Newhart, Boone Isaacs, Weinsteins Honored At 52nd Annual Publicists Awards

ICG President Steven Poster welcomes guests to the 52nd Annual ICG Publicists Awards. Photo: M. Galas

By: Marjorie Galas

Two days before the Oscar telecast, ICG President Steven Poster warmly welcomed attendees at the 52nd Annual Publicists Awards by referencing box office phenomenon “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

“There have been many great campaigns that have busted through the box office,” said Poster. “And then there’s ‘Fifty Shades of Grey.’ How about that box office? It makes me wonder how many S&M release we’ll see next Valentine’s Day. “

On a day celebrating publicists, unit still photography and film and television campaigns, Poster took a brief moment before presenting the Lifetime Achievement Award to recognize a young woman whose career was cut short.

“Today marks the one year anniversary of the tragic death of Sarah Jones,” said Poster, honoring the camera operator killed on set during production of “Midnight Rider.” “I would like to devote a moment of silence now to Sarah as crews are doing across the US to honor her memory.”

After a respectful stillness fell over the crowd, comedy legend Bob Newhart took the stage to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award.

“I never expected to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award. I never expected to live that long,” said Newhart.

Still active on the standup circuit at 85, Newhart told a few jokes and shared his memory of his first stand up performance at a small club in Austin, Texas. A then unknown, he was told to walk back onstage after receiving a standing ovation. With no additional material to perform, the young Newhart returned to the mike, asking “Which joke would you like to hear again?”

After commending his wife for keeping him grounded, Newhart thanked the publicists for recognizing his work as a comic, actor and producer.

“I’m proud of what I do, and I’m proud of making people laugh,” said Newhart. “Comedy can get you through some very difficult things.”

Oscar winning actress Octavia Spencer ran onto the stage with flip flops and an unsightly bag to emphasize the importance publicist Melissa Kates of Viewpoint PR has had on her career. Kates received the Les Mason Award, the highest honor publicists bestow upon each other.

“I was born to do this job,” said Kates. “I spent my youth scouring Tiger and Teen Beat, looking for photos of Michael J. Fox and Michael Jackson.”

Ava DuVernay, director of the Oscar nominated feature “Selma” presented the President’s Award to Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences Cheryl Boone Isaacs. DuVernay informed the attendees she was excited to be on the stage at an event she attended numerous times during her 13 yeas as an agent, and was honored to present a woman who shaped her career with a special honor. Presented sparingly, the President’s Award was given to Boone Isaacs for her consistent dedication and 22 years spent representing publicists at the Academy. Beginning her career in the late seventies, Boone Isaacs earliest campaign was “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” Upon accepting her award, Boone Isaacs reminded the attendees they have the ability to overcome diversity.

“We all wonder if we are not talented enough, smart enough, pretty enough, good enough,” said Boone Isaacs. “We have to work hard to get past that.”

Justine Gamez, a Warner Bros. Publicist received the Bob Yeager Award for Community Service for her dedication to rebuilding a town devastated by earthquakes and flooding in the Philippines. She thanked Warner Bros. for providing the time off to establish the initiative. Rocio Ayuso won the International Media Award. The Spanish Publicist approached the podium with no speech.

“I could say the dog ate my speech and it would be true,” said Ayuso. “I would just like to say thank you.”

The Unit Still Photography for Motion Picture Award went to Wilson Webb, who was on location during the event. Ursula Coyote, who’s collaborated extensively with Vince Gilligan on “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul” received the Unit Still Photography for Television Award. Upon approaching the podium, Coyote declared “Now I know how the stars feel!”

Before presenting Chief Content Officer of Netflix Ted Sarandos the Television Showmanship Award, presenter Chelsea chandler informed the publicists “After firing his longtime publicist Tom Cruise was jumping on coaches. At this time people learned just how important you are.” Sarandos expressed his awe at meeting Bob Newhart and indicated the past recipients of the Lifetime Achievement Award, specifically Normal Lear, were the people who taught him ho to be funny, sad and shocking.

David Karger from Fandango.com won the Press Award for his creation of an original content series on the site. Arpi Ketendjian accepted the Best Publicity campaign for a television show for “Jane the Virgin.” Publicist Andre Caralo received the Best Publicity Campaign for a Motion Picture for his team’s work on “The Interview.”

Oscar winning actor/writer/producer Billy Bob Thorton presented the Motion Picture Showmanship Award to Bob and Harvey Weinstein. Recognizing he worked on more than seven films with the Weinsteins (including “Sling Blade” and “Bad Santa”) Thorton credited the Weinsteins with single-handedly rebranding B-movies as independent films, making them desirable staples of mass entertainment and award recognition.

“Publicity is the life blood of our campaigns,” said Harvey Weinstein.