Book Publicist Charlie Barrett: ‘My first PR job was with 20th Century Fox Films’
Professional national book publicist Charlie Barrett formed The Barrett Company in 1992 as a full service media relations and media marketing / communications agency. The Los Angeles headquartered firm offers 21st century integrated media outreach and media marketing expertise with an emphasis on the publishing and entertainment industries serving authors/publishers, Hollywood celebrities, motion pictures and television.
Since the firm’s creation TBC has served authors with such companies as Simon & Schuster, Globe Pequot Press, Norton and studios and TV outlets from Warner Brothers and Paramount, to cable TV network American Movie Classics (Mad Men) to ABC, CBS, Fox Television, as well as self-published author publishers such as Xlibris, Author House, i-Universe and numerous celebrities from Johnny Carson to Ed McMahon to Kevin Costner to Oprah Winfrey (Oprah’s Big Give television series on ABC).
The Barrett Company serves major publisher, small press and self-published authors with Harper Collins, Little Brown, Penguin Press, Oxford University Press, CreateSpace, Viking Press, Random House, Holm Press, Ben Bella Books, SMU Press and NYU Press – – creating and performing a range of publicity services and media outreach for both fiction and non-fiction book releases areas, generating media attention/coverage in print, broadcast and the growing on line digital medias. TBC is developing new book marketing strategies for e-books and author activity with Kindle, Nook You Tube, Twitter and Facebook
Mr. Barrett formed The Barrett Company after serving in top PR and media relations positions with the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) for more than ten years, where he was in charge of media relations for The Tonight Show and Johnny Carson and also, Today, among other well-known NBC shows such as Unsolved Mysteries, Fame and numerous highly-rated NBC specials, including The American Film Institute Awards and The American Movie Awards. As a film publicist in Hollywood, Charlie has worked with Dennis Hopper, Robert Stack, Tatum O’Neal, Steve McQueen, and Candice Bergen.
Charlie began his media career as a reporter with The Associated Press in New Haven, CT and later served on the editorial staffs of both The Hollywood Reporter in Los Angeles and Billboard in New York. He has also authored numerous articles for magazines and newspapers on the performing arts and travel as well as appearing as a regular contributor on major US radio talk shows discussing celebrities, films, television and books. Charlie was voted the Book Publicist of the Year award by the Southern California Book Publicists Society. TBC is a member of The Publishers Association of Los Angeles, The Academy of TV Arts and Sciences (ATAS gives the Emmy Award) and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences (the Oscar).
The Barrett Company is well known and regarded among the world’s media outlets for its credibility and creativity. Through years of client assignments TBC has developed remarkable and successful PR campaigns for a wide range of authors/publishers, Hollywood creatives, companies and celebrities, which have paved the way for the firm to produce media, consumer and trade events of all descriptions both in the US and overseas, from Book Expo to NATPE (the renowned annual television program executive conference) to the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, The Frankfurt Book Fair and The Cannes International Film Festival. The TBC web site is at www.thebarrettco.com.
We interviewed Charlie to find out more about his publicity company, The Barrett Company, and his role as a book publicist.
Charlie Barrett & Johnny Carson at Johnny’s last taping May ’92
Thank you for this interview, Charlie. I’d like to start off by asking you how you began your career as a publicist?
Charlie: I was always drawn to the media as a grade-schooler reading newspapers and watching television, movies. The datelines in newspapers like “Cairo” or “Los Angeles” always fascinated me as far away places full of intrigue…color…and excitement for a kid like me from a small town in Connecticut. I first became a newspaper and wire service (AP) journalist in Hartford and later a music-movie critic based in LA. I read and read books all the time…at work, at home, anywhere it seemed. I particularly enjoyed reading the writers who created the Post WWII novel…writers like Saul Bellow and Norman Mailer. It was a natural segue for me from a newsman’s job to PR, I think. I was drawn to the idea of becoming involved with the release of a book, a movie or TV show where I could creatively participate. My first PR job was with 20th Century Fox Films in New York working on the release of books and music from movies. I went on to work on book releases with Simon & Schuster, Scribner’s and others in New York too. I was asked to join the publicity department of the NBC TV network in 1979 where I became the West Coast information manager for NBC News’ shows like “Today,” “Meet the Press” and “NBC Nightly News.” A few years later, I became Johnny Carson’s personal publicist at the network and “The Tonight Show.” In 1992, following the end of Mr. Carson’s reign in late night TV, I opened The Barrett Company, my own PR firm (www.thebarrettco.com). Ed McMahon was my very first client.
So not only do you work with authors, you also work with huge companies such as Warner Brothers and Paramount. How did you end up so lucky?
Charlie: Being in Hollywood all these years, first as a journalist at The Hollywood Reporter and later as an NBC publicist I have come to know a great many people in the entertainment industry and book publishing too – - such as celebrity authors, stars, producers, directors, studio heads. I became involved with Paramount from a producer friend I came to know when I publicized the Fox TV hit show, “Cops,” and first with Warner Brothers Studios when I was asked to publicize a TV show called “Boone” that was filmed there and created by Earl Hamner, the writer-producer of hit TV series, “The Waltons.” For the past many years I have been helping with PR for CBS/Paramount’s “The Amazing Race” reality TV series. I have also done projects with Warner Books too and numerous books connected to movies and TV shows.
You’ve represented many famous celebrities and I’d like to start with Johnny Carson. You were a staff publicist for NBC when Johnny’s last show aired (see picture on right). What was that last show like? Any tears shed?
Charlie: It was a true privilege as you can guess to have been invited by NBC to work as Mr. Carson’s personal publicist on “Tonight.” I particularly enjoyed meeting and publicizing the appearances on the show of such authors as Gore Vidal, Calvin Trillin (“Travels with Alice”) and a great many others. Mr. Carson, while entertaining, bright and very funny, took his work very seriously and expected the same level of professionalism from all of the other 100-plus members of our “Tonight” show family. To me, that’s why his “Tonight” show shined so brilliantly…it was done with dedication, commitment and hard work to entertain millions of viewers across the USA in those late night hours. It was the “nation’s security blanket” as we at NBC called the show back then. I once asked Mr. Carson what his last show would be like when I interviewed him for our 25th anniversary show press kit in 1987. He told me then it would not be a self congratulatory one…but one rather where he, Ed McMahon and Doc Severinsen would sit around and recall their 30 years together, showing clips of the legendary show over its remarkable 30 year run. The Studio 1 audience at NBC in Burbank for the last show was comprised that evening of invitation only guests…and as you can well guess it was filled, as was the “Tonight” backstage, with star comics who had come to bid Mr. Carson good bye…ones who I believe became stars in their own right because Mr. Carson gave them a break on “Tonight.” Guys like Bill Maher, Jerry Seinfeld and many others. Mr. Carson gave a heartfelt good bye to his audience at the end of the final show as he sat center stage on a stool. I will always remember that particular part of the final show on May 22 1992. Sure, a few tears were shed back stage and here and there, but they were joyous tears I think of what had been accomplished with a record in television that will never be seen again. He left a special legacy as the true “King of the Night” that his followers will never attain. If he were still alive today I know he would be watching both David Letterman and Conan O’Brien.
How was Johnny to work with? Was it easy going? Demanding?
Charlie: Mr. Carson expected everyone on the show, all 105 of us, to do their jobs on a level to set an example of perfection in TV. Few people ever left the show because you were considered to be at the top of your game and craft to work on “Tonight”. I can never say Mr. Carson was ‘easy going.’ Rather I would say he took his work very, very seriously and the show very, very seriously. He aimed every night to make sure he created a very entertaining hour of television viewing for those watching at home before they went to sleep. The many characters he played like Art Fern and his Tea Time Movie reflected his brand of humor. I once saw him in a rehearsal for a skit, going over and over until he got it right before we taped the show at 5:30 pm for its 11:30 pm broadcast that evening. He was a perfectionist. He had a marvelous sense of humor off stage too…he was quick, witty and hip, although I can say he did not enjoy Hollywood parties, which he avoided. Johnny Carson lit up for the TV screen like no other TV host personality I have seen since.
What was your role as staff publicist for NBC?
Charlie: My job was to make sure that I publicized each show by getting the guests media attention before their appearances on “Tonight” and making sure each media call I got each day for maybe a question from a reporter like Chris Matthews (now host of MSNBC’s “Hard Ball”) on Mr. Carson’s monologue the previous evening was taken care of, and so forth and so on. Each day I had to make sure the correct log listings for each show appeared accurately in newspapers all over the USA. I also managed press persons that came to the show to do interviews in the Green Room with the show’s guests and producers. Mr. Carson did few, if any interviews that I was involved in. He simply did not enjoy being interviewed in the press. Rather, Ed McMahon, producer Freddy de Cordova and I worked together on many and nearly all media interviews for the show. An NBC photographer was assigned to each show to shoot those authors, sports figures, stars and “civilian” guests being interviewed by Johnny Carson. Jim Fowler, the well known animal handler provided us with a number of marvelous photo ops when he had Mr. Carson interact with his creatures, like a chimp, a 10-foot python or a Koala bear. Those photos were sent to the wire services like the AP which used them pretty often. There were so many things to take care of each day…it was always a lot of fun and to get paid to be there was a bonus I thought. We did Thanksgiving shows each year too, which meant it was a work day for all of us. We looked forward to coming in that day even if it was a holiday.
Why did you leave NBC?
Charlie: I left in the early 1990s and opened up my own PR firm, The Barrett Company (www.thebarrettco.com). Our very first book client was movie producer Marty Jurow who wrote “Seein’ Stars: A Show Biz Odyssey” from SMU Press. Marty produced such movies as “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” with Audrey Hepburn and “The Great Race” with Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis among many others. I really did not want to work on “Tonight” after Mr. Carson and Ed left the show. NBC wanted all new people to be involved producing the show when Mr. Carson’s successor arrived.
The authors that you represent, are they mainly coming from other publicists or do they contact you themselves to represent them?
Charlie: We get many of our authors by referral. Just recently we signed on author Carla Malden, daughter of Oscar winner actor Karl Malden. Carla has penned a new book called “Afterimage” on becoming a Baby Boomer widow. It will be out in May and it will be published by Globe Pequot. We also get many self-published authors who come to us needing help bringing their book to market. We offer a fair, comprehensive media marketing plan for these writers and enjoy helping them get started with their author careers. Some recent self –published writers we have helped include Connecticut surgeon Dr Harry J. Saranchak who wrote the best-seller “Betrayals of Hippocrates.” We also serve small press companies too. One is BenBella Books. BenBella released a fascinating book by former Hollywood glamour photographer and inventor, Gary Fong. His book is titled “The Accidental Millionaire.” We have also worked as consultants helping PR departments at major publishers launch new books too.
The authors you do represent, what do you do for them?
Charlie: I have become personally fascinated and have learned a great deal about social media and content book marketing…and using both together on the Net to launch a new book or author. Virtual author tours on the Net have become key to the success of a book as well. Authors need help often setting up Twitter and Face Book pages too. I offer complete media campaigns for self-published to big box publisher authors, such as determining a workable and realistic strategy for a project with a free consultation, a written plan and a written agreement before we start. We create and write press releases, distribute the documents to print, digital and broadcast media, set up media interviews and also provide media training for those authors who have no or light experience interfacing with the press. We have had great success in getting reviews in the NY Times and USA Today as well as placing clients on CNN, “Today” and TV book shows like “Between the Lines” and “Book Mark,” among others. Radio is super important in getting the word out on a new book, so I place a lot of emphasis on national radio to publicize new titles coming into the marketplace. Few authors realize I find that there are nearly 3,000 books published each day in the USA and these numbers are growing year to year.
Do you have a success story to share?
Charlie: There are so many…I would not want to leave anyone out of this question. Well, recently we handled a book called “Punished for Purpose” by Lauri Burns who got on CNN and did a ton of national radio interviews. She is self-published and some big box New York publishers are seeking to make a publishing deal with her. Gary Fong’s “The Accidental Millionaire” has interested a top producer at “Oprah.” Ed McMahon’s “For Laughing Out Loud” was a best seller on Warner Books as was his “Here’s Johnny,” which followed a few years later. I will always remember Ed’s hard work and dedication to anything he ever did, especially his media interviews. His appearances on Larry King stand out among his media appearances. Right now we have just placed two separate author’s books with Hollywood studios to be considered for movies…so we shall see.
Thank you so much for this interview, Charlie. Do you have a way for authors to contact you?
Charlie: Authors who want to contact us can visit our web site at www.thebarrettco.com or they can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or even call us in Hollywood at 310-471-5764. My personal Twitter address is email@example.com too.
We’re having a Facebook party!!!!
Pump Up Your Book will be hosting Hollywood book publicist Charlie Barrett Thursday, January 27, 2011 at 9 – 11 p.m. (eastern time – adust to your time zone) at Pump Up Your Book’s Facebook page. Tell your book friends that not only will this give them an opportunity to chat with Charlie about book publicity BUT…
WE’RE GIVING AWAY A KINDLE ($189 VALUE)!!!!
CLICK HERE TO JOIN US!