Mike Hall was a gentleman from a bygone era. His office was on the corner of 57th & 6th Avenue. On one wall were mailboxes, each with the name of one of the most important gossip columnists of the day: Suzy, Eugenia, Liz, Army, Page Six, Phil & Tom, Robin Adams Sloan, and “That’s Earl, brother.” Mike never missed a chance to offer me “a couple of ducats” to the theatre. His demeanor and dress were pure Sonnenberg, but definitely not Klores.
I was reminded of Mike yesterday when I saw that AOL was teaming with Telepictures to break into the gossip game. Yes, just what we need: another outlet to feed America’s insatiable thirst for the salacious. In Mike Hall’s day, there were but a handful of columnists who mattered. His firm had monthly retainers from just about every film studio. His task: to place gossip column items pre and post-release. That’s all he was asked to do. No feature story pitches. No news release distributions. He lived and breathed gossip.
During filming, Mike would scour the production notes and cull column fodder for systematic placement. Remember the mailboxes? When one columnist turned him down, he returned to his IBM Correcting Selectric to re-cycle the item to meet the style of the next columnist, and so on and so forth until the tidbit surfaced in print.
Mike passed away a few years ago, but I’ll never forget his bespoke suits and the successful business he built working with his small stable of powerful columnists. Mike, if you only knew how that business has evolved – for better or worse.