that night, which bothered her (!!!) because she said she wanted to be friends with other women singers.
As Madonna didn’t work every day, I’d go over to her place every now and then so she could do her photo approvals. Madonna’s loft was a long rectangle, around a thousand square feet, with a large mirror on the far end and a Roland keyboard (probably the JX-3P heard on so many of her songs of that period) near the door. I don’t remember there being much else; it looked more like a dance studio or a gallery than a home.
True story: the very last time I went to pick up color slides and contact sheets from Madonna, she didn’t feel like letting me upstairs, so she threw them out the window, and they went flying into traffic, The contact sheets didn’t matter (we could make more), but the original slide were priceless and irreplaceable. If you consider how well known the film became, you can imagine what a big deal it would have been if these images had been lost forever. I practically got killed saving those pictures. When I told this story to Desperately Seeking Susan set photographer Andy Schwartz, he nearly died too.
Despite all her MTV fame, a waitress at the Hard Rock Café on 57th tried to kick us out during an interview she was doing with David Keeps for Star Hits. “We’ve got to clean your table!” Madonna was dressed up in her costume with all the accessories, looking the same as when she was performing. (I was always impressed with her professionalism.) Needless to say, when I told the waitress, she was pretty embarrassed, but please--this was the Hard Rock Café, not Sardi’s! It was lame enough that we were doing the interview in their dumb tourist joint, without this nonsense. Who was the moron who set it up there? (Ummm… that would be me.)
Another indication of Madonna’s heat level at the time: when I went to Tower Records to buy her album, there weren’t any in ”M” bins in the rock and pop section. Eventually a guy directed me to the mezzanine where the “dance” music was.
Also, Orion insisted that Desperately Seeking Susan open in March 1985 even though it was shot in the fall of 1984—a hastily accelerated post-production schedule. Why? Because they feared that Madonna might be a flash in the pan and they wanted to pop the film out before the interest in the material girl dematerialized. This despite Madonna having two best-selling records, mountains of press, parades of teen girls dressed like her, and five videos in power rotation on MTV. (The “Into the Groove” video featuring Desperately Seeking Susan clips became the sixth.) Better rev up to hyper-speed with the opening date! Full-blown obscurity could hit Madonna any second!
I remember having difficulty getting a cab on the night of the Amadeus party. Soho wasn’t the madhouse it is today; it was often deserted at night. I was getting pretty stressed out. I finally got a cab and had to beg the driver to wait at the curb while I waited for Madonna and Jelly to come down.
In the cab up Madonna told me about her future plans. She wanted to do a contemporary adaptation of The Blue Angel. I could see real possibilities in the idea, but I admit I also thought, “Madonna saw The Blue Angel? “
If you’re not a New Yorker, Limelight was a club that was built in the former Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion, at 6th Avenue and 20th Street (it’s now a mall). The club had just opened a year before, and I had actually set up one of the first parties there, for “The Fourth Man,” a movie I mentioned in my last post.
Patrick McMullan (photo by Steven Ekerovich)
The first person I saw when we came in was Roger Daltrey. Honestly I don’t remember anybody else famous being there, but that was cool, although he was a lot shorter than I imagined. Tim Ransom came over and we started to hang out. I figured I had to do my job so I went looking for journalists. Eventually I saw Patrick McMullan and he shot the photo above, as well as a few singles of Madonna. When his coffee table book So 80s came out in 2003 McMullan told Interview:
I was at this Dallas Boesendahl party for Amadeus at Limelight (September 12 1984), and a publicist named Reid Rosefelt said to me, “You should come meet this girl Madonna.” I said, “Sure, I'm very happy to meet her,” but I didn't know who she was. So I met her and took a few pictures of her. She couldn't have been sweeter. It was just a very simple, unguarded moment.
Perhaps because I introduced Patrick to Madonna, he included a photo of me, along with Tim and Jellybean in his book. Right behind Madonna you can see a violinist dressed up in (17)80s finery for the party. A very sharp-eyed person can see that I’m wearing a button for Stranger Than Paradise, featured in this post.
When we decided to leave, things got a little complicated. For some reason we didn’t go out the front door, and started wandering around the church’s meandering hallways looking for another exit. But we couldn’t find one-- it was like that famous scene in Spinal Tap—we kept circling around. Finally, totally exasperated, I said the one thing I ever said that made Madonna laugh:
“Who do I have to blow to get out of here?”
She liked that.
Sunday, February 20, 2011
“Is he gay?” asked Madonna. “Gay men take good pictures of me.”
When I worked at the PMK PR firm in 1980, every time we signed a new client, Michael Maslansky (the “M” in PMK) used to have them photographed by Herb Ritts. I’m sure this had more than a little to do with Herb being represented by Michael’s wife Marysa, who had a photo agency called Visages, but the photos were always wonderful. I never met Herb until years later when I had my own company and was handling Paul Verhoeven’s “The Fourth Man.” For an Interview photo, Herb tiptoed me and the film’s Dutch femme fatale, Renée Soutendijk, up to the roof above the dilapidated structure that sat on the site of what is now the Chelsea Piers. It was obvious that we were trespassing and that made it fun, but you couldn’t help but wonder, “How much time had he spent prowling around all that broken glass and torn metal, before he found that perfect spot?”
“I have no idea if Herb Ritts is gay, Madonna,” I said. “But I promise you will like his pictures.” As usual, Madonna was busting my balls, but the important thing was that she and Rosanna Arquette were willing to give up an entire Saturday off from shooting “Desperately Seeking Susan” for the special photography shoot. Ann Lander, the Orion exec in charge of photography had assigned Herb to create some portraits that I could circulate to magazines. If all went well, maybe there would be a poster in there too.
But what should the poster be? What would be a solitary image that would capture the story? If you haven’t seen it, the film is about this bored New Jersey housewife named Roberta (played by Arquette) who follows the personal ads, and is obsessed with a free-spirited type named Susan who uses the personals to keep in touch with her boyfriend. Roberta decides to follow Susan around and when Susan sells her jacket at a thrift store, Roberta buys it, setting in motion a mistaken identity plot. Through the jacket (and a case of amnesia), in a lot of ways Roberta gets to become Susan. The jacket is the engine that makes the whole plot go. So I knew I wanted to display the jacket in a significant way in the poster.
Madonna and Rosanna had totally different kinds of bodies, so Production/Costume Designer Santo Loquasto had made two jackets. But nobody was supposed to know that there was more than one—it would defeat the whole purpose. But something told me that having them both of them in the “Susan” outfits was the way to go. It didn’t make literal sense, but I convinced myself it made metaphorical sense: Roberta and Susan were twins, two sides of the same coin, sisters. Both of them stepped into the other one’s lives, and tried them on for size.
Nowadays photo shoots like these are a big deal, with limos for talent, and a gaggle of publicists and studio executives, but the only people from the movie were me and the wardrobe supervisor Melissa Stanton (who brought the jackets, costumes and accessories), Herb’s crew, and Madonna and Rosanna, who cabbed over themselves. [Why am I so sure they didn’t get cars? Because afterwards Madonna complained that she couldn’t take the subway anymore. She had only recently reached the level of fame where people hassled her on the trains, and she was pissed off about this intrusion on her freedom.]
Upon my entry to the studio, I was greeted by the sight of Madonna whipping off her shirt to change into another outfit. Nothing modest about this girl. I thought to myself, “that’s something very few people will ever see.” Little did I know. Melissa was there with the costumes, but Herb didn’t seem interested. All day long he put the two of them through pose after pose, none of which had nothing to do with the movie.
Rosanna and Madonna had a peculiar relationship. On one hand they were friends and even hung out together outside of work, but on another… Madonna had a way of sucking all the air out of the room. It’s my understanding that the movie was greenlit because Rosanna, red-hot after “The Executioner’s Song” and “Baby, It’s You,” had agreed to be in it. Rosanna was unquestionably the lead and worked practically every day, while Madonna’s role was much smaller in terms of actual scenes. But there was no denying that Madonna was Madonna and she was “Susan,” in a movie called “Desperately Seeking Susan.” Once, when somebody on the street asked who was in the film, I heard Rosanna say, “Madonna.”
The truth was, Madonna had the kind of brash confidence that could overwhelm a lot of people, and certainly a more sensitive type like Rosanna. This photo shoot was a perfect example.
At one point, Ritts was shooting some sultry glamour shots of Rosanna posing against a cloth backdrop, when Madonna came over. After gaping at Rosanna for a minute she said, “You look so good I’d like to fuck you myself.” It was funny, but you could almost hear the air—sssssss!—slipping out of Rosanna’s confidence, as her moment was stolen, and it became all about Madonna. And come on! This was Rosanna Arquette, after all—a true fantasy figure for a good portion of the men in America! Moments later, Madonna grabbed the backdrop, commandeered the same pose… and Herb shot an image that became a famous poster.
Eventually it was time for lunch so Melissa and I went out and got some sandwiches. That was catering. “Who wants the tuna?” Madonna played me a track, “Sidewalk Talk,” for a compilation album “Jellybean Rocks the House,” her boyfriend Jellybean Benitez was producing. She seemed pleased that I liked it, which made me feel good. She often made fun of me on the set, but the truth was I spent a lot of time with her alone, going over pictures in her trailer and in her loft (she lived a few blocks from me) and we got along very well. Her instincts for publicity were amazing even then and I have always considered her one of my mentors. (I’ve learned a thing or two from other publicists, but the best training comes from natural born salesmen like her.) My favorite story about her was about how she got her manager. She asked who handled Michael Jackson and when she found out it was Freddy DeMann, she called him. Who would have the chutzpah to do that? Freddy signed her.
Legendary style-setter Andre Leon Talley turned up unannounced and wanted Herb to shoot a photo of Madonna for Vanity Fair. Before I could say anything, Talley put a pair of multi-colored men’s boxer shorts on top of Madonna’s head and started twisting them around.
This put me in a tough spot because neither Freddy DeMann or Madonna’s publicist Liz Rosenberg had approved this. Madonna said I should call Freddy at home and if he said it was okay, she’d do it. As bratty as she could be, in the important ways she was pretty easy to deal with in those days. I’d say, “look, you have to do this now so that you won’t have to do it later,” and she got it.
It was starting to get pretty late and I decided it was time to put my foot down--I told Herb it was time to shoot the “Desperately Seeking Susan” costumes. After a very long day shooting pictures completely unrelated to the movie, I think he spent an hour or two doing it. But those few frames turned out to be gold.
As we were getting ready to go, I really did see something that I think very few people have ever seen, at least for a long time. Madonna called Jellybean and they were in the middle of some kind of argument. For a few moments I saw her impregnable shell break away: she appeared to be a normal young woman unsatisfied or hurt by whatever her boyfriend up to. As I had learned that day, showing her breasts wasn’t a big issue to Madonna, but showing vulnerability definitely was: as soon as she spied me looking, she tucked that honest emotion back into whatever place she kept them in, and was “Madonna” again.
Herb Ritts’ Rolling Stone Cover of Madonna and Rosanna
The only picture of them on this page not shot on that first day.
Early the next week, Herb turned up at Madonna’s trailer with several hundred dollars worth of extraordinary photos. Platinum Prints. Museum quality stuff. I’d never seen anything like it. I surmised that he was hoping to photograph Ms. Ciccone again. I think it’s an understatement to say that’s exactly what happened. He became one of Lady Madonna’s top court photographers, shooting many of her most memorable images, until his untimely death in 2002.
Sometime after the film wrapped, I happened to be at the New York Orion office for a publicity meeting when the ad agency was making a presentation. The focus was on the New Jersey housewife part of the movie. Rosanna’s face was on a toaster and Madonna’s face was on a piece of toast. Something I can’t remember with a microwave oven. Each one was more terrible than the one before. As it happened, I had brought a set of the slides from the Ritts photo session to the meeting. I pulled them out and said, “have you guys seen these?” They hadn’t. Ann Lander had gone on vacation and locked the photos up in her safe. Seriously. There was a hush in the room.
This wasn’t the end of the story, however. Some people at Orion thought that the image would make people think it was a lesbian movie. Thankfully the film’s producers, Midge Sanford and Sarah Pillsbury, were able to make their case and the result is the poster as you can see it above.
Pretty much every “Desperately Seeking Susan” slide Herb took during that hour got used thousands of times. One of them even became a Playboy Cover.
Years later I visited the London Film Museum… and there it was! My poster! I was truly proud. I felt that in this tiny way, I had been part of the history of film. After all, that image would not exist if I hadn’t thought it up! Okay, okay, Herb, Rosanna, Madonna, Santo, Melissa, Susan Seidelman, screenwriter Leora Barish, and even Ann Lander had something to do with it too.
As Rosanna Arquette is still someone I have kept in touch with and I believe reads my blog now and then, I apologize for once again making this story ALL ABOUT MADONNA. She has always had a way of making everything about her.
Years later I ran into Madonna at Lee’s Art Shop on 57th Street. I introduced myself and said that I worked on “Desperately Seeking Susan.” “A lot of people worked on ‘Desperately Seeking Susan,’” she said, as she walked past me.
MORE ON MADONNA this coming Sunday
Sunday, February 13, 2011
Donald Rugoff with Robert Downey, Sr. (LIFE photo)
In my blog last week about Miramax, I said I’d never worked for anybody like them, which was literally true. But I failed to mention that there was a razzle-dazzle showman in the art film business long before the Weinstein Brother turned up. I just never worked for him.
His name was Donald Rugoff.
Like my old boss, Dan Talbot, Rugoff booked his films into his own New York Theatres. But Talbot rarely had more than one screen, and it was usually a small, if beloved,cinema.
Rugoff, on the other hand, owned the town. His empire included nearly all of the most desirable screens in the city: Cinema I, Cinema II, Cinema III, Paris, Plaza, Sutton, Beekman, Paramount, Murray Hill, Gramercy and Art theaters. These were the palaces in which he launched the New York releases of his distribution company: Cinema 5..
I doubt many people in the new generation of the specialty film business today have ever heard Rugoff’s name. But he was a star! Just look at a few of he films he brought out: “The Cool World,” “Nothing But a Man,” “Morgan!” “The Endless Summer,” “Elvira Madigan,” “The Two of Us,” “Z,” “More,” “The Sorrow and the Pity,” “Putney Swope,” “The Firemen’s Ball,” “Alexander,” “Trash,” “The Garden of the Finzi-Continis,” “Marjoe,” “Gimme Shelter,” “The Hellstrom Chronicle,” “WR: Mysteries of the Organism,” “On Any Sunday,” “A Sense of Loss,” “The Trial of the Catonsville Nine,” “Greaser’s Palace,” “Cesar and Rosalie,” “The Tall Blond Man with One Black Shoe,” “State of Siege,” “Scenes From a Marriage,” “Distant Thunder,” “Going Places,” “Swept Away,” “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” “Seven Beauties,” “The Man Who Fell to Earth,” “Volcano,” “A Slave of Love,” “Man on the Roof,” “Harlan County U.S.A.,” “Coup de Grace,” “Providence,” “Pumping Iron “Jabberwocky,” “The Man Who Loved Women,” “A Special Day,” “Padre Padrone,” “Outrageous!” “Iphigenia,” “Viva Italia!” and “The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser.”
This is the point in my post where I would normally tell a personal anecdote or two. But while he was somebody who was constantly in my thoughts throughout my early years in the business, I’m sad to say I never met the man. Not once. So let me reprint a letter that was written to the New York Times upon the occasion of Rugoff’s death in 1989, by Dan Talbot, someone who knew him well.
DONALD RUGOFF: In Memory of a “Wild Genius”
As an old colleague of Don Rugoff's, I'm compelled to write about him upon the occasion of his death last month. I was involved with Don from the time he started in our business in the early 1960's. He was, of course, impossible to make do with. As the head of the best group of theaters in Manhattan until 1979, he was in a position of great power and, given his spiky personality, he had the capacity to make people furious with him.
On the other hand, he was an uncommonly generous soul, without the foggiest notion of the normal uses of money. Don was a stand-in for the guy who stood on street corners throwing away $100 bills. One of the mad ones. Naturally, directors and producers loved him, thought of him as a wild genius. Relished his stew of unpredictability and showmanship. Once he staged a $35,000 champagne party for Dusan Makaveyev at the Plaza Hotel for the opening of Makaveyev's brilliant movie ''WR: Mysteries of the Organism.'' He liked doing things on the spur of the moment. ''Yeah, let's rent a boat tomorrow and stack it with flags announcing our new film. Call Glorious Foods. Get a steeplejack who'll climb up the sails. We'll circle Manhattan two times. Invite Norman Mailer and Andy Warhol.''
For you who have come to the city only in the past 10 years, I can tell you that you missed a Golden Age of cinema-going before Don lost control of his theaters in 1979. You cannot imagine how thrilling is was to stand on line at the Beekman, waiting to see the new Woody Allen movie. Virtually all Don's theaters played films on an exclusive basis, so that you had the sense of an event taking place at each theater.
Don visited his theaters daily. He would catch ushers picking their noses and yell at them, check the bathrooms, hold long conversations with the projectionist and the manager, scowl at the slightest mis-frame or sudden drop in the sound level.
And what wonderful theaters! He put together the team to build Cinema 1 and 2, model theaters of our time. He shoe-horned Cinema 3 into an impossible space in the Plaza Hotel, and it came out a beauty. Each theater had its own identity, separate and apart from the others, because Don liked to experiment with color, fabric, wall design, lighting, floor covering, bathroom fixtures, door handles, the box office.
For a number of years Don dropped put. Then, about a year ago I got a call from him from Martha's Vineyard. He was opening a film society in a cafe in Edgartown. Would I supply him with films? I never visited him in Edgartown but I have to believe that he did something special there, that he had made good purchase on his audience and treated it honorably. He booked tough films from us. He must have stood in the lobby discussing the films with his audience. He surely wouldn't allow popcorn in the theater. There were probably Jasper Johns and Milton Avery prints on the walls of the lobby. One could go on imagining all sorts of things. But the curtain's down and I shall miss Don. He was an original.
While I didn’t know Rugoff, some of the people who did have posted some comments, including Ira Deutchman, Fabiano Canosa, Don Krim, and Susan Pile. Check them out. If anybody else has something to share, please contribute.
Don Rugoff was a great man and a great New Yorker. Attention must be paid.
Sunday, February 06, 2011
“The King’s Speech” is the most recent example of what the Weinstein brothers have done countless times: produce or acquire a film that their instincts tell them has Oscar potential, and then vigorously promote it as if their life depended on it. Their connection to this particular film is only of the moment because they have done this so many times before and will no doubt do it many times in the future. Next year it will be on to the next one.
Trying like hell to get a bucketful of Oscars for movies like “The King’s Speech” is just what they do. It’s actually “The Social Network” that captures who they are.
In the summer of 1983, I noticed a brief item in Variety. A company called Miramax had picked up rights to a Brazilian film called “Eréndira,” based on a story by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, directed by Ruy Guerra, and starring Irene Papas, that was set for its US premiere at the New York Film Festival. I had never heard of the company, but the film seemed right up my alley: Marquez was one of my favorite novelists, I knew Ruy Guerra’s work, but most of all my profession to that date had been working with the kind of modest foreign art films that had their US debut every year at the New York Film Festival. I called them up right away and set up a meeting.
Ruy Guerra as Don Pedro de Ursua in Werner Herzog’s “Aguirre, the Wrath of God”
Their office was a small apartment in a residential building across the street from the Citibank on 56th and Broadway. Miramax turned out to be a secretary, Harvey Weinstein, Bob Weinstein, and Robert Newman (now a celebrated agent with clients like Martin Scorsese, Guillermo del Toro and Danny Boyle.) The Weinsteins had made some money producing rock concerts in Buffalo, but as longtime film fans, were moving into the film business, first with rock concert films like Paul McCartney’s “Rockshow,” and a horror film called “The Burning,” (the film debut of future Oscar winner Holly Hunter and “Seinfeld star Jason Alexander. But their biggest success was “The Secret Policeman’s Other Ball,” a concert film they had created by editing the rights to two films of Amnesty International benefit shows into one movie. “Eréndira” was to be their first venture into the foreign art film arena.
I’d been through this kind of publicity job endless times before. The Film Society of Lincoln Center would bring in Ruy Guerra and put him up at the Algonquin Hotel, where I’d set up interviews. The cost of his publicity schedule would be cab fare and some meals. After eleven years working in the New York art film business, that was all I knew. Everybody I worked with cut their costs to the bone, and I had no reason to believe that the Weinstein brothers would be any different.
Talk about being wrong.
There was nothing out of the ordinary at the start. Ruy Guerra and his nectarious blossom of a girlfriend, Claudia Ohana, who played Eréndira, came to town and I put a publicity schedule together. These stories would be held until the release the spring of the following year. But then, Harvey and Bob began a campaign to bring Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who was also a co-screenwriter into the country. Although Marquez had become a Nobel Laureate the year before, he was still painted as a Fidel-loving subversive by the US immigration services and denied visas. At first I thought this was just a publicity stunt, but I gradually realized that they were completely serious. It didn’t bother them one bit that so many powerful cultural organizations had failed to bring Marquez in—they were going to be the ones to do it. I ended up working on the film for almost a year and I don’t remember them ever giving up for a second.
This was different. I wasn’t aware of any major studio films that were willing to take on the US government in such a fiery, relentless way.
But that was nothing until I saw the poster. They had taken the Brazilian artwork, unbuttoned the top button of Eréndira’s blouse and added extra cleavage to Claudia Ohana’s chest. Cleavage! I died laughing. I had never seen anything so crass. Would art filmgoers want to see the film more if they believed that Claudia had slightly bigger breasts? And it seemed so off the mark as the essence of Claudia (and Eréndira’s) sensuality, emanated from her barely ripe sensuality. But then I thought about it and I realized that this was a truly erotic movie, and the Brazilian poster was sort of prim. It didn’t signal the pleasures the film offered as well as Miramax poster did. I had to give them credit. They were showmen, paying attention to every detail. Maybe it was cheesy, but who was I to say? Maybe it would help. (And significantly, every poster I can find on the web from other countries used the Miramax art.)
Claudia Ohana in “Eréndira”
In the spring, they brought in the internationally famous Greek actress Irene Papas (“Z,” “Zorba the Greek,” “The Trojan Women,” “The Guns of Navarone”) and the brothers set me to work all over again. Papas was a legend, and you couldn’t put her up at the Howard Johnson. You have to go first class in everything and I was astounded to see this kind of cash outlay for what most other distributors would consider a little film. Obviously she was on a whole other level than Ruy Guerra and I booked her everywhere-- newspapers, magazine, big TV shows, the whole works. Even during my brief stint at PMK I had never got coverage like this. The brothers also set up fancy parties. I got to meet Anthony Quinn! Their belief in the film was boundless.
Eventually Irene left town and I figured that was it for me, “Eréndira”-wise. Wrong again.
When the summer came, Harvey called me and said that Claudia Ohana was coming to New York to do a commercial photo shoot. Could I get her in Playboy? I could and I did. I also set up a lush schedule photo shoots with Claudia in lots of other places. Finally, I took Claudia to the airport and finally, finally, finally, I was done with “Eréndira.” With all the time I had spent on the film I figured I’d been paid less than a penny an hour.
Claudia’s Latin American Playboy Covers
I have no idea if Miramax made money on “Eréndira,” but it was beside the point as they had taught me a crucial lesson. These two outsiders came in and reinvented the entire business as I had known it. They weren’t trying to do it better than everybody else did; they didn’t give a damn about what anybody else did. They were looking straight up. As Christopher Lloyd’s character said in “Back to the Future”—“Roads! Where we’re going we don’t need roads!” The sky was not the limit for them because they didn’t consider the notion of there being a sky. Harvey had kicked my ass, made me work harder for less money than I ever had in my life, but he had made a real publicist out of me.
Don’t ever let ANYBODY ever tell you a film is small.
There are no small movies, only small imaginations.
There is no limit to the amount of passion and care you can put into a movie if you love it.
NEVER give up. There is never enough that you can do.
You want to know some of the business people who think this way? Looks at the world with no top? Steve Jobs. Rupert Murdoch. Bill Gates. Steven Spielberg. Michael Bloomberg. Mark Zuckerberg.
And when he’s on his game… Harvey Weinstein.
Hubris like this is very rare in business executives, but it is quite common with visionary artists. People often use the same kinds of words to describe people like this: uncompromising, arrogant, difficult, controlling, demanding, and sometimes… cruel. Something extra is inside these people and something is missing too. They’re probably born that way, lucky or cursed, and no doubt spurred by something chemical.
Like everybody else, I was fascinated to read the reports of Harvey’s bad behavior. I didn’t know that guy. The guy I knew was a charmer. When I ran into him (on the extremely rare occasions where he remembered who I was), he was always gracious. I only encountered the cruel Harvey second-hand, through the way some of the people who worked for him treated me. That wasn’t fun.
I was pretty good at my job before I worked with the Weinstein Brothers-- passionate, hard-working, and movie mad—but afterwards my outlook changed. It opened up. Shortly after “Eréndira,” I publicized “Stranger Than Paradise” and “Desperately Seeking Susan,” the biggest successes I had ever had after thirteen years in the business.
In the subsequent years I worked for many people who loathed the Weinstein brothers. I imagine it will make them furious if they happen to read these words of praise. But it’s a fact that when those companies hired me, they got a publicist who was schooled and inspired by Harvey and Bob Weinstein.
If they liked the results, then they owe him, whether they want to accept it or not.