'Social Network,' 'Big Bang Theory' Publicists Win Top Honors

Jennifer Allen of Viewpoint won the Les Mason Award and the Press Award went to Geoff Boucher of the Los Angeles Times.

Publicity campaigns for the Sony Pictures Entertainment release The Social Network and the Warner Bros. TV/CBS program The Big Bang Theory won the top  honors for showmanship at the 48th Annual Publicists Guild Awards.

“Working on pictures like Social Network is why we get into this business,” said Sony’s executive vp of publicity Andre Caraco in accepting the Maxwell Weinberg Publicist Showmanship Award for motion pictures released last year. 

Caraco thanked everyone at the studio and everyone on his team for their efforts, especially his assistant: “Thanks so much for making sure I got lunch between conference calls with (Social Network producer) Scott Rudin.”

In accepting the Weinberg Showmanship TV award, the publicist for Warner Bros. thanked executive producers Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady. It was the only mention of Lorre who has been in the news as exec producer of Two and a Half Men as well.

Surprisingly, perhaps mercifully, there was no mention of his star Charlie Sheen during the luncheon.

The Les Mason Award, which honors the lifetime achievement of a publicist, was presented to Jennifer Allen of Viewpoint by actress Michelle Monaghan and actor Matt Damon, who came onstage at the Beverly Hilton in his bathrobe, pajamas and slippers, explaining he had been up all night working.

Allen was clearly flattered but said it wasn’t her nature to take the spotlight. “As a publicist I’ve always strived to remain in the background,” she said, citing as her mentors former employers Pat Kingsley and Nancy Ryder.

The International Media Award was a tie between Jose Ignacio Cuenca, who writes for publications in Spain, and Stevie Wong,  whose work appears in Asia. Only Cuenca spoke. Among many he thanks was his “one eyed rescue cat” who is with him when he works.

The winner for Excellence in Unit Still Photography, Motion Pictures, was Stephen Vaughan. In TV, the winner was Danny Feld.

The Press Award, which goes to a journalist who covers the industry, was presented by Jacqueline Bisset to Geoff Boucher of the Los Angeles Times. “Right now we live in a culture of insults,” said Boucher. “I’m proud to work at a place that is a culture of insight.”

The Bob Yeager Award, which recognizes a publicist who has been involved in community service (and is not announced in advance) was presented to Rosalind Jarrett, who is the executive in charge of publicity for the Screen Actors Guild Awards. Jarrett was cited for her work as a Triathlon athlete and for encouraging others and helping raise money and awareness for charity through her late in life conversion to being an athlete.

There were a number of tributes as well. Henri Bollinger, longtime head of the Publicists Guild, recited the names of publicists who have passed away in the last year, and then introduced publicist Vivian Mayer Siskind, who paid a special tribute to her late friend and fellow publicist Ronni Chasen.

The tables were then turned on Bollinger, who was surprised with a special award presented to him by Steven Poster, president of the International Cinematographers Guild, under which the publicist’s guild operates. He cited Bollinger for 30 years of service as head of the group.

Poster also paid tribute to veteran publicist Murray Weissman, to whom the annual Publicist Directory was dedicated this year. He noted Weissman has been a member of the guild for 55 years.

Weissman, who said he was 85 years old and still actively working in his field, told the audience he is often asked why he doesn’t retire. His answer: “Because this work is so damn much fun.”

Weissman’s advice to his fellow publicist was to never lie to the press and to remember that two martinis at lunch are good but three are bad.

Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was brought to the stage to present a lifetime achievement award to Sylvester Stallone with the announcement he was returning to show business.

Schwarzenegger said he loves publicists, and noted he got an award from the same group eight years earlier, not long before he left Hollywood for politics and Sacramento.

Schwarzenegger said that he and Stallone had come up in movies about the same time and frequently competed to see who could make more and bigger pictures, and who could wield the biggest guns on screen.

After noting Stallone has been in 35 movies that have grossed over $2 billion, and that he is just back from exhibiting his paintings in Europe, Schwarzenegger paid tribute to his friend for being one of the first and among the few actors in Hollywood who stepped up to help him when he made his run for Governor the first time.

Stallone paid tribute to his longtime publicist Paul Bloch of Rogers & Cowan, and noted he was a close friend of the late Ronni Chasen.

He said he had learned to appreciate the efforts of publicists, especially now that he is a “has been” as an actor.

“I know they are out there working a hell of a lot harder than I am,” said Stallone, “to make us look better than we deserve.”

John Lasseter, Chief Creative Officer of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios and principal creative advisor of the Walt Disney Imagineering was honored with the Motion Picture Showmanship Award, presented by actress Bonnie Hunt, who was a voice actor in the movie Cars and is in the upcoming Cars sequel due in June.

Hunt said it must be a relief to publicists who work with Lasseter knowing that “you are publicizing something you really can be proud of.”

Lasseter, dressed as usual in jeans and a Hawaiian shirt, told the story of seeing a little boy in an airport shortly after the first Toy Story came out who was holding a licensed Woody doll from the movie. He said he made movies to “touch the hearts and souls of that little boy” as well as teenagers and everyone else.

He said his goal has always been to make movies that parents as well as children can enjoy and enjoy as the kids watch them over and over.

“Many times the publicists I’ve worked with have saved my butt,” said Lasseter.

The Television showmen of the Year Award was presented by executive producers Steve Levitan (Modern Family) and Ryan Murphy (Glee) to Gary Newman and Dana Walden, Chairmen of 20th Century Fox Television.

Murphy said they told him to “do what inspires you, tell a story as no one else has.”

Levitan praised them for being enthusiastic supporters both in success and failure, and then introduced the pair as “the JZ and Beyonce of studio executives.”

Walden noted she started her career as a publicist saying “it was the hardest job I’ve ever had but also one of the best.”

She said being a publicist gave her an incredible education.

Newman noted he started out an attorney and business affairs executive who was often a publicists “worst enemy.”

He said doing his current job his eyes have been opened “to the importance of your work. Newman also said the real credit for being showmen should go to Murphy, Levitan and other show creators and show runners he works with. “I just happen to be the guy in the position to champion their genius,” said Newman.

The hosts for the program were Entertainment Tonight anchors Mark Steines and Kevin Frazier. They were introduced as part of a tribute to the entertainment news show, which will celebrate its 30th year on the air this summer, as well as Mary Hart, who is about to retire from the show.