From tales of working with Jay Leno backstage at The Tonight Show while the host was in his underwear to scraping bubblegum from Lassie’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame moments before a major media event to smoking a joint in silence in Central Park with actress Jill Clayburgh, Dan Harary tells all in Flirting With Fame: A Hollywood Publicist Recalls 50 Years of Close Encounters.
In the book, Harary shares hundreds of stories of tinsel town interactions between 1972 and 2022, starting at age 15. He’s had “close encounters” with celebrities from the fields of film, TV, rock and pop music, and pop culture, as well as a few of the world’s biggest porn stars, and two Apollo astronauts who walked on the moon.
Born and raised in Ocean Township, New Jersey, Harary started in 1972 when he began working with celebrities during his time as the stage manager and lighting director at The Sunshine Inn concert hall in Asbury Park. His first memorable encounter was with Woodstock singer Richie Havens on March 24, 1972. The next year at the Sunshine Inn, Harary worked with Bruce Springsteen and an early incarnation of the E-Street Band, two years before Bruce’s release of Born To Run. He continued to work there alongside KISS, Fleetwood Mac, Humble Pie, the J. Geils Band, Deep Purple, King Crimson, Edgar Winter, Mott the Hoople, Focus, and Procol Harum.
He moved west in 1980 and went on to toil as a publicist at The American Film Institute and Columbia Pictures Television, where he crossed paths with Micky Dolenz, Arsenio Hall, Jim Henson, Richard Dreyfus, Clint Eastwood, and Madonna, to name a few. In 1996, Harary launched his own company, The Asbury PR Agency which celebrated its 25th anniversary last year, in Beverly Hills.
There was the time he urinated side-by-side with Sylvester Stallone, director Robert Wise, Jerry Springer, Tobey Maguire, and Ryan Phillipe, and the day he accidentally caught actress Karen Black naked after a shower. He recalls his time as a publicist for Playboy, when watching naked playmates frolic in the backyard of the mansion while working with Hugh Hefner was just part of the job. Oh yeah, and the time he pissed off Sally Field, Harvey Keitel, and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
When Harary began his career, fax machines had not yet been invented. So, in those days, if a publicist had an important press release, he only had three options—snail mail it to a media writer, messenger it, or read it over the phone. He incorporated all of those means until fax machines came along around 1987. Then, once those new inventions came in, agents would stand in lines to wait their turns to fax multi-page press releases to media outlets. The process could take hours. Photos still had to be messengered. Then technology changed everything. “Once email came along, around 1995, and fast, hi-speed internet connections several years later, the chore of disseminating press releases and photos became incredibly efficient and instantaneous,” Harary told me. “Prior to digital, I used to sit on the floor for hours, stuffing color slides into plastic slide sleeves, so as to get the proper imagery to journalists that would accompany the written press releases.”
Harary says that young publicists who are now just beginning their careers in the entertainment industry think doing social media is doing public relations. While social is one aspect of handling PR these days, it’s also not a challenge to run your news on social channels, because you are in total control of that content,” he says. “I tell young publicists today, trying to get your client into the New York Times or People magazine is a lot harder than just tweeting some news that takes four minutes. Old-school PR is still viable, and while at 66, I feel like something of a dinosaur, I’m still actively handling public relations in the tried-and-true personal fashion, for a variety of entertainment industry clients, including the Musso & Frank Restaurant.”
Flirting With Fame is now available on Amazon.
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