His women were tens, his guns were .38s, and his collection of jewel-encrusted walking canes numbered in the hundreds. For nearly 50 years, Jay Bernstein was a Hollywood fixture, owning one of the most powerful PR firms in Hollywood, making stars of Farrah Fawcett and Suzanne Somers, and producing dozens of television films and series.
Future Hollywood insider Jay Bernstein was born outside – way outside – Tinseltown, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, on June 7, 1937. But Bernstein, helped by his pals the Rat Pack, eventually found his way from the mailrooms of Hollywood to owning a top agency that represented over 600 A-List stars in the ’60s and ’70s. Bernstein’s creative PR stunts made him as famous as his clients, such as paying women to throw hotel keys at Tom Jones and having Entertainment Tonight host Mary Hart’s legs insured by Lloyd’s of London for one million dollars.
Bernstein died, with Farrah Fawcett by his side, in 2006 after suffering a stroke. Starmaker is Bernstein’s own behind-the-scenes look at his life – the life of an outrageous Hollywood personality, and the stars who surrounded him. It is a true Hollywood memoir, written in Bernstein’s voice by his closest confidante Larry Cortez Hamm.
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About the Author
Jay Bernstein was one of the most famous publicists in Hollywood history, whose creative PR stunts made him almost as famous as his clients. Writer and Hollywood historian Larry Cortez Hamm was born and raised in Vernon, Texas. Hamm ghostwrote and sold dozens of books, screenplays, treatments, and newspaper and magazine articles. Buyers of Hamm’s written work included Walt Disney and Paramount Studios.
Read an Excerpt
Farrah was a model turned television actress turned celebrity star turned phenomenon. She was the festival’s biggest attraction since Brigitte Bardot in 1956. It took us three hours to get through the crowd at Nice. Then we motored to Cannes, where we drove through backstreets and alleys until we arrived at a small villa in a clump of villas in the hills above the town. Mel had taken care of everything, which included five security guards for Farrah.
I don’t remember the exact schedule–it was five days of hectic activity–but before we arrived in Cannes proper, we went to a party on Stavros Niarchos’s yacht. I had met Niarchos in Africa with Bill Holden and I would meet him a third time with Suzanne Somers. His yacht was spectacular, so big that a helicopter sitting on its pad looked like a speck. It was a floating hotel laden with art, including the famous Andy Warhol painting of Elvis Presley hanging over Stavros’s screening-room door. Unfortunately, Farrah became seasick.
With rare exception, I did not get involved romantically with clients. I had not lied to Charlotte Rampling, but Cannes was different. It was so romantic in the hills overlooking the city that I considered making a play for Farrah. We had our own little villa with a fireplace and candles flickering like fireflies in the night. As I watched her glide about, I could hardly keep myself at bay. At last, however, my head won out over my heart. I refrained from making a move because I wanted Farrah to continue thinking I was the smartest person alive. If I made a move and failed (and I’m sure I would have), I would be reduced in her eyes to a stupid dreamer.
Being at Cannes meant you had to attend a screening at the Palais des Festivals. We were told explicitly, “If Farrah doesn’t go to the Palais, we will never show a film of hers, ever.”
It was not an idle threat. An official said, “Raquel Welch didn’t go, and her films were thereafter barred.” It was tacit, but a law nevertheless. When you accept the invitation, you are expected to participate. We went to the Palais.
I don’t remember what was being screened; it made no difference. I should have realized something eventful was on the horizon from the elaborate planning that went into our traffic route. We changed cars four times, so we wouldn’t be followed.
We drove first to the Carlton Hotel, where Mel’s people had reserved a suite of rooms. While Farrah was getting ready, I went to the casino to rid myself of some money. As I was returning to Farrah’s suite, I ran into Robin Leach and invited him to join us.
The invitation was a mistake. When Farrah saw Robin, she picked up the only handy item (a banana, fortunately) and threw it. Bingo! She hit him in the forehead. Then she began to curse him for a story he had written in the Star . The incident presaged a night of horrors.
Finally we went to the theater. Thousands were waiting on the sidewalk and street in front of the Palais. José Eber, Farrah’s hairdresser, was with us. He was so intimidated that he wouldn’t get out of the limousine: “It’s too dangerous!”
I looked at Farrah. Fear was written on her face too. But we had to make an appearance, so I edged the door open. The crowd fell back, and I helped Farrah out. We took only two steps before the crowd swarmed us like bees at a hive. Frantic, Farrah turned back to the limousine. “Oh, my God!” she cried. “It’s gone!”
It wasn’t. The throng that encircled us camouflaged it. We had been promised police protection, but the cops seemed scant. In fact, the entire Cannes force was on duty, all seventy-eight of them! The horde was simply too great for the meager force to contain, although they tried gallantly.
We edged toward the theater like snails. Somehow the police formed a cordon around us. Behind them were the paparazzi, and behind the photographers were the fans, thousands from around the globe, pressing toward us. When we reached the steps leading up to the theater, I thought we were home free. Then it happened. The crowd surged, the paparazzi fell forward, and the police line broke. Tiers of people began to fall upon each other, pushed by the weight of the crowd behind them. A vise was closing. I tried to shield Farrah with my body, and was hit in the head by a camera. It was scary, like a scene from The Day of the Locust .
At last the cops managed to form a line in front of us and a line behind us, moving us inch by inch until we reached an elevator. The door opened and they shoved us in. We stayed caged until they cleared the gallery of spectators from the actual theater entrance; then they came for us and escorted us into the lobby of the Palais.
During the screening I made arrangements for us to exit the theater through a back door. For once the festival officials didn’t stick to protocol. They agreed, and we had a heavy police escort back to the Carlton.
The next day a police captain came to see me. “Please, we hope you won’t say anything about the incident last night,” he said.
I had no intention of saying anything, but I was surprised to be sought out, considering that hundreds of journalists and photographers had been present. It turned out that several people had been crushed and killed. “If it gets out,” said the policeman, “no one will want to come to Cannes.”
Table of Contents
A Note to the Reader
1. Introduction to the Hollywood Jungle
2. From the Mailroom to the Bedroom
3. The Rat Pack
4. Sinatra the Terrible
5. Preparing for Battle
6. Every Soldier, Every Sailor
7. Jay Bernstein Public Relations
8. Motown, Sammy and Black Hollywood
9. Spin-Doctor Medicine
10. Farrah-mania and Charlie's Angels
11. Super Suzanne Somers and Three's Company
13. Demons and Angels on Trial
14. Super Starlets ; Farrah and Suzanne
15. Mickey Spillane and Mike Hammer
16. Angels Can't be Centerfolds
17. Getting Sunburn
18. Creative Con-Artists
19. The Royal Treatment
21. Fired by Farrah
22. Three's Not Company
23. Hollywood Hell
24. Spelling Relief for Captain Kirk
25. Hirings and Firings
26. Hammer Time
27. Men of the Year
28. Saving Stacy
29. Hollywood Hart Ache
Afterword by Larry Cortez Hamm