Saturday, May 16, 2009


Saturday afternoon in New York, cross-eyed before computer...

... and sore of foot, knee, and back, having carted galleys of my forthcoming biography of Lena Horne all over Manhattan yesterday. Nowadays an author must not only write the book but be his own publicist, events planner, secretary, messenger, and damage-control consultant. 

If you want something done right, of course, you have to do it yourself, and I certainly take pride in having become a can-do guy. Lena's expression in the photo above touches me in a deep place, however, as I battle the maddeningly bureaucratic over a listing for my book that is so botched, it's a joke. But I'm not laughing. After weeks, they haven't corrected it. Please, my loyal three readers, do not pre-order the non-existent paperback version of my book that they are offering.

Meanwhile, I have fired off countless email pitches for Stormy Weather and sought advice from fellow
authors. The distinguished Mexican-American writer and longtime NewsHour contributor Richard Rodriguez (above left) coached me, as did Sheila Weller (above right), whose delightful last book Girls Like Us:  Carole King, Carly Simon, Joni Mitchell – and the Journey of a Generation made the best-seller list thanks to her own persistence.

At times like this, I seek inspiration from my current Bible of self-promotion, the recent book Where’s My Fifteen Minutes?, whose pushy and slightly desperate title appeals to me. Its author is the L.A.-based PR wizard and Larry King Show favorite Howard Bragman. Howard, who runs a firm with a staff of 20, raises the heartbeats of those who prize the words "bear" or "daddy." 

But I mostly prize his expertise. He answered my long-winded request for suggestions by insisting:  "Just tell me the bottom line!" Much of his book deals with a level of publicity (Oprah, Larry King, Entertainment Tonight) that only a handful of us ever attain. But therein lies the inspiration. For me, Howard's life-message in this book is:  Think big! Think big ... yes. Something I've never found it easy to do. Thinking small is easier. Safer. Obscurity is generally the result. If, like me, you are ready for your close-up, go play with the Big Boy, Howard.     

Oprah hasn't called yet, but July will bring launch events for my book at the Paley Centers for Media in both Los Angeles and New York. TCM has chosen Stormy Weather as its August Book of the Month. I’ll read at Harlem's lovely Hue-Man Bookstore (June 29), will be interviewed by Considering Doris Day author Tom Santopietro at Barnes & Noble-Lincoln Center (July 1), will appear at L.A’s Book Soup on July 11. Atlanta’s venerable Margaret Mitchell House is having me on July 22. Alan Eichler, the miracle-achieving L.A. publicist who kept Anita O’Day going for over 20 years, landed me an upcoming feature in the Los Angeles Times, to be written by the paper’s lovable entertainment reporter Susan King. Lots more groovy stuff is in the works.

See what a little tenacity and a famous book subject can get you?

My recent exploits in Los Angeles weren't all work, as my next entry will explain. They included a night out with a former dress designer for Nancy Reagan and Diana Ross, a fairly close-up Janet Jackson sighting, and communing with the ghost of Marilyn Monroe in my West Hollywood home-away-from-home -- Marilyn's original and seemingly haunted Hollywood apartment of 1949. 


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