RC: How does someone become a publicist?
Jeff: I started out, when I was in high school, I started interviewing people on television shows for my high school paper. Back in the day, you could just pick up the phone & call Robert Wagner or Angie Dickinson & they’d come to the phone! I sucked those people in, they didn’t have agents! I’d go interview them & then hang out to wander the studios. I ended up on the show “Eight is Enough” as their publicist. I was still in high school! Everything kind of snowballed from there.
RC: When did your working relationship begin with Paula?
Jeff: I met Paula when I was in high school. She was dating a friend of mine. When she did her album, she had a publicist. I think that publicist left to go do something else. She called me saying, “You’re the only publicist I know!” I’m not a music publicist, that’s a very specialized thing. We’ve worked together for 6 months & then, when American Idol came around, I was handling Ryan Seacrest & she hired me for Idol.
RC: Have you or do you currently represent other celebrities?
Jeff: I’ve worked with Charlie Sheen, Martin Sheen, Matthew Perry, Forrest Whitaker, Zach Efron, different soap opera stars … quite an eclectic bunch.
RC: A publicist isn’t used to being the one at the center of attention. How did you adjust when the camera crews came in for “Hey Paula”?
Jeff: It was very awkward to me because, as a publicist, you have a peripheral vision where you see the cameras. You’re more about keeping the cameras away. I’m not an actor & there’s a reason why I’m behind the camera. But I’ve improved since the first episode. After a while, you get used to them. It’s hard when you’re in a limo with a camera, light person, sound person there in your face. But when you’re walking around, you get used to them.
RC: Is the show accurate?
Jeff: Reality isn’t real, bottom line. It’s all scripted. What they did with her show was shoot for 3 or 4 months before they knew what each episode was going to be. They look over all the footage & say, “Oh here’s a good storyline!” There’s stuff that I did in January or April & it looks like it’s the same day. I wanted to cut my hair for the summer & they said I couldn’t. It had to match. But the show pretty much accurately portrays here. There’s always drama & they tie it up really nicely at the end with a bow on it.
RC: Whose idea was doing “Hey Paula”?
Jeff: I think that she had a producing partner & came up with the idea. They thought it would be a good forum to show Paula other than the judge on American Idol. It shows her enterprises & endeavors: her jewelry line, her perfume, her clothing line. This was her chance to show people, “I’m more than just that image on American Idol”. It also gave her a chance to explain why people think she’s a little whacky. This girl goes 24 hours a day.
RC: I imagine with someone like Paula, that’s this is a 24 hour a day job for you as well.
Jeff: It is at times! For dramatic purposes, it looks like I’m much busier than I am. But she lives 2 miles up the street so I can be at her house in 5 minutes. We have a very good relationship. We fire each other every other week but at the end of the day, I really like her. It’s not about a check. I can make plenty of money handling not nice people. I choose to work for nice people.
RC: Paula has a new season of Idol coming up – what else can we expect from her?
Jeff: She’s got a whole new line of jewelry. She’s in London working on that & selling it over there on their version on QVC. She’s got her new perfume called Sexy Thoughts. Idol starts in a few days starting with the auditions in San Diego. She’s got some other shows coming up. Next week, she’s got Letterman, and she’s co-hosting The View.
A new episode of Hey Paula airs tonight on Bravo at 10pm EST