An Oscar pre-show: Publicists Awards salutes the good folks who put the stars in the spotlight and honors publicist Henri Bollinger

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A grand tradition before the Oscars is to acknowledge the semi-invisible behind-the-scenes army of publicists who make sure all the movies and stars capture the media’s attention.

They are the folks who turn their celebrity clients, productions, and events into news-worthy topics for various media platforms. Yet for all they do, the publicity professionals only get the spotlight once a year at a luncheon that salutes their exceptional work.

…a Henri Bollinger Memorial Scholarship has been established at UCLA Extension where he taught.

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

If you saw Crazy Rich Asians because you read stories about it or saw the “Crazy” cast on the talk show 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 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, prolific writer, director and producer, received the Television Showman of the Year Award. Berlanti’s company has made television history with a total of 15 diversity-infused scripted series currently in production (including Supergirl).

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 coveted 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 got the Press Award. And the late Paul Bloch, co-chairman of Rogers & Cowan, was honored.

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 lots of blockbusters including True Lies and the Halloween franchise. Her 2018 Halloween film set records for the top opening movie for an actress over 50, “and there will be more,” she insisted.

Curtis, 60, 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. It is a dance 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.”

Also, a Henri Bollinger Memorial Scholarship has been established at UCLA Extension where he taught. It will help students of strategic branding and public relations, and 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 is a member of the Television Critics Association and has written for a variety of top publications for more than 38 years, and was half of the husband and wife writing team of Margie and Frank Barron.

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