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The Fame Formula: How Hollywood's Fixers, Fakers and Star Makers Created the Celebrity Industry [Unabridged] [Paperback]

Mark Borkowski
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

3 April 2009
Fixers, fakers, and star makers… They built the dream factory that is Hollywood, but until now, their own incredible stories have largely remained untold.

Who were the unsung heroes (and not a few villains) behind the glitter of Tinseltown?  Rudolph Valentino had Harry Reichenbach.  Theda Bara had Maynard Nottage.  Judy Garland, Clark Gable, Katharine Hepburn and all the other MGM stars had Howard Strickling and his team of illusionists.

Behind every star and movie mogul loomed a great publicist: manipulating headlines, concealing sins and shaping destinies.  And it was these publicists, as much as anyone, who created the Hollywood dream: and by extension, the celebrity industry as it stands today.

“The Fame Formula” does for Hollywood what “Mad Men” did for the advertising business.  It is the authoritative history of the birth of an industry that shaped the American dream and continues to define our world today. 

With an insider’s knowing eye, Mark Borkowski introduces the reader to a secret cabal of great publicists whose carefully crafted images, stunts and flashes of divine inspiration have mapped the media agenda for the last century.  From Phineas Taylor Barnum all the way through to “The X Factor” and “I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here” – the DNA fingerprint is clear.

Avoiding the limelight as assiduously as they pursued it for their clients, the wizards of Hollywood have finally met their nemesis in “The Fame Formula”.

Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Pan (3 April 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330444883
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330444880
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 468,597 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description

Book Description

Piers Morgan
'Borkowski has shone a brilliantly illuminating light on the disgraceful, hilarious, and undeniably effective Tinself Town PR war machines that inspired the current celebrity/PR meltdown we see today. I loved every page.'

Daily Express
'Fascinating new book'

Evening Standard
'An engrossing and enjoyable stroll in the company of a knowledgeable enthusiast through that weird zone where talent...'

News of the World
'A fascinating and readable insight into the cult of celebrity, from Hollywood legends to the latest Big Brother wannabes.'

'Written by one of the UK's leading PRs, this entertaining riff on celebrity is seen through the eyes of publicists'

Angel Magazine
'This book has it all. Lacing his narrative with humour, history and social and economic analysis...'

Mail on Sunday
'A witty, well researched and enlightening history of America's film publicists.'

Read This 2009 - The Sunday Times Style Magazine
'Behind every great star, there's a pit bull of a publicist.' --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Mark Borkowski has publicized some of the biggest names in entertainment - from Michael Jackson to The Matrix…  Archaos to Our Friends in the North.  His titular PR company has dealt with a broad roster of clients over the years, reflecting Borkowski’s wide-ranging interests, and encompassing international theatre and circus, charities such as Amnesty International, brands including Sony UK, Hovis, Freesat and IKEA, performance poets and celebrities such as Noel Edmonds. 

Regarded as an authority on the history of the publicity stunt, his first book “Improperganda: A Pictorial History Of This Artform” was released in 2001.  His one-man show “Sons of Barnum” was produced at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and became the basis for “The Fame Formula”.

He lives in Gloucestershire with his family and an astonishing archive of pop cultural ephemera and history.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Rise and Fall of Hollywood Publicity 4 Sep 2008
This is a fascinating book if you are interested in the dirty underwear of Hollywood, in how the publicists hid the soiled garments and how they replaced it with shiny new lingerie, which they then hung from the most prominent wires, helping stars, films, studios and, eventually, brand names look rather better than they did in real life.

The book most successfully details the lives, peccadilloes, disasters and lies that stuck early Hollywood together with the glue of publicity and goes into most detail about the early stunt-merchants such as Harry Reichenbach and Maynard Nottage, who moved into the movies from vaudeville and the carnival, influenced by the jovial hucksterism of PT Barnum. Their lives, particularly Nottage's, are a definite lesson in the price of fame.

Nottage helped create stars, but came to believe his own hype - that he was a great starmaker - and drank himself into oblivion when the rest of the industry refused to believe him, dying in the 1960s, a bitter and lonely old man.

According to Borkowski, nearly all of the publicists in the book end up eaten alive by the job or their own hype - they can either stop and vanish, usually in a cloud of bitterness, die young from overwork or keep going until they are wizened and old but still turning up and working. Harry Brand, publicist at 20th Century Fox, retired in the 1960s but was given an office by the studio that he used for most of the rest of his life. It was only the working community there that kept him happy; a rather sad end for the man who rescued Marilyn from public disapprobation after her early nude photo shoot.

Out of the work of these obsessional men and women, Borkowski suggests, the modern celebrity industry was born.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A dirty history! 17 Dec 2009
This is the real book on the history of PR and ShowBiz. Scandalous, yet brillaint!
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fame Formula Review 11 Aug 2008
This was one of the most interesting and insightful books I have read in a long time. It's not a dull historical chronology of PRs, it's more of an amazing journey through carnivals, circuses, Hollywood and our own mad celebrity crazed world. I had never realised where publicists got their inspirations, and certainly hadn't ever understood the power those Hollywood publicists had to squash stories and keep their stars in and out of the news. It's fascinating to see how people's careers are really maniuplated. We knew it happened, but this book explains the process. I thoroughly enjoyed it and would definitely recommend anyone to read it.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating story 2 Aug 2008
By David
This book is a really fascinating read detailing the history of the rise of the public relations industry and how it molded entertainment from vaudeville and early cinema in the late nineteenth century to what it has become now - a mega industry. The book is well written, very entertaining and a real page-turner - I've only had it a couple of days and haven't been able to put it down. I'd never heard of most of these people but after reading this you get to learn of the rise from humble beginnings of some of the great showmen who worked behind the scenes to make other people famous. Many of the stories and tricks they got up to are hilarious (though maybe not for Tara Tiplady and her beau!) and the author has done some great detective work to uncover these great tales and to get many people who rarely talk to give us their stories too. Mark Borkowski's background is in PR and this is obviously a subject close to his heart. It is written with the passion of someone who obviously loves his work. Highly recommended.
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