The Publicists Guild put on one hell of an awards show at the Beverly Hilton today, devoid of controversy and brimming with legendary stars. Star Wars: The Force Awakens won the top honor for Best Motion Picture Publicity Campaign, and Empire won for TV campaign.
But the real star of the show was one of the guild’s own, legendary publicist Murray Weissman, who died two months ago at 90. Just about everyone in the room either knew him or had worked with him over his long career, and many of the winners acknowledged his kindness and the esteem in which he was held. So it was no surprise when presenter Ed Asner announced that Weissman had won the guild’s highest honor, the Les Mason Award.
Sally Field was on hand to present the Lifetime Achievement Award to her longtime friend Lily Tomlin, who cautioned the other recipients about where to put their crystalline award statues. “These crystal awards, if you set them on a shelf near the window, the curtains will catch on fire.”
When singer Johnny Mathis took the stage to present the Special Award of Merit to legendary lyricists Alan and Marilyn Bergman, someone at my table, no doubt a big fan of “Chances Are,” actually muttered, “Oh my God!”
And leave it to publicists to recognize showmanship, honoring FX Networks CEO John Landgraf, who has turned the basic cable channel into a powerhouse of original programming, with its Television Showmanship Award, and Open Road CEO Tom Ortenberg, whose Spotlight is up for a Best Picture Oscar, with its Motion Picture Showmanship Award.
Ryan Murphy, executive producer and creator of the FX hit The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, described Landgraf as “more of a revolutionary than a programmer,” while Oscar winner Michael Keaton described Ortenberg as one of the industry’s great film executives.
The only controversy came when Deadline’s co-Editor in Chief Mike Fleming Jr was robbed, yet again, of winning the Press Award – extending our boss’ perfect streak of losing in the category to five years. The audience clearly was indignant but refrained from booing. Full disclosure: I was sitting next to Mike when the snub was announced, and he took it with his usual grace and aplomb.
The good news is this will allow our staff to continue calling him Susan Lucci whenever he passes in the hallway. (Deadline’s Awards Columnist Pete Hammond has won the Press Award twice, and never lets Mike forget it.)
Kidding aside, Press Award winner Bryan Alexander of USA Today brought the house down and was cheered when the delivered the shortest acceptance speech of the afternoon. “Thank you,” he said, and walked off the stage.
Here’s the full list of winners revealed today at International Cinematographers Guild’s 52nd annual Publicists Awards Luncheon:
The Press Award
Bryan Alexander, USA Today
Les Mason Award
Murray Weissman, Weissman/Markovitz Communications
Bob Yeager Award for community service
Elaine Lazelle, Walt Disney Studio senior publicist
The Maxwell Weinberg Publicists Showmanship Motion Picture Award
Walt Disney Studios for Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Maxwell Weinberg Publicists Showmanship Television Award
20th Century Fox Television for Empire
International Media Award
Yuko Yoshikawa, Japan
Excellence in Unit Still Photography for Motion Pictures Award
Barry Wetcher (Creed)
Excellence in Unit Still Photography for Television Award
Chuck Hodes (Empire)