Tag Archives: Beverly Hills

Dan Harary (Part 1): Flirting with Fame; insulting Schwarzenegger and Streep…

Dan Harary talked to me from Los Angeles at the weekend…

Dan Harary calls himself “an author, entertainment industry publicist, drummer and former stand-up comic”. He started his own company Asbury PR of Beverly Hills in 1996. Now, 26 years successful years later, he is suddenly publishing four – yes four – books. The first was published last month: Flirting With Fame: : A Hollywood Publicist Recalls 50 Years of Celebrity Close Encounters.

Part of the PR pitch for it is:

“Dan quite often found himself in rather bizarre circumstances while interacting with famous people – like having a staring contest with Barbra Streisand, twice; or smoking a joint in silence with Jill Clayburgh in Central Park; or talking with Billy Crystal about Chinese food at Sid Caesar’s funeral; or introducing his mother to Mel Brooks and finding out they both went to the same high school. Dan’s countless ‘close encounters of the celebrity kind’ are sometimes funny, sometimes touching, and quite often cringe-inducing.”

We chatted at the weekend…


Flirting and skirting but never hurting…

JOHN: FOUR books being published between now and next Spring? Why now?

DAN: Flirting With Fame was from Covid. Last Spring, 2021, I looked at the calendar and I was going to turn 65 and realised the very first celebrity I ever met was when I was 15 years old – Richie Havens, who was a famous singer from Woodstock.

During Covid, I was bored and had nothing to do. Wow! It’s been 50 years since I’ve been meeting and working with celebrities! So I took a piece of paper and just wrote down all the hundreds of celebrities I’ve met or worked with and there were so many of them that I thought: I should just write a book.

When I was in high school, I had really long hair, I played the drums and ran lights and stage crew for a little concert hall in Asbury Park – The Sunshine Inn.

Bruce Springsteen played there quite often; he was considered like the house band. Before it was called the E Street Band, he had a band called Steel Mill, one called Doctor Zoom and The Sonic Boom and then he had the Bruce Springsteen Band.

JOHN: You’ve known everybody.

DAN: It’s not that I know them, John. It’s like in the title of my book – Flirting – It’s like I skimmed with hundreds of very very very famous people. Most of my clients are behind-the-scenes people in the entertainment world. I’m FLIRTING with fame. I’m not famous. Only a few of my clients – like Jay Leno – were famous. But, over the course of time, I’ve been in situations surrounded by a lot of famous people.

JOHN: According to your own publicity for the book, you pissed-off some…

DAN: Arnold Schwarzenegger, sure. I was at an event in Beverly Hills in 1996. He wasn’t the Governor of California yet, but he was a big star. The event was for Milton Berle. You remember Milton Berle?

JOHN: Of course. A comedy legend.

Dan with Sid Caesar – semi-retired but still active in 1987…

DAN: I worked with Milton a few times. I represented Sid Caesar for a couple of years.

Anyway, I was at an event in Beverly Hills for Milton Berle. I knew Arnold Schwarzenegger would be there and my 8-year-old son was a huge fan of The Terminator movies. So I took a photo of Arnold as The Terminator and a white marking pen.

During a break in the festivities, Arnold is at a table with two giant bodyguards and I just tapped him on the shoulder: “Hello. My name is Dan. My son is 8 years old. He loves The Terminator. Would you be kind enough to give a quick autograph?” I have the photo and the pen in my hand.

He looks at me and he goes (CONTORTS FACE) “GHHHRRRRRRR!!!!!”

I say: “Arnold, please. He’s 8 years old.”

“GHHHRRRRRRR!!!!!”

I swear to God. Steam virtually shooting out of his bright red… like he wanted me to burn in a fire…

“GHHHRRRRRRR!!!!!”

Arnold Schwarzenegger: GHHHRRRRRRR!!!!!

He never said a word to me. 

So now I’m like shaking, right?

His bodyguards are looking at me.

I’m like: Come on, Arnold, you can do it! 

It’ll take five seconds.

Come on, man. Please! Please do it!

“GHHHRRRRRRR!!!!!”

Really, it was a stand-off. And, eventually, he realised I was not going to leave without it… So, after quite a while, he finally grabbed the pen and did it and wrote: TO JORDAN – BEST WISHES.

My son is 34 years old now and he has it framed on his wall in his house in Alaska.

JOHN: The thing that most shocks me is that Arnold Schwarzenegger needed two bodyguards.

DAN: They had little earpieces with little curly wire that came out.

JOHN: Meeting ‘stars’ can be strange…

DAN: I was at a photo shoot with Kevin Costner in 1990… Kevin wasn’t a huge, huge star then, so he was very approachable. He couldn’t have been nicer. This was to promote an Earth Day TV special on ABC. 

A lot of executives from Warner Bros and ABC were there and everyone was saying: “She’s coming! She’s coming!’

I didn’t know who. They didn’t tell me.

“It’s ten minutes till she’ll be here… She’s coming!… Ten minutes!… Five minutes!”

“Who’s coming?” I asked.

They said: “Meryl Streep!”

“Meryl Streep?” I said. “Meryl Streep is coming?”

Carla holding her Oscar for Sophie’s Choice…

She was very famous, of course, and, at the time, was just a few years out from her Sophie’s Choice Oscar. This is MERYL STREEP, you know?

So Meryl Streep’s coming! Oh my God! Oh my God!

I wasn’t a particular fan of hers. I don’t think she’s particularly… I was never a fan of hers ever, but everyone was scurrying around: “Meryl’s coming! Meryl’s coming!”

So I got caught up in it.

The doors open. It’s bright sunshine outside. She enters. She’s all in white. She’s like an angel from Heaven. It’s like Mother Mary has descended and we’re like the peasants in Guatemala or wherever. She comes in and there’s like 20 people in a line. ABC people. Warner Bros people. I’m at the very end of the line. Next to me is a friend of mine named Carla from Warner Bros.

So Meryl goes along the line like the Queen of England. 

“Miss Streep, it’s such an honour”… “Miss Streep, it’s such an honour…”

I’m caught up in it.

It’s Meryl Streep! It’s Meryl Streep!

She gets to me and I’m at the very end of this long line and, by the time she got to me,  I was so nervous I shook her hand and said: “Hello Carla, so nice to meet you…”

She looked at me like the RCA Victor dog, with her head on one side, thinking: “…What was…? Did he just…?

I didn’t really know what was happening. She walked away and then my friend Carla told me: “Dan, you just called Meryl Streep ‘Carla’” and I said “I did?? Really??”

JOHN: I’m surprised you would be overawed by a star: you did stand-up comedy.

Dan stands-up on stage at Hollywood’s Improv

DAN: I did comedy much later – here in LA – 1998-2001. I only ever made $6 from it in total. Jerry Seinfeld made $6 billion. I made $6. I have it framed. I did it because, when I was in Sixth Grade, I had a teacher who used to make students go to the front of the classroom and give an oral report. She tortured us: 

“Stand up straight!… You’re slouching!… You’re mumbling!… Speak louder!… Speak softer!… Don’t look at your nose!”… All she did was criticise. So I had a fear of public speaking from the age of 12.

And, for a publicist, it’s really not good to have a fear of public speaking.

So I took a class at the Improv in West Hollywood with one of the owners and the graduation of the class was to do 8 minutes on stage at The Improv. Next to my son being born, it was the most nervous I ever was in my life. I almost threw up before I went on stage. My mother was there; all my friends were there. 250 people. I was shaking; nervous; my heart was pounding; I was a nervous wreck. But I went out and did my thing and I survived.

I’m not a natural stage performer. I’m a drummer. I was in bands all my life. Playing in a band? That’s easy. No sweat. But to stand up on stage with a microphone and you’re saying your jokes?… It’s very, very scary.

JOHN: I suppose the drummer is at the back and not the centre of attention.

Dan not quite hiding behind his youthful hair and cymbals…

DAN: I suppose that’s right. I had really long hair and you have cymbals in front of you. When I played, my hair used to fly everywhere. My parents saw me play once and someone said to my mother: “That drummer, she’s really good for a girl…”

JOHN: But you weren’t interested in performing comedy as such? Even though you knew Sid Caesar and Milton Berle…

DAN: I represented Sid Caesar for two years, 1987-1989. He paid a monthly retainer to our PR firm to keep his name in the press. He was sort-of semi-retired but still active; he was in good health still; he did guest starring roles on TV. I got him many interviews: at the time he was re-releasing Your Show of Shows on VHS tapes for the first time.

Also he, Milton Berle and Danny Thomas did a live tour of the US in 1988 and I was the publicist – The Living Legends of Comedy Tour

JOHN: That was when you got to know Milton Berle as well?

DAN: Around the same time. I spent a day with him at a TV station in Hollywood. He had written a book called BS: I Love Youan autobiography – and he was there to promote it.

So I’m at the TV station and there’s a knock on the backstage door and this little old hunched, shaking Jewish man with a hat and a coat and a cane came in.

“Mr Berle?” I said.

“Yes.”

“My name is Dan. I’m here to help you out.”

“OK. Very good.”

I took him to his dressing room. He closes the door very quietly.

Dan with switched-on larger-than-life Milton.

I wait about 10-15 minutes and then the door bursts open. He’s standing perfectly straight. Different clothes. Big cigar… “Hi kid! Here I am! Where do you want me?”

I almost asked him: “What did ya do with Milton Berle?”

The man who went in and the man who came out of the dressing room – Two completely different men. 

JOHN: It wasn’t a joke? He had just suddenly ‘switched-on’ Milton Berle?

DAN: Yeah. He BECAME Milton Berle in that 10-15 minutes in the dressing room.

I led him out onto the stage and everyone was so excited. 

But instead of shaking people’s hands and saying “Hello, how are you?” he goes: “Aaah… I don’t like that camera over there! These lights: these can be moved! I don’t like this set! That chair has to be over here! This spotlight has to be…”… and for the next 45 minutes all he did was re-arrange this entire studio that had been created just for him. Everyone was like: What is he doing? But it’s MILTON BERLE: What can you do? All you can do is obey his commands!

JOHN: What happened at the end when he left the set? Did he return to being the old man?

DAN: He did the interview. He was very funny. At the end, he shook hands and was very nice. I walked him back to his limousine and he remained in character. He has the cigar. He’s smiling. He’s not the man who walked in. Now he’s ‘Milton Berle’.

(… CONTINUED HERE… with Jerry Seinfeld, sex addiction and party night at the Playboy Mansion…)

 

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The new female comedian who is my flatmate at the Edinburgh Fringe

For anyone who read my blog yesterday and may be wondering, my co-host Kate Copstick did not turn up at our increasingly prestigious Grouchy Club yesterday afternoon. She woke up in agony in the morning. With luck she should be at our show today. No doubt more brief news will follow tomorrow.

Someone who was at yesterday’s show, though, was my Fringe flatmate Sara Mason. She is a relatively new comedian who is picking up a few gigs in Edinburgh plus a few tips for a future Fringe show.

“So,” I said, introducing her, “you are an American, Swiss, French, English errr God knows what you are…”

Sara in an Edinburgh selfie taken today

Sara in an Edinburgh flat selfie taken today

“I was born here in Britain,” she said, “and then my parents emigrated to America when I was ten, to Beverly Hills in California. We were originally supposed to go for five years – my father was at UCLA (lecturing on psychoanalysis) – but he never came back.”

“And you went to Beverly Hills High School,” I said.

“I was two years ahead,” explained Sara, “because I had been through the British school system, which was better, so I was 15 when I finished high school, not 18 like them.

“I have a brother who is sadly no longer with us. He was on heroin and was a drug dealer and had the honour of being the worst student ever to attend Beverly Hills High School. Eventually they chucked him out. He had long hair and people said we looked alike, although he was 6’5” and had dark long hair and he was cool and I wasn’t very cool. I was into theatre, which was deeply uncool in Beverly Hills.”

“Why was theatre uncool?” I asked.

“In the Theater Dept,’ said Sara, “we were into theatre and Shakespeare and opera and classical music and I was a bit nerdy. I was on the Principal’s Honor Roll. That was so uncool at Beverly Hills where I should have been shooting up… although I did my fair share of drugs,

Beverly Hills High School’s gym

Beverly Hills High School’s gym, never knowingly understated

“Your friend would take eight tablets… and so, next week, you would take ten to make sure you had outdone them.

“They would do one hit of acid so you would say: I’m gonna take two!

“It culminated for me one day when I took four and had a really bad trip. But that was after having taken LSD every day for a year. I did all my SATs on LSD and did very well.”

“What,” I asked, “is an SAT?”

‘Your exams to get into university,” explained Sara. “I wanted to go to Drama School and my father was having none of that. So, secretly, I forged my parents’ signatures and transferred myself out of all the courses I would have needed to take to get into UCLA – because there’s a minimum. I talked my counsellor into the fact I was going to be an actress, so I should do drama classes and French classes and English and History but not the Maths and Science requirements.

“I thought I was very, very smart and got a job between classes, but I didn’t calculate for the SATs, because I scored so highly on the SATs in spite of the LSD that I WAS offered a university place anyway. So I ran away from home.”

Photo of Sara by Nathalie Kerrio

Sara in a photo taken by Nathalie Kerrio

“You knew the film producer William Castle, didn’t you?” I asked. “I know of him because, as well as Rosemary’s Baby, he produced The Tingler, where he wired up the seats of cinemas to an electric current and, at the shocking bits of the film, the audience were literally given an electric shock.”

“He was a lovely man,” said Sara,”with a huge cigar and was almost like a caricature of a film producer. But it wasn’t just him I knew. Debbie Reynolds was the local scout mistress for the Brownies in Beverly Hills. Can you imagine that?

Jamie Lee Curtis was in my brother’s class; her sister was in my class. Dean Martin’s daughter used to come to school in a yellow Jensen sports car or a Corvette and she had a diamond bracelet with great big diamonds spelling out the letters of her name. I had a bracelet made out of string. I was completely piss-poor and I wasn’t cool.

Joan Fontaine’s son had a crush on me when I was ten. It was so embarrassing! He used to follow me round and I had never heard of Joan Fontaine. He used to follow me around and sing I Carry a Torch For You!… I was thinking: You’re ten years old! I want to kill you! You are embarrassing me! Beverly Hills High was really odd, a surreal experience.

“My brother was cool from Day One. He managed to get arrested in primary school for drug dealing, but they had to let him go, because it was kitchen herbs.”

“Kitchen herbs?” I asked.

Sara (right), with Claire Smith of The Scotsman & Bob Slayer

Sara (right), with Claire Smith of The Scotsman & Bob Slayer

“Oregano, catnip, parsley…”

“Does that work?” asked someone in the audience.

“With nine year old kids…” said Sara. “That was his first arrest.”

“That is very entrepreneurial,” I said, “to sell parsley to kids.”

“My brother was so sharp,” said Sara. “Such a business brain. My brother used to lock us in his room and weigh out the drugs and I would help him, thinking: One day, they might think I’m cool. Although his friends used to call me Luscious. That was even worse. It was so embarrassing.

“My brother used to pretend he didn’t know me at school. On the other hand, Morgan Mason – James Mason’s son – used to tell everyone I was his sister.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Just to tease me. That was Beverly Hills High. It’s scary, because so many of them are dead now.

Sara in her favourite tree in Beverly Hills

Sara inside her favourite tree in Beverly Hills

“I went to the High School reunion and everyone I met was saying: I’ve been sober for 20 years. I go to AA every week. Every single person: Oh! I used to be on cocaine. Oh! I used to be alcoholic. If they’re not dead from a drug overdose or AIDs, they’re going to AA. All that money and all that corruption.”

“Well,” I said, “that’s the censored version of Sara’s life up to the age of fifteen.”

“That was a very censored version.” agreed Sara. “I remember at lunchtime when we were 13 or 15, we would all sit in the girls’ toilet, cross-legged on the floor, rolling joints, smoking them, smoking cigarettes and practising giving blow jobs on a banana. We didn’t un-peel the banana.”

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