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