Public Relations(4)

By: Katie Heaney


About three weeks after my first day on the job, the thrill had worn off. My boss was true to his word, and I did work closely with writers, but it turned out I didn’t like many of them. I was certain the feeling was mutual. Most were in their early twenties—usually no more than five years older than me—but this didn’t stop them from posturing as old pros, seasoned cultural critics already disillusioned by the entire entertainment industry.

In simpler words, they were snobs, but not even in the way I would have expected. They didn’t lord their extensive knowledge of music or movies over me, but they did gawk whenever I revealed I hadn’t read whichever essay they were talking about that day. Their version of one-upping seemed to consist entirely of name-dropping and gaining Twitter followers. There was a lot of whining. Still, I developed valuable skills. I got comfortable sending professional emails. I learned how to convert news items into flashy and succinct articles people would actually read. I was introduced to the wonders of Gchat. But the most meaningful aspect of my time at The Dish was my access to the occasional interview whenever actors or singers were brought into the office. One interview in particular—with a singer named Michaela Jones—changed everything.

Michaela had fronted a pop-punk band in the early 2000s, disappeared for some time, and recently returned, newly reborn as a folksy solo artist. I was obsessed with her. I knew Anthony, the guy who was spearheading the interview; he wrote pithy album reviews that ran down a sidebar on the music page, and we’d bonded over our shared tastes. He was my closest thing to a work friend, and I was nearing the end of my time there anyway, so I figured, Well, why not? I sidled over to his desk while he was eating lunch (this would be another lasting lesson—no one who wants to get anywhere in New York takes lunch breaks) and asked if he was looking for any assistance regarding the interview—maybe some brainstorming or research, or even, if it would be helpful, someone else in the room?

Anthony obliged, and two days later I was standing at the door of our photo studio, eyeing the office entrance. Michaela arrived with a small entourage in tow, but one woman in particular piqued my interest. I guessed she was the publicist, mainly because of the way she walked across the office—confident gait, eyes never leaving her phone. She was tall and lean, in a sheer white button-up with sleeves rolled to the elbow and flowing high-waisted pants that made her legs look about a mile long. She wore her hair natural, cropped close to her head, and her face was bare save for bright-red lips. Michaela introduced herself to Anthony, our photographer, and me, and gazed around the room while the publicist’s thumbs danced wildly over her phone. It was clear she was running the show. She finally dropped the phone in her purse and offered her hand. She introduced herself as Joanna Girard, thanked us all for inviting Michaela, and then ran through a short list of topics her client wouldn’t be discussing.

“No being cute,” she said. “When I say she won’t discuss it, I mean she will not discuss it.” She flashed a shining smile and retreated to the back wall, where she stayed, eyes glued again to her phone, for most of the interview.

Anthony led the conversation, focusing often on Michaela’s love and social life, frequently flirting with the verboten topics. I got some questions in about her plans to do more songwriting, and what it was like to tour without a band. When Anthony decided to push his luck and bring up Michaela’s rumored affair with another (married) singer, it was as if he’d pulled the fire alarm. Within seconds Joanna had gathered up her and Michaela’s bags, and then ushered her out the door, ignoring Anthony’s trailing apologies and pleas for their return. Joanna didn’t even look back. It was incredible. The room felt electric, and I knew: That was the kind of impact I wanted to have.

Now, seven years later, I channeled that energy as I walked toward the conference room where I knew the Three-Headed Dog (which was what Harper and I sometimes called Ryan Weaver, Sam Daniels, and Keiran Fitz—because they were always together, and equally slimy) was waiting for me. I’d expected to get there comfortably before Archie Fox & Team, because Archie Fox was a rock star, and rock stars get places late. I’d counted on greeting the guys, settling into my chair, and then having a few moments for additional, covert research on my phone. But when I opened the door, the first person I saw wasn’t Ryan, Sam, or Keiran.

It was Archie Fox.

At the sound of my entrance, the room fell silent, and everyone, including Archie, who was seated at the far corner opposite me, and a woman in her forties, whom I presumed to be Archie’s manager, looked up. I allowed myself to hold Archie’s eye but only for a second for fear I might seem like a wannabe fangirl instead of a professional. It was enough time to confirm three things: One, that he looked extremely tired; two, that he was significantly broader, and slightly older-looking, than I’d imagined him to be; and three, that he was really very cute. This last part made me particularly annoyed—at him, for having the nerve, and at myself, for being just as susceptible to his face as everyone else.

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