To damage your reputation, hire Max Markson
``How do you start a small business? Give Warwick Fairfax a big one’‘, should be reworked in a PR context in honour of Australia’s pre-eminent spiv, the celebrity publicist Max Markson.
The events of the past few days have demonstrated, in my view, that if you really want to damage your reputation, you should hire Max Markson to defend it.
In a few days, Markson has helped pull off an extraordinary feat in relation to his new client, Lara Bingle. His contributions have only helped to further turn what seems like the entire country against this girl when, less than a week ago, she was enjoying rare public support after being belittled and demeaned by one of the biggest yobbos to grace an Australian sports field.
There’s no polite way to say this, but Bingle seems to be a bit of a ditz who, in the past, has engendered no sympathy.
When she became the face of the Where The Bloody Hell Are You? campaign, The Daily Telegraph tried to interview her about how she felt as a Cronulla girl about projecting a positive image of Australia just months after the race riots that marred that Sydney suburb. Bingle explained she’d been out of the country when the Cronulla riots happened, doing a bit of undie modelling in Italy, and didn’t know about the riots.
Being ignorant isn’t a crime, but the problem Bingle has had is that she has also been portrayed as a home-wrecker in light of her adulterous relationship with married AFL footballer Brendan Fevola, and latterly as a money-obsessed WAG with her fiancé Michael Clarke, flitting about the Sutherland Shire in an Aston Martin and wearing an engagement ring that cost half the price of the average Australian home.
For all this, though, Bingle was the subject of sudden mass sympathy when it emerged that Fevola, punted from Carlton in disgrace last year after repeated acts of boorish public drunkenness, apparently had not only photographed Bingle in the shower against her will while they were together but, in shocking-bloke style, had forwarded the image to mates.
When Bingle announced that she was suing Fevola, the public reaction was _ to borrow from Oprah _ you go, girl. But one week later, the mood is that Bingle should simply just go.
And I think credit for this lies mainly with Markson who, with characteristic immodesty, announced last week that he had been hired by Bingle and was shopping her around town as a $1 million multimedia package that would include exclusive rights to the story of her life with Clarke, fascinating as that would be, and possibly even spin-off into a reality television show.
On Thursday, Markson even resorted to using the social media site Twitter to rev up interest in the proposed sale of Bingle’s story. With customary gravitas, he tweeted: ``Who wouldn’t want a million dollars?’‘
Markson also engineered the Woman’s Day exclusive, reportedly for a three-figure sum, as much as $200,000, for which Bingle would talk about her anguish over what Fevola had done to her.
It seems when Markson realised that, understandably enough, the punters thought Bingle was simply milking the story for all it was worth, it seems he tried to soften her image again by announcing that a portion of the money would be going to some kiddies’ charity. Or whatever.
It was typical PR BS from the man who famously organised Australia’s first wet T-shirt competition. In retrospect, that may have been a career high.
Markson’s confirmation last week that Clarke, our cricket vice-captain, had cut short his New Zealand tour to help Lara ``at this difficult time’‘, served only to reinforce his client’s reputation as high-maintenance, even earning her the new moniker, the Yoko Ono of cricket.
The really sad thing about all this is that I doubt Markson would give a flying metaphor what anyone says or thinks about his client.
I think Markson has shown himself in the past few days to be the moral equivalent of a hedge-fund trader; it doesn’t matter whether a celebrity’s stocks are going up or down, just as long as he’s in on the deal.
If Bingle did pocket $200,000 for her cockamamie story in Woman’s Day, there’s every chance Markson’s cut would have been $20,000: not bad for a few days’ work.
I’m under no illusions about the perception of journalists and journalism. And, as a former editor of The Daily Telegraph, I’m not about to embark on a career as an ethicist.
But one of my favourite moral souvenirs from this period is an email Markson sent to me and our web editor, in relation to a celebrity client who he’d (rightly) accused us of defaming. While publicly attacking our paper and saying his client just wanted the story to go away - which she clearly did - he emailed us three sexy high-resolution jpegs of her, with a cheery note saying that we were free to use these new images in paper and online as we continued our coverage.
Celebrities really need to ask themselves whether they want to be in, or out, of this absurd world. Bingle getting Max to massage her reputation seems to me an extravagance when other people are already trashing it for nothing.
As for Bingle, she now stands in my mind as some kind of new feminist symbol. Well-known disciplinarian Peter Roebuck tut-tutted last week that her behaviour was too unsettled for the future wife of a Test captain.
Former cricket greats lined up to say that, with the blokes away as much as they are, it’s important to have stability at home.
This is utter sexist rubbish from the weird subculture that gave us the expression ``what happens on tour stays on tour’‘. Not all cricketers follow that maxim, but a lot of them do.
And Lara clearly didn’t get the memo saying it’s her lot in life to stay home alone for 10 months a year while her husband wanders the world.
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