Publicists Awards celebrate the professionals who put the stars in the spotlight

 Hollywood publicists are the semi-invisible behind-the-scenes army of professionals who make sure all the movies and stars capture the media’s attention. Prior to the Oscars, they gathered to celebrate their exceptional work. And the cast and creative team of “Crazy Rich Asians” were there to  cheer.

Filmmaker Jon M. Chu was presented the Motion Picture Showman of the Year Award by his “Crazy Rich Asians” stars Michelle Yeoh (left) and Constance Wu (right). [photos courtesy of the Publicists Awards]

 The publicity folks turn their celebrity clients, productions, products and events into news-worthy topics for the various media platforms. Yet for all they do, they only get the spotlight once a year at a luncheon the Friday before the Academy Awards are handed out.

 Part of the International Cinematographers Guild (Local 600), the publicists held their 56th Annual ICG Publicists Awards on February 22, at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. The awards luncheon was effortlessly emceed by funnyman/director Dennis Dugan (Happy Gilmore, Grown Ups).

If you saw Crazy Rich Asians because you read stories about it or saw the “Crazy” cast in the news and talkshow circuit, you can thank the Warner Bros. Pictures publicity department. They won top honors with the Max Weinberg Showmanship Award for “Best Publicity Campaign for Motion Pictures.” Also, filmmaker Jon M. Chu was presented the Motion Picture Showman of the Year Award by his stars Constance Wu and Michelle Yeoh. All were happy to hear Chu would be back at the helm of a sequel.

 Chu’s happy Chinese parents were on hand to hear their son thank them for teaching him the importance of “showing” his culture and not hiding it. When he was in grade school his parents had a Chinese New Year party with lion dancers, fortune cookies, etc. “I was surprised, my classmates loved it and accepted me for who I am,” Chu said. “The film Crazy Rich Asians does that too. It shows another culture, food, country and celebrates it to the fullest.”

Greg Berlanti, Steven Poster, Penn Badgley

 Also living life to the fullest, Greg Berlanti, prolific writer, director and producer, received the Television Showman of the Year Award, presented by actor Penn Badgley (You). Berlanti’s company has made television history with a total of 15 diversity-infused scripted series currently in production including Flash, Arrow and Supergirl. Berlanti credits his mom as his first publicist. “When I was starting out she would go around town buying up the papers and magazines from newsstands so others wouldn’t see the negative reviews.”

 Among other winners, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert got the Showmanship Television Award, credited to publicist Ryan Aguirre and CBS Television Studios. The honor was presented by Anna Paquin who plays a PR maven on the new Pop TV series Flack. The highest publicists honor, the Les Mason Award went to Unit Publicist Ernie Malik, presented by Clark Gregg (Captain Marvel). The International Media Award went to Jami Philbrick, from Mtime, China, presented by Bohemian Rhapsody’s stars Ben Hardy, Gwilym Lee and Joseph Mazzello. Still Photography honors went to Murray Close (Motion Pictures) and Macall Polay (Television). Kirsten Anderson received the Bob Yeager Award for Community Service. Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times was honored with The Press Award, presented by actress Amy Seimetz (Pet Sematary). And the late Paul Bloch, co-chairman of Rogers & Cowan, was honored.

Jamie Lee Curtis

  The Lifetime Achievement award was given to Jamie Lee Curtis, presented by producer Jason Blum (Blakkklansman, Halloween). Curtis began her career on TV in 1977 and went on to do many blockbusters including True Lies and the Halloween franchise. Her 2018 Halloween film set records for the top-opening movie for an actress over 50. At 60, she looked dynamite doing it, “and there will be more,” she promised.

 Curtis acknowledged her one and only publicist Heidi Schaeffer, and rallied the crowd when she stated, “I believe in the freedom of the press. I believe that you actually have the right to ask me whatever question you want to ask me. It is a dance, as you all know, that I’ve been doing for a very long time. I can’t do what I do without you, and you can’t do what you do, without me. This is the game, this is how it’s played, and I am proud to play it with you.”

 The awards opened with chairs Tim Menke and Sheryl Main, and IGC president Steven Poster raising a toast to Henri Bollinger, the five term president of the Publicists Guild and chairman of the awards for 37 years. Bollinger passed away in August at age 89, but among his many legacies will be the new ICG Publicists Henri Bollinger Award. An emotional Poster gave the inaugural award “recognizing a person who epitomizes the definition of special merit” to Henri’s wife Sandy and their sons Jeffrey and Jeremy. Sandy told the room full of Bollinger’s admirers, “You’ve more than proved that family takes care of family.”

Tim Menke, Sandy Bollinger, Henri Bollinger (insert)

 Sandy was proud to tell this reporter that the Henri Bollinger Memorial Scholarship has been established at UCLA Extension. It will help students of strategic branding and public relations, and offer teachings that emphasize learning by doing combined with the best PR practices.

 Menke praised, “Henri has set the bar for professionalism, creativity and integrity, and has made service to the larger community a part of his second nature. His legacy will continue.”

Margie Barron has written for a wide variety of outlets including Gannett newspapers, Nickelodeon, Tiger Beat and 16 Magazine, Fresh!, Senior Life, Production Update, airline magazines, etc. Margie is also proud to have been half of the husband & wife writing team Frank & Margie Barron, who had written together for various entertainment and travel publications for more than 38 years.