Friday, April 12, 2024

Jack Nicholson Helps Send N.Y.’s Most Famous Flack South


Bobby Zarem is heading south. He’s leaving on Sunday to go live in his beloved Savannah, Ga., where he’s been the mastermind for the city’s film festival for many years.

New York without Bobby Zarem? It’s unimaginable. Like New York without bagels. Or taxis. He’s the only publicist about whom a movie was made — “People I Know,” starring Al Pacino, Bobby’s pal, as the garrulous flack.

His sort of farewell party was at Elaine’s, where Bobby’s thrown a million parties for a million authors, actors, and raconteurs. The place filled up fast with a variety of well-known faces, from actor Josh Lucas to the inimitably elegant Maria Cooper Janis, daughter of the legend Gary Cooper, from Patti D’Arbanville to Art Garfunkel and his beautiful singing wife, Kim.

There were plenty of Elaine’s regulars. The spirit of Neil Travis hovered. Page Six’s Richard Johnson was chatting amicably with his former competitor Lloyd Grove, who used to be at the Daily News. Joanna Molloy, still of the News, was happy to see Broadway producer Judy Gordon, who also saw producer David Richenthal, who was in turn gushing about Matthew Modine’s performance in his new production of “The Miracle Worker.” And so on. There were clutches of movie publicists from the different studios. Famed manager and former agent Johnnie Planco with partner Gene Parseghian, TV producer Fred Rappaport, children’s book publisher Josh Gaspero and so on made the scene. I saw Bob Wallace, who survived a term as editor of Rolling Stone when it was still a real magazine.

It was generally acknowledged that even with Bobby returning occasionally from the South, an end of an era had finally arrived. Years ago, Bobby invented Denise Rich, for example, when she wrote a song about New York. To get an inscribed invite to a Zarem party at Elaine’s meant you’d really, really made it.

Into all this came Vanity Fair editor-in-chief Graydon Carter to shake Zarem’s hand and wish him well. The sea of people parted. And then the phone rang.

Jack Nicholson is calling,” said Diane Becker, who manages Elaine’s. Even Carter was impressed. Bobby swam across the room to grab the pay phone. “Jack Nicholson is calling you.” someone else said to him. No big deal, really. Bobby responded, “We talk all the time,” he said.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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