"Do you think Mick Jagger is a living god?"
The aim of every good publicist is to build public interest in his client until that interest becomes self-sustaining, irrespective of any further professional efforts on the client's behalf. This is a point of spontaneous combustion, of critical mass, of ascendancy into the realm of myth. Yes, myth. The client becomes at this exciting juncture a mythological creature; created in all his glamorous particulars by the fertile imaginations of the citizens at large — the fans — and in a manner which is ongoing, dependable, and sure.
The publicist's job is now to steer acquired momentum —- not create any more of it. Only, all the control mechanisms now work backwards. You don't present your client for public inspection; you shield him from it. You refuse interviews, and never solicit them. You say "No comment." "I really can't say anything about that," and "no, there's no way that could occur." You make a secret about where your clients are, what they're doing, and what they're thinking. Basically, you take your client out of the public eye, in order that the public eye might turn inwards, on itself, where it's free to hallucinate, and in a manner which, as publicist, it's your duty to control, condition, and manipulate.
Excessive exposure of the client can also endanger the myth, to the extent that the client compares unfavorably to it. Let's not forget that it's the fans who gratuitously create the objects of myth using their imaginations. When the real objects become scarce — inaccessible to the public — then it's mainly out of what the public has been told concerning the real objects, that the mythological objects are created. That's what it means to be a creature of the media.
Needless to say, it's under these circumstances that we see an inevitabledisparity between real and mythological objects. People's 'projections' cease to agree, property for property, with the real objects, the real individuals. They are inevitably more glamorous, more an answer to the felt needs of the public. They are your popular heroes — your folk heroes. Cut loose from the constraints of mundane, worldly existence as real objects — objects which people can agree on, using their eyes and ears — the objects of myth can soar into whatever heady realms people can agree upon as being imaginable. And that allows for heroes of great luster, and appeal.
Popular heroes of this sort — mythological creatures — are what we call demi-gods. Demi-gods belong to the people — to the fans. They bear no necessary resemblance to any real person or persons from whose properties they are, or were once, derived, and for that reason it's very important that the real persons never be compared to the demi-gods — to the objects of myth.
The results of that comparison would be disastrous to the extent that the people used their imaginations well. It would be extremely demoralizing. It could kill the myth, such a comparison could. So, whenever the publicist has a client who has successfully spawned a public myth, it becomes very important to keep that client out of sight. The myth is self-sustaining; the people are sufficient unto themselves, and the publicist does not need to fan the flames of fame any longer. The job is done. The balloon has been lofted, flying now in accordance with the wishes of the masses. And the publicist's job now is to be sure only that it doesn't get punctured. Keep your man out of sight. You've got a roll going. Silence is golden; less is more, and don't forget that all the controls work backwards.
As soon as the Rolling Stones left Long View Farm, and I was free to talk to writers and reporters once again, I was asked by almost all of them if I thought that the Rolling Stones were gods. The question was put to me in different ways, according to the circumstances, and my answers were never wholly satisfactory — at least for me they weren't.
"So you're saying that the Rolling Stones aren't gods, but that they're religious figures instead?" This was a serious reporter from the BostonGlobe I was talking to, and he had me up against the wall in Studio C, the Sound Stage, right beside the brass plate which says "Stage built for and according to the specifications of the Rolling Stones, 1981."
"No, Dan, I didn't say that, either. I said that religious figures are almost always made into mythological objects, too, just like the Rolling Stones are. I said that the Stones call forth from the people the same set of responses normally reserved for religious heroes."
". . . like Jesus Christ . . .?"
"Yes, I said that."
"Hmmm . . . still doesn't square with some other remarks of yours we have on the record, Gil. Don't make me write a piece which makes you look like a schizophrenic, or someone who can't make up his mind."
"What do you mean by that, Dan?"
"Well, we have you saying several years ago, in 1977, that there are living gods in India, and that you went there with George Harrison of the Beatles, to track some down."
"That's nonsense, Dan. I just happened to meet George Harrison on a plane coming from the Seychelles. Never knew him before that. It was pure coincidence. The Beatles had long since broken up, anyway."
"What about the living gods? We have it that you moved about with Harrison and his girlfriend, looking for them."
"Well, Dan," I said, "there's always been talk about living gods in India, only more recently here, in the West. They can make packs of cigarettes appear and disappear stay alive for hundreds of years drinking only water — things like that. It was the year of the Kumbla Mela, so it was hard to stay off the topic.
"Kumbla Mela. Every twenty years it happens at Benares, a religious center like Lourdes, only in central India, not France. They say that's where you can see it all happening. People levitating all along the side of the road, saints coming out of caves to give interviews. All sorts of amazing things." I was laughing now, and didn't mean what I'd said.
"Do you think George Harrison is a living god?" Dan asked.
"No," I said, "although he does draw out of people the same sort of responses, as though he were one. The people have made a demi-god out of George Harrison."
"Do you think Mick Jagger is a living god?"
"No," I said, "although he's treated like one, too. People allow him to play that role for them, just like Harrison. Mick's a demi-god, too."
"Are these quotes — that neither man is a living god?"
"No, Dan, they aren't quotes. No need for us to offend these fellows unnecessarily, is there?"
"That's up to you, Gil. I'm just interested in this 'living gods'
angle. Anything else you can think of to help?"
"Well, yes," I said. "I think there are such things as living gods."
"The Rolling Stones, right?"
"No, Dan, not exactly, no."
"What about the Beatles? George Harrison. What was he like in '77? What did he think about the breakup of the band, about the other members of the band, Lennon, McCartney . . . anything along those lines you can remember? Anything George told you that stands out in your mind?"
"'Take this book,' he said, 'and read it.' It was Yogananda's bookAutobiography of a Yogi. My mother had given it to me twenty years earlier, claiming sorority with the forces that saw it published on Earth. So I took it, of course. That made an even dozen for me."
"A dozen saints?"
"No, Dan. A dozen copies of Yogananda's book."
"Hmmm . . . doesn't tell me much more about your theory of living gods, and the Rolling Stones, but I'll stick with what I've got."
Dan Silverman flipped his notepad shut, stuck his ball-point pen back into his jacket pocket, and started looking around for the way out.
"How do you get out of here?" Dan asked.
"Through Studio B. This door, follow me," I said. Dan kept talking as we made our way through the recording studio.
"Does throw some light on the question of public turmoil, the uproar, the suspension of normal patterns of work and recreation — your theory does. It was the same sort of thing they saw in Jerusalem, two thousand years ago. People reaching out to touch. I have to admit you're right about that. And Tibet."
"Los Angeles, too," I said, laughing.
"Los Angeles, too. Yeah. Did'cha see the quote from the Boston Police Commissioner, or whoever said, 'next to this — the problem with the Stones — the visit of the Pope was child's play' or something to that effect? Same sort of disturbance."
"People being taken out of themselves," I offered. "Reaching out to touch."
"That's it, Gil."
We were now standing beside Dan's car, and he opened the door.
"Maybe we'd better not use any of that stuff about the Stones being gods, you know?"
"I agree with that, Dan," I said. "Less said about that, the better."
Author's note: Dan Silverman's last name was really "Golden," and the article he was writing was printed shortly thereafter in the Boston Globe.
All original material copyright © Gilbert Scott Markle. All rights reserved.