We Hate You! The Year's Most Despised Celeb Brands So Far

Spinning the Unspinnable: Sorry, Flacks, but in the Blog Age, Nobody Really 'Controls' Images Anymore

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Remember when celebrity publicists were all-powerful? When the likes of Pat Kingsley, the founder of PMK (which McCann Erikson snatched up in 1999, later crossbreeding it with another agency to produce PMK/HBH), could spin the media to gain favorable coverage for clients? Kingsley was "Dr. No," the über-flack who figured out that she had the power to bully the press into submission, demanding magazine covers and writer approval, because for awhile she seemed to hold all the cards: access to some of the most bankable names in Hollywood, most notably Tom Cruise. If you weren't nice to all of her clients, you weren't going to get any of them.

Power outage: Former uber-flack Pat Kingsley got out just in time.
Power outage: Former uber-flack Pat Kingsley got out just in time. Credit: Adam Nemser
It's all over -- and not just because Kingsley, 76, announced last month that she was leaving PMK/HBH, though she's still hanging on to a few old favorite clients, including Will Smith.

Until recently, our collective experience with the contemporary narrative arc of celebrity had us believing that the old Fitzgerald saying -- there are no second acts in American life -- had been roundly disproved. From Kate Moss's post-drug-pic career boost to Mickey Rourke's comeback to VH1's "Celebrity Rehab," we tend to think that even the most downtrodden celebrities will inevitably get a second (and third and forth ...) chance to redeem themselves and get warmly embraced, once again, by fans. But lately, we've seen a number of celebrities do major damage to their brands in ways that seem irredeemable -- that no degree of publicist-driven spin can reverse.

Part of it may be that the celebrity sins we've been witnessing lately are simply more grave. But it's really more about the fact that nobody "controls" celebrity brands anymore -- except the twittering, blogging, chattering public.

Who, lately, has reached the point of no return? My shortlist:

1. Chris Brown
Alleged girlfriend beater. Apologizes, sort of, in the pussy-est possible way, saying, "I am seeking the counseling of my pastor, my mother and other loved ones and I am committed, with God's help, to emerging a better person." Good luck with that, buddy. I'm sure God is real happy that you hired Paris Hilton's publicist to help rehab your image.

2. Bernard Madoff
A Wall Street celebrity -- Wall Street royalty -- who managed to disappear $50 billion ... and all he's got to show for it is Graydon Carter's haircut!

3. Christian Bale
Rage-o-holic verbally assaults the director of photography on the set of "The Terminator" in a leaked audiotape: "Seriously, man we're fucking done professionally." Yes. Yes, we are. Hell, Bale even made Peter "Family Guy" Griffin cry! (Link NSFW).

4. Alex Rodriguez
Last week, Rodriguez pulled out the old me-and-my-stupid-cousin-didn't-really-know-we-wuz-doing-steroids excuse. Oh, smoooooth. Even Obama got pissed about A-Roid -- and he never gets mad.

5. Rod Blagojevich
As much for The Hair as the bribe-mongering.

Bonus round: The bankers
If you weren't scammed by Bernard Madoff, you've definitely been scammed by the jet-setting, office-decorating, bonus-guzzling geniuses who (still!) run America's mostly insolvent banking system. They really were celebrities in their own minds -- and roughly up until mid-2008, let's not forget, America's business media treated them as such, with hagiographical chronicles of their "visionary leadership." Anyway, their collective, pathetic congressional testimony a few weeks back sealed the deal: We will always hate you.

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Who'd I miss? E-mail me or leave a comment below. I'll quote from the responses in a future Media Guy.

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