Praises for Publicists and a Lifetime Achievement for Kirk Douglas

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Photo by Margie Barron

Universal’s Ron Meyer and legend Kirk Douglas.

It’s publicity that has made Hollywood world famous. And publicists work hard to shine the spotlight on their movie and TV projects, or other clients. But once a year the public relations and marketing professionals get a chance to enjoy some of the limelight at their annual awards ceremony.

A couple of days before the Oscars the 50th Annual Publicists Awards luncheon was presented by their guild, Cinematographers IATSE Local 600, at the Beverly Hilton. In addition to honoring their own, the packed ballroom was filled with publicists, producers, studio chiefs, network executives, celebrities, and press who came to see Kirk Douglas, 96, receive the Lifetime Achievement Award. Sally Field and Robert Downey Jr. were also there as surprise guests making presentations and telling funny stories.

But the highlight of the event was Ron Meyer, president and COO of Universal Studios, paying tribute to the iconic star, going through a litany of Kirk Douglas’ film credits — a total of 87, and almost everyone a classic. Equally impressive was hearing about the Douglas Foundation and the worthwhile causes it has helped. Kirk reported, “You don’t know how to live until you know how to give.”

Kirk told everyone about his great affection for publicists because that’s how he met his wife Anne on the set of a movie he was shooting in Germany, “and we’ve been married 60 years.” Kirk also gave a shout-out to legendary publicist Julian Myers who was celebrating his 95th birthday at the luncheon. Kirk said, “Ah, to be 95 again.”

Also noteworthy was Steven Poster, the president of the International Cinematographers Guild, praising Henri Bollinger, head of the awards committee, and pointing out that Henri has attended every Publicists Awards for all 50 years. There was thunderous applause for Bollinger, a cornerstone of the Publicists organization. Poster also welcomed IATSE president Matt Loeb who flew in for the special occasion.

Awards to the publicists were well deserved. The coveted Les Mason Award went to Heidi Schaeffer, who was praised by her longtime client Sally Field, an Oscar nominee for Lincoln. Sally joked that she was thrilled to present the award and give a speech “because I’ve written a lot of speeches lately but haven’t had the chance to give them.” Heidi gave a moving speech of her own, commenting on how working with the press has changed and how her clients have become her friends.

Robert Downey Jr. surprised everyone when he walked on stage to present the Motion Picture Showman of the Year Award to Kevin Feige. The president of production at Marvel Studios, Feige was praised for making The Avengers last year co-starring Downey, and the other superhero films from Marvel, including Ironman, also with Downey. No wonder Downey said he started Feige’s fan club. Revealing his successful game plan for the studio, Feige revealed that he asks himself “What does the audience want?”

The Television Showmanship Award went to the co-presidents of USA Network, Chris McCumber and Jeff Wachtel, presented to them by Matt Bomer of Covert Affairs and Piper Perabo of White Collar, both successful shows for the network.

The Maxwell Weinberg Award for Best Publicity Campaign for a Motion Picture went to the publicity team from Warner Bros. for Argo. Accepting the award for her team, Warner Bros.’ Juli Goodwin joked that Argo’s publicity campaign lasted longer than the Iranian hostage crisis. The honor was presented by Chi McBride, from the new CBS series Golden Boy. McBride also handed out the Maxwell Weinberg Television Campaign Award to the publicists working on Showtime’s Homeland. Robert Knepper, from the CW series Cult, presented the Television Still Photography Award to Suzanne Tenner Excellence, and Jaimie Trueblood was honored for Motion Picture Still Photography.

In recognition of service to others the Bob Yeager Award went to Linda Weitzler who belongs to the Volunteer League. She helps needy children, the Fulfillment Fund, and is part of a choir that performs at nursing homes, among her other nonprofit efforts.

Comic Theo Von, from Yahoo’s Prime Time in No Time, was the emcee for the luncheon. And always a great guy, Corbin Bernsen, of L.A. Law fame and USA’s current hit Psych, gave the Press Award to Deadline Hollywood’s Pete Hammond, who thanked everyone for giving him an award “for writing about awards.”

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