Tag Archives: richard johnson

Gave a Kid a Break

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul fondly recalls PageSix Richard Johnson’s role in his early career.

News broke yesterday that Richard Johnson, the cheeky editor of legendary gossip column PageSix for the past 25 years, is loading up his truck and heading to Beverly—Hills that is.  While many have been reluctantly caught in his inky crosshairs over the years, I have a fondness for Richard—he gave this young flack a break when I was struggling to climb the ladder of celebrity publicity.  Thanks to him, I’ve ended up as a Bold Faced Name in the column on at least three occasions—a mark of pride in the Big Apple.  Back in February, I sent him a copy of Alphabet City and marked the stories of our encounters.  He immediately contacted me to thank me for portraying him and PageSix in such a nice light, and ran a slightly sensationalized excerpt about Tyra Banks the next day that spun out-of-control across the Internet gossip land.  Even in this day and age of online celebrity rumor mills, PageSix—and Richard Johnson—set the pace for coverage.  Best of luck in the land of swimming pools and movie stars.

Here’s an excerpt from Alphabet City’s Episode 4: And Nothing But the Truth

For a few months now, I had been struggling to master the duties required to be a junior celebrity publicist.  Other than a brief and almost disastrous encounter with Whoopi, so far my primary job had been escorting the firms C-list clients to be the third guest on NY-filmed TV talk shows like Rosie.  These clients usually played the sitcom’s whacky next-door neighbor but had a dramatic movie-of-the-week to promote.  As a favor to the firm’s heavy-hitter publicists who promised to deliver their headliners, talent bookers slotted in our low-wattage names in the last few minutes of a show.

Each week, my responsibilities were explained long distance by my boss, BusyB—think blonde highlights of Ryan Seacrest with the easy attitude of Neil Patrick Harris.  He was Greasy’s partner in the firm, headed up the celebrity division, and had a reputation as the nicest and busiest entertainment publicist in the business.  BusyB was responsible for teaching me the public relations two-step dance I call “Spin and Cover.”

First, I mastered the art of spin.  A few days after my job interview-date with Greasy, BusyB called with my first assignment—a very important daily mission involving Liza Minnelli.  By 7am, I was to read all the daily gossip columns, cut out and paste up any that mention Liza, and fax them to her manager, assistant and head publicist by 7:30am.  No earlier or later.

Liza’s entourage seemed awfully high maintenance, but that was fine by me.  As cliché as it is for a gay boy, I have been completely devoted to Liza ever since I was six years old and my father took the family to The Venetian Room at Dallas’ fading Fairmont Hotel for a live performance by the diva.  It was the waning days of 70’s hotel cabaret but I dressed as if it were the second coming.

For weeks, I pranced around the living room with a top hat and cane found in my stash of dress up clothes singing along to the cassette recording of Cabaret.  I was perfecting a heart-wrenching rendition of “Maybe This Time.”  At Liza’s performance, I quietly mouthed the words as I sat enraptured by her every word, note, gesture and sequin.

Twenty years later, and I couldn’t believe my good fortune to be traveling in her orbit.  Which is why I was so unnerved when after a few weeks of successful gossip column faxing, BusyB assigned me a more critical Liza task.

“I need you to call Richard Johnson at PageSix and deny that Liza is back in rehab,” he said.

“Richard?  He’s the most powerful columnist around.  I’ve never spoken to him.  Why me?”

“Because I’ve spoken to him a million times.  He won’t believe me.”

“But I wouldn’t even know what to say.”

“Anything.  Make something up. Like she’s going into the hospital to have a procedure.  Her knee or hip drained, something like that.  It’s called spin.”

Spin sounded an awful like lying to me.  Didn’t Greasy say something about my integrity landing me the job?  With no other options, I called Richard, but he wasn’t buying what I was selling.

“You’re honestly expecting me to believe some junior flack telling me that Liza is having her knee or hip drained?”

I paused, and then just tried to be as honest as I could.

“I know, but give a kid a break.  I’m in over my head here, and my boss is telling me I have to feed you this story.”

I could hear Richard typing away on his keyboard.

“That’s the most honest thing I’ve heard all week,” he said.

Next day, PageSix ran with the Liza-back-in-rehab story.  But Richard included at the end of the piece an obscure line about Liza’s reps claiming she was having a medical procedure.  I was heralded a hero in the LA office.  Greasy had told me the key to this business was keeping my integrity in tact, and surprisingly that is what charmed the most important gossip columnist.

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Trouble in Tyra-dise

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul develops intestinal distress watching his Tyra “revelations”spread like Internet wildfire.

In true Texas tradition, yesterday featured the Good, the Bad and The Ugly.

this pic gets cropped to an iPhone wallpaper!

The GoodVery Good.  Thanks to my interview with fellow Texan blogger Jamie of FromMe-ToYou.Tumblr.Com, this blog had its highest traffic day ever—by almost triple the next nearest one!  There’s something special about that Jamie, her photography and her followers—and I’m delighted they tumblr’d through here.  Ya’ll come back now, ya here?  And ABCitizens, hope you head over to FromMe-ToYou as Jamie morphed me into iPhone wallpaper!

The Bad.  My excitement over Alphabet City: My So-Called Sitcom Life being plugged by Richard Johnson in PageSix quickly turned to shock as I watched the blurb spread across the Internet.  If you’ve read the book, you’ll remember that Richard gave me a break when I was a young, struggling publicist—and when he read the passages about PageSix he reached out to me immediately again and said he’d like to do something.  What he chose about the lessons I learned from Tyra—including Olestra causing intestinal distress was only slightly out-of-context sensational—but again, if you’ve read the book, sort of funny.

Back in PageSix!

Unfortunately, like a game of telephone, each celebrity blogger picked up the PageSix story and reblogged it with their own twist.  I quickly became demonized as some kind of bitter ex-publicist with an axe to grind who had written a “tell-all” book.  Really?  And not just in the US, but around the world.  What’s up with all the gossip sites in India?  And I don’t even want to know what those German bloggers are saying.  Stateside,  Jeannie Jones from a radio station in DC started off her fuming post calling me some “jerk ex-publicist”:

“You know you’ve reached the bottom of the barrel when you decide to expose a celebrity’s intestinal issues in order to sell your book.  According to the NY Post, Tyra’s ex-publicist, Jon Paul Buchmeyer is exposing trivial tid-bits about the model-mogul’s life in order to advance his book sales.”

Wait a minute?  That’s what the Post said?  That I’m “leaking” out info to improve book sales?  Here’s the thing Jeannie and fellow gossipmongers, how about doing some actual reporting by contacting me, get another interesting and useful side of the story?  It’s not too hard—Google my name and you can pretty much be connected to me and the blog instantaneously. Read some sample chapters here about Tyra, see how nice they are!  Better yet, how about asking for a copy of the book?   Kudos to Rob Shuter at Popeater and Melissa Cronin at Star magazine for figuring that out and requesting to actually read the book before reporting.  Shout out to Jezebel for keeping it light as well—adding one of my all time favorite celebrity tabloid lines, “supermodels are just like us!”

I’ll also give some credit to FOX News National they actually went to the blog picked up more tidbits—and switched the story so that Tyra warns ME about fans brandishing teddy bears at book signings.  See how this game of telephone works.  Who cares right, as long as they spell my name right?  Except for some reason, the reporter began spelling my name wrong half way through the posting.  Oh well, at least they linked to my blog.

The Ugly.  What really became a hard to swallow were all the comments people began leaving on the blog posts.  Even further removed from the source—they haven’t read the book or even the original post—they feel compelled to attack me.  One reader on NYMagazine’s blog said I needed to have “my mouth taped shut” and another critiqued my public relations strategy.

None of this should surprise me, really.  After all, I’m a trained publicist and should know how quickly things “spin” out of control.  But the industry has changed dramatically since I stepped my naïve toes into the waters of celebrity publicity.  The Internet was just dawning—I had to clip stories out of the paper by hand.  Today, it was horrifying watching the speed at which my own participation in the gossip beast morphed into something ugly.  To my celebrity publicist friends I take my hat off to you, because your job today is much more complicated and stressful than was my brief time with wonderful folks like Tyra, Whoopi, Teri, Ashley and so many more.

To calm myself down after reading all the blogs and comments, I asked myself, “What would Mary do?”  After all, my TV guardian icon has guided me through some sticky situations.  Sure, she came unglued when her reputation was called into question.  But usually, she’d discuss the situation with Rhoda who would tell her to take it all in stride.  My own Rhoda, Susan, did exactly that.

“What do you care?  Shake it off.  As long as they spell your name right kid!” Susan teased.

In the end, things always worked out for Mary.  And she always had on a cute outfit when they did.  Sounds like I have some shopping to do.

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Bold Face Name (Again)

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul lands in PageSix gossip column (again) thanks to revelations about a supermodel.  Guest star: Tyra Banks (sort of).

Readers of Alphabet City: My So-Called Sitcom life might remember that in Episode 4 the famous gossip columnist Richard Johnson gave me a break when I was a struggling junior publicist for Liza.

Back in PageSix!

Then years later, in Episode 11, I became a bold face name myself in PageSix after an incident involving model Mark Vanderloo at Condé Nast Traveler’s first Hot List party.  Well today, thanks again to Richard and another supermodel media mogul Tyra Banks, I have been re-confirmed as gossip column worthy.  At least this time, I really didn’t have to say anything snarky.  From today’s New York Post PageSix:

Teddy Terrors

Jon Paul Buchmeyer learned plenty from Tyra Banks when he worked as her publicist during her book tour for “Inside Out.” “Chips with the fat substitute Olestra cause Tyra to have intestinal distress,” he writes in his memoir, “Alphabet City,” which chronicled his years working for Whoopi Goldberg, Vanessa Williams and Condé Nast Traveler. Buchmeyer also learned, “Tyra thinks white limos are tacky,” and to beware of fans who bring teddy bears to book signings — “Anyone that showed up at a book signing offering a stuffed animal probably needs a security escort.”

Oh, FYI—today is the last day to help me win the contest by ordering the book…click button at right and use WINTERBOOK code for 10% off!

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