In yesterday’s blog, I chatted to US publicity guru Dan Harary, who is publishing four books between now and next Spring.
Last month saw the publication of Flirting With Fame: : A Hollywood Publicist Recalls 50 Years of Celebrity Close Encounters.
The chat continues here…
JOHN: You were allegedly Jerry Seinfeld’s ‘very first fan’ in 1981…
DAN: That is absolutely true. In 1981, I had been in LA for about six months. I was 24, no car, no money, no proper job, no connections. I was a gofer for a video company, which meant I had to run for sandwiches and coffee, clean people’s offices and my biggest job was to get my bosses’ cars washed: Jaguars, Mercedes, BMWs… They were all millionaires; I was penniless.
One day I went to the car wash. There were only two people there: me and Jerry Seinfeld. I had seen him the year before, in 1980, in Manhattan and he had been so remarkably funny.
So, at the car wash, I turn and say: “Jerry Seinfeld?”
“My name is Dan. I’m your biggest fan.”
He goes: “Gee. I didn’t know I had any fans.”
We shook hands and I said: “I saw you in New York last year. What are you doing now?”
“Well, tonight I am gonna make my debut on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.”
And that night…
JOHN: …he became a star.
DAN: …he became a star. Yeah. But the funny part of that story, really, is the second half…
I said: “You and I are about the same age; we both came here from the East Coast; but I don’t have any friends here. Could you and I be friends?”
And he looked at me like this… (ODDLY)… and he says: “Weeell, I don’t give out my phone number, but here’s my business manager’s card”… He gave me the card. Nothing happened…
So, cut to 12 years later… 1993.
I’m at a TV Convention in San Francisco. Seinfeld, the TV show, was now very, very popular. Sony Pictures were selling Seinfeld into syndication.
I’m walking through this TV Convention. Jerry’s there.
I went up to him and said: “Jerry…”
“My name is Dan.”
We shook hands again.
I said: “I met you in 1981 at the Sunset Car Wash. It was the day you made your debut on The Tonight Show.”
He looked at me and said: “I remember you. You wanted to be my friend.”
He pulls his hand out from my hand. He turns and he walks away.
As we’d first met in West Hollywood, he probably thought I was gay. Who knows.
JOHN: But you’re not gay. Your second book Carrots: A Sex Odyssey is coming out this September and it is…
DAN: …the history of women I’ve loved, lost or chased or never had the courage to love at all and there’s quite a few of them.
JOHN: In the blurb, it mentions you had a 20-year long sex addiction “later in life”. What took you so long?
DAN: I was very shy when I was young, even though I had the long hair and I played the drums and I worked with Bruce Springsteen and KISS and Fleetwood Mac – I did lighting and stage work at The Sunshine Inn. I was a straight-A student in school but, with women, with girls, I was very very shy.
I was with my wife from the age of 25 to 36. We had two kids. When I got divorced at 36… I was no longer shy…
From 36 to 56 I became a sex addict. I went wild for quite a while but now I’m glad that period of my life is behind me.
JOHN: You worked at the Playboy Channel for three years and Playboy Channel events were held in Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Mansion West.
DAN: Most of the times I was there was for events during the day. I think I met Hefner three times; he was very nice. I did go to a few parties there at night. I wasn’t there when people were making love in the pool. I didn’t see naked people, but I saw some interesting things at night.
The Halloween parties that he had! Celebrities were there and gorgeous 18/19 year-old girls with almost no clothes on. At one of those parties, I had my drink and I’m like the grandfather next to these young girls. They’re like my daughter’s age.
I’m looking around thinking: For a straight man, this is heaven! There’s a table of shrimp and lobster and steak. And on other table is free alcohol: every possible drink. Garry Shandling and Matt Dillon are there I remember… James Caan. And then the girls! Every girl was drop-dead gorgeous and some were there with their mothers!
I met this one girl of 19 and her mom was like 40 and they were both equally beautiful.
I was single at that time but I was so overwhelmed that, after two hours, I actually said to myself: I have to leave!
It was too much.
It was just too much.
JOHN: Surely you owed it to yourself to stay?
DAN: I couldn’t. I couldn’t do it. First of all, these girls wanted millionaire, movie star boyfriends. I’m not a millionaire and I’m not a movie star.
A lot of women I’ve met in my life want to use me, OK. Can you help me do my PR? I’ve had actress women, models use me. I like pretty girls and they like to torture me! But that one night at the Halloween party I actually had to leave. It was like being a kid in a candy store but you have diabetes.
JOHN: You must have unfulfilled ambitions? You were a drummer in lots of bands…
DAN: When I was a Senior in high school, a friend of mine who was friends with Bruce Springsteen told me: “Dan, Bruce is looking for a new drummer. Why don’t you consider trying out for him?”
Now I did not like his music at that time. I was into The Who, Led Zeppelin, Cream, The Beatles, The Stones.
Years later, I came to love quite a few of his songs. Independence Day is one of my favourite songs. But, at the time, he wasn’t famous and I had no connection with his music. So I told my friend: “It’s not for me.”
Had I auditioned, you never know… I had a beautiful drum set, I was a very good drummer, I had met Bruce the year before. He would have known who I was. But, you know, I didn’t even drive? I was 16. Bruce was seven years older than me. If we had gone to a bar, I wouldn’t have been able to play. I was 16. Under-age.
That’s the closest I ever got to becoming a famous drummer.
JOHN: Your third book is Inside The Cutting Room: A Backstage Look at New York’s Last Rock ‘n’ Roll Mecca. It’s published in Spring next year and it’s about the music business…
DAN: The backstory is my best friend from childhood – Steve Walter. We met in 1968. He and I grew up together. We were in bands together. We worked at The Sunshine Inn together. When I was 24, I went to LA; he went to Manhattan.
He owns The Cutting Room club. My lifelong best friend.
He opened The Cutting Room 25 years ago. A lot of very very famous musicians, rock bands have played there over the years.
JOHN: Lady Gaga was discovered there?
DAN: Absolutely correct. March 2006.
In March 2006, there was The Songwriters of New York Talent Showcase and 19-year old Stefani Germanotta played on my friend’s stage along with about a dozen other young performers.
There was a woman in the audience named Wendy Starland who, when she saw Stefani perform, called a record producer friend and said: “I just discovered the next Big Thing.”
Wendy took Stefani to meet this guy who heard her stuff, said, “You’re the new John Lennon. You’re a good songwriter,” signed her up and, the next time she played The Cutting Room that Fall, they introduced her as Lady Gaga.
JOHN: On your personal website, you describe yourself as “an author, entertainment industry publicist, drummer and former stand-up comic”. The domain name is danhararyauthor.com – danhararyAUTHOR not danhararyPR or just danharary… I know you have your business site www.asburypr.com but danhararyAUTHOR.com implies that writing is personally more important than other things?
DAN: In Eighth Grade, I was writing short stories and my English teacher loved them; she told me I was a talented writer. I came to LA to be a comedy writer for television. I wanted to be the new Woody Allen. I was gonna write sitcoms. I came close with Seinfeld in 1992. I came close but didn’t sell my script. I came close three times; it didn’t happen. Along the way, I fell in love, got married, had kids.
I’m a good writer. A lot of publicity, as you know, is writing. So my sitcom comedy writing ambitions veered off to PR. And that’s how I made a living for 40 years. It’s just how it happened. I told my mother: “At the age of 66, I’ve now finally fulfilled my dream of being an author.”
JOHN: So now we get to your fourth book… the one about the UFOs…
(… CONTINUED HERE …)