Sunday, February 18, 2007

Peggy Siegal

Peggy Siegal is possibly New York’s most famous and controversial publicist. Or at least, to be more specific, “woman publicist.” She’s as energetic as a teenager which might be what she was when she started out in her business umpty-ump years ago feeding items to the columnists and Women’s Wear Daily about any celebrity she could get her eyes on or even think of. This enthusiasm which she obviously came straight from the cradle with, which some would/could rightly call alpha-personality aggressive behavior, eventually got her enough notice so that within a certain circle of movers and shakers in New York during the past twenty years, Peggy Siegal is a name that registers, and often with an exclamation mark in the highest circles and along the corridors of power.

When you meet her, or even see her, you get a very attractive woman, long and slender, perfectly coiffed, very fashionable with a style that reflects a position of prominence. You might meet her at the fanciest parties or charity galas, at the designer collections, in Palm Beach, Aspen, around the pool of the Beverly Hills Hotel, (or the Peninsula), or any place else on the planet where celebrity-dom is holding forth. If she’s not working it, she’s been invited. And then she’s working it. If she hasn’t been invited, it’s been known that she will get herself invited. And then she’s working it. Why? Because she loves it. Like a perpetual teen-ager, she loves her work and the excitement and the personalities that move in, out and around her orbit.

For several years now, she’s been the top film publicist on the East Coast. A Peggy Siegal screening is an important social event in New York, and can even be major. First of all, her “list” — those she invites — is a thorough cross-section of the heavy-hitters who make up the New York scene, be it society, show business, publishing, fashion, Wall Street or the (current) billionaires boys’ club.

The Peggy Siegal Scene: A new picture, pre-release, in one of several private screening rooms in Manhattan, filled to capacity with “names,” “somebodys” (all buddies, or could or would be, for at least the moment), followed by, after the picture, a sit-down dinner for fifty or sixty (often with placement at Le Cirque, or the Four Seasons, or the Plaza Athenee or any number of the chicest, or latest, spots in town). They’re all there, at one point or another, and they’re all talking about the picture they’ve just seen. And very often the stars of the picture are there. And their spouses, and partners, girlfriends, lovers, former co-stars, directors, producers and agents. And the photographers; don’t ever forget the photographers. It’s real Hollywood by the Hudson. But real Hudson too. And it’s Peggy’s oh-so-personal production.

Sometimes she takes her show on the road and stages her screening soirees in the Hamptons where the dinner parties are not only star-kissed but sun-kissed. And the List, the Peggy Siegal List (PSL) is coded, reflecting each guest’s particular background and importance to her scheme of things. And the PSL changes too, ever so subtly (except to those who suddenly realize they’re not on it anymore), because Peggy is in the business of The Now In New York. She has a high regard for the grand old names as well as the bigshots and the hotties.

Once upon a time it was good for a reporter or columnist’s career to engage Peggy in a little back-and-forth (usually provoked by the scribe) because she gives good newsprint and says exactly what’s on her mind. One summer morning in Southampton a few years ago, I ran into her at the local cheese shop at 6 AM where we were both getting coffee. It was the morning after Lizzie Grubman hit the accelerator in reverse at a nightclub down the road. Peggy, at the time, was a business partner of Lizzie. I asked her what happened. Amazingly, she didn’t know; she’d just got back from Europe a few hours before and couldn’t get Lizzie on the phone. I wrote that little piece of non-news, real non-news, in the Social Diary the next day and it got picked up by media all over the country. Because it was Peggy Siegal saying she “didn’t know.” No one believed her! Although I did. And it was true; she didn’t know.

Like any good press agent, public relations woman, flack, flimflam ma’am, publicist, she can be unflappable, undeniable, formidable, indefatigable, and a brilliant hostess who always delivers. If a picture doesn’t have a buzz, she’ll buzz it baby, and it’s all caviar and champagne. She’s very popular (as you might imagine anyone with her film-and-sup-with-stars cachet would be), knows the best of them, dines with the lot of them, lunches with her myriad girl pals, and like some of us (or maybe a lot of us) non-stop New Yorkers, is not so lucky in love. When she falls, it’s hard, like a whirlwind waltzing with a hurricane, but when it’s over, it’s like the movie: get out the hankies and go see the picture.