Hollywood Publicists, Fake Feuds, and Phony Marriages

At the end of every month, I write an article that lists that month’s five worst video media disasters.

A few weeks ago, I saw a video of a media disaster and thought, “This one has to go on the list.” But the more I thought about it, the more I concluded that it may not have been a media disaster at all, but a purposefully staged “fight” to bring more buzz to a television program.

The video involved two of next season’s new judges for American Idol: singers Mariah Carey and Nikki Minaj. Here’s the clip:

Nicki Minaj: “Think I’m playin’? Think this shit is a fucking joke? Think it’s a joke? Think it’s a joke? Think it’s a joke? Say one more disrespectful thing to me, if you say one more disrespectful thing to me — off with your head…I’m not fucking putting up with your fucking highness over there … figure it the fuck out.”

This fight may have been real. But the history of fake feuds to boost ratings, movie box office receipts, or record sales is as old as show business itself.

In singer Rod Stewart’s new book, which was released on Tuesday, he describes the work done on his behalf by press agent Tony Toon, who regularly generated press that had no basis in reality.

Stewart shares this anecdote:

“Perhaps the classic Toon fabrication was the story of the thwarted love affair I supposedly had with the daughter of President Gerald Ford. Now, it was true that Susan Ford came to see the Faces [Stewart’s band] play in 1975….It is also true that she came backstage afterward, surrounded by an army of security men. But from those meager details, Tony created a saga worth a week of newspaper headlines, in which our eyes had met across a crowded room, we had fallen hopelessly and permanently in love, Susan had invited me to an intimate dinner at the White House.”

Hollywood publicists regularly put out rumors about two stars dating to generate a few headlines. “Reality” shows leak every rumor about the latest celebrity under consideration for a job as judge or host, only a few of whom ever get the work. And, in its most insidious form, rumors have swirled for decades about gay leading men who marry women solely to maintain their “manly” images in the public eye, complete with regularly released photos of the “happy couple” in love.

I’m still confused about the Michael Jackson – Lisa Marie Presley marriage, for example. (What was that about?) But their highly-publicized and cringeworthy kiss at the 1994 Video Music Awards certainly created some buzz:

The Nikki Minaj/Mariah Carey video may be real. Or it may be an expertly publicized fake. But I can’t shake the feeling that some publicist got paid a lot of money to leak the “grainy cell phone” video that just happened to be rolling at the moment their “fight” began.

Here’s the bottom line: Next time you hear a salacious rumor centered around an entertainer, be skeptical. Some of the stories might be true. But it’s a strange coincidence that so many of those rumors occur just weeks before a singer’s new album or an actor’s new film is released.

What do you think? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.