For, Friday, Sept. 4, 2020


EDITOR’S NOTE: Given the shift in how Hollywood’s penchant for hoopla has manifested itself over the past couple of decades I’m not sure what kinds of publicity gimmicks we can expect in the future. But back in the day … which is to say some 32 years ago …  the studios attempted to get the attention of newspaper folk who wrote about film (and TV) in some very weird ways, as this ‘Hicks on Flicks’ column describes. Under the headline, ‘Alarm clocks to zombies — all in the name of PR,’ this was published in the Deseret News on Feb. 7, 1988.


A zombie visited me the other day. Unfortunately I was out.


Or maybe it was fortunate.


This zombie came by my desk, complete with photographer, and was apparently supposed to surprise me, have his picture taken with me and thereby provide publicity for Universal’s new horror movie “The Serpent and the Rainbow.”


But since I was gone he left a calling card. Or rather a calling coffin.


This cute little black coffin was on my desk when I returned, with a plastic spider held on by a rubber band and the film’s title painted on the side (in blood red, of course).


On top of the lid was this message: “Don’t bury me … ” When you open it, the underside of the lid continues: “I’m not dead!”


Inside is a vial of dirt – from a cemetery no doubt – and a photo of a woman in a coffin screaming.


Joe Walker, the Deseret News TV critic who sits next to me, immediately piped up: “Ahhh! An addition to ‘The Shrine!’”


And he was right, of course.




We call it “The Shrine to Public Relations.” Specifically movie and television public relations. It’s something Joe and I dreamed up as we ran out of space on our desks for all the junk we get in the mail to promote TV shows and movies, respectively.


Our desks are side by side, we share a computer terminal and at the center point, overlapping both desks, is this shrine we’ve constructed.


Actually, it’s just all that junk piled up in a heap, albeit a fairly neat heap.


Joe has contributed his “Dinosaucers” creature, which actually walks across the desk; “Starman” energy sphere; TV Guide clipboard; “Charmings” magic mirror; Lucky’s Meal Ticket, an empty dog food can from Channel 13; two “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” erasers; “Today Show” alarm clock; “Head of the Class” bumper sticker (it says, “Brains ‘R Us”); and “Airwolf” Frisbee (actually the trademark is “Flippy,” but would you have known what it was if I called it an “Airwolf” Flippy?). And more, of course. (My favorite is the xylophone that plays the NBC theme.)


And on my side we have such wonderful contributions as my “Dirty Dancing” sweat socks; “Blue Velvet” record player (it’s made of cardboard, complete with arm and turntable); “2010” paperweight: “Breakfast Club” mug; “House” nightlight (another personal favorite); “Revenge of the Nerds II” magazine (called Nerd Life, complete with articles by the film’s characters); “Batteries Not Included” Frisbee (this is Spielberg; it really is a Frisbee); and “Crimes of the Heart” heart-shaped paperweight. Among other such silliness.


Now, all of these things come from the networks and studios, or syndication outfits and production companies, or TV stations and publicity agencies.


Except for two areas of “The Shrine.” The first is a stack of bubble gum cards showing scenes from TV programs and movies. Those come form Deseret News book editor Jerry Johnston, who loves it when he drops off a new package and watches Joe and me cringe at the prospect of having to add “The Gong Show” and “Jaws 3-D” to the stack.




Pia Zadora in 'The Lonely Lady (1983), perhaps writing to a critic who panned the film.


And the second is a special corner devoted to the Pia Zadora Collection. There’s a gold telephone directory with “Pia” engraved on the top; a fancy lighter with “Pia” on the side; and three key chains, two with Zadora on one side and her first child on the other; and the most recent with Zadora herself on both sides.


And those come directly from Zadora.


It seems that after Zadora came to town to hype “The Lonely Lady” a few years ago – one of the worst movies ever put on celluloid – she read the subsequent interview story and review I wrote and added my name to her ever-growing list of gift-receivers.


Everyone who has ever written anything about her is on that list — so it must be humongous. And they all receive the Zadora gift each Christmas, along with a Christmas card signed by you-know-who.


Granted, that doesn’t make it seem very personal.


But it’s more personal than a T-shirt that says “Creepshow.”


I have one of those, too.