Publicists tip their hats

Producers honored for showmanship

In a ceremony highlighted by a surprise appearance from former First Lady Nancy Reagan, producer Brian Grazer (“Apollo 13,” “Liar, Liar”) received the Motion Picture Showmanship Award and “Law & Order” producer Dick Wolf the TV Showmanship honor Friday at the 35th Annual Publicists Guild Awards luncheon at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

Reagan made the rare public showing to present Merv Griffin with the Guild’s special Award of Merit in recognizing the onetime talkshow host’s contributions to the world of entertainment, both through his onetime chatfest and as creative and executive producer of both “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy!”.

“He has always been there for me,” Reagan said during her warm introduction of friend Griffin, “and I wanted to be here for him.”

Warner Bros. chairman Bob Daly accepted a special award in recognition of the studio’s 75th anniversary from Clint Eastwood.

Los Angeles Times TV writer and former Daily Variety scribe Brian Lowry was honored with the PGA’s Press Award and, during his brief acceptance speech, attributed the victory to a “low voter turnout.” Lowry certainly couldn’t credit it to great PR: he was misidentified as “Bob” in a Publicists Guild press release.

Publicists responsible for this year’s best film and TV publicity campaigns were also recognized. CBS, Warner Bros. TV and PMK were honored for their TV campaign work promoting “Murphy Brown,” while 20th Century Fox Intl. and Paramount Pictures domestic publicists shared the Maxwell Weinberg Publicists Showmanship Award for best movie campaign for their work on “Titanic.”

“Titanic” producer James Cameron was inadvertantly passed over for introduction among those on the dais. When he finally got to the microphone to present an award, he quipped, “Maybe I should consider getting a publicist.”

Helen Rhodes of the Warner Bros. Intl. publicity department received the Les Mason Award for career achievement, the highest honor given a Publicists Guild member.

Also honored Friday were Sheryl Main of Warner Bros. Intl.’s publicity unit and veteran praiser Julian Myers.

Presenters included Eastwood, Ron Howard, Oscar nominees Peter Fonda, Robert Forster and Minnie Driver, Sinbad, Ice-T, Daisy Fuentes and Marcia Gay Harden.

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