Wednesday, November 21, 2007

PRobit: Paul Wasserman

The death has been announced of Paul Wasserman.

Wasserman is considered by many to be the ultimate rock PR man, building the Rolling Stones into a force in the US, and sealing the fate of U2 by talking Time into giving them the cover.

His entry into the PR industry came when Bob Hope's management was impressed by a story he filed on the golfing crooner for United Press International. His time on Hope's staff was short, though, as he quickly was taken on by Jim Mahoney, handling accounts including Frank Sinatra, The Beach Boys and Apple Records.

Mahoney made Wasserman a partner, renaming his business Mahoney/Wasserman Public Relations; before eventually going alone in the 1990s, Wasserman also launched a PR wing for D'Arcy, Masius, Benton & Bowles advertising agency.

The ability to generate a buzz about very little served Wasserman well in a parallel career, as a fraudster. He used his connections and position to shake down friends and acquaintances for investment in a share scheme that didn't actually exist. After being caught and given a six month jail term, a repentant Wasserman told the LA Times a desire to live up to his myth had brought about his downfall:

I wasn't as important as I thought I should be. In the back of my mind, I was going to be famous, whatever that means. I'm this 'legendary' person [in entertainment publicity] with this great reputation -- so where am I? Where's my $20-million deal?"

Wasserman suggested the desire for more, now, was the same impulse which had led him into booze and coke addiction; having sobered up in the 80s, he went on to become "an incredible advocate" for the AA programme. As with everything else, once he got clean, Wasserman bought his salesman's technique to selling sobriety.

Although best known for his work in the music industry, Wasserman also handled the PR for a range of movies, including Star Wars and Annie Halls, and the representation for actors including Jack Nicholson.

Wasserman, who was 73, died from respitory failure.

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