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Publicists pick year’s best publicity

Waiting on spins and wheedles

TIP SHEET

WHAT: 44th annual ICG Publicists Awards
WHEN: Noon today
WHERE: Beverly Hilton Hotel
HONOREES INCLUDE: Bob Barker, Sid Ganis, Sony’s Michael Lynton and Amy Pascal, and CBS’ Nina Tassler

* * *

Showbiz news outlets like to blow smoke about having the inside story, but those in search of the real behind-the-scenes scoop might consider heading for the 44th annual ICG Publicists Awards luncheon starting at noon today at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

There, in an atmosphere of jaded conviviality and friendly competition, will gather the 450 or so persons most likely to know how Lindsay’s really doing in rehab or what it took to make “Borat” a box office phenomenon.

These are the industry’s union publicists, now affiliated with the Intl. Cinematographers Guild, and this is their annual opportunity to step into the spotlight.

“We do the unmentionable,” says awards chairman Henri Bollinger. “It’s the one event in the entire year where we publicists dare to say that we play a role in the entertainment industry.”

The curtain on these little-known activities will be lifted, so to speak, in front of hundreds of showbiz colleagues, including producers, members of the press and high-profile honorees.

Usually held a few days before the Academy Awards, the event takes place 2½ weeks earlier this year, meaning that Oscar campaigns will be still ongoing, and a heightened competitive atmosphere could come into play. Bollinger says the date might also hold extra appeal to presenters, who were still being lined up days before the show. Among the early confirmed presenters were George Lucas, Will Ferrell, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and “Babel’s” Adriana Barraza.

Steven Poster, elected ICG president last August, will address the gathering, making his first appearance at the event in that role. He claims to be a big fan of the awards luncheon. “There’s a great sense of camaraderie. Publicists are fun people,” he says, naming as pluses that the event requires no fancy attire and unfolds during work hours.

Public relations being its forte, the group honors not just its members, but power players such as Michael Lynton and Amy Pascal, the Sony toppers who as a team are receiving this year’s Motion Picture Showmanship award; CBS Entertainment prexy Nina Tassler, recipient of the same honor on the television side; and Sid Ganis, president of the Motion Picture Academy, who’ll get lifetime achievement honors. Bob Barker will receive the President’s Award.

As for core business, the org will bestow its highest internal honor, the Les Mason Award for career achievement. The PR mavens up for the award are Tony Angellotti of the Angellotti Co., Fox’s Hilary Clark, Warners’ Jeff Hare and Mary Hunter, Alan Nierob of Rogers & Cowan, and Pat Kingsley of PMK/HBH.

The guild also makes awards to teams for excellence in publicity and promotion during the past year. Up for recognition are the union publicists in television who worked on “ER,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Jericho,” “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” and “Ugly Betty”; and the film PR teams who worked on “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan,” “The Devil Wears Prada,” “Dreamgirls,” “Happy Feet” and “United 93.”

“We tend to honor people who get the job done and at the end of the day are still respected for their professionalism,” says Tim Menke, a senior publicist at Fox and past Les Mason Award winner. “As a publicist, you figure out who the audience is for a movie and how you get inside their heads. It’s a challenge. The onset of new media has definitely changed the profession. The audience is more and more savvy, and you have to be creative to keep up with them.”

Awards are bestowed as well for excellence in unit still photography and domestic and international entertainment press.

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