The Times: Mystery of the starmaker who left no trace of his life

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Bruce Calvert

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Oct 17, 2008, 5:10:11 PM10/17/08
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http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/film/article4958677.ece

From The Times
October 17, 2008

Mystery of the starmaker who left no trace of his life
The story of a ‘hard-living Hollywood PR guru’ made our correspondents
suspicious

Marion Davies: books about the star do not mention Maynard Nottage

Richard Evans and David Brown
As a hard-drinking Hollywood publicist, Maynard Nottage was linked to
some of most dramatic stunts of the silent movie era. But in the smoke-
and-mirrors world of public relations, one central question remains
unanswered: did the larger-than-life celebrity-maker really exist?

Nottage stands out as one of the most colourful characters in a new
book by the British publicist Mark Borkowski, The Fame Formula: How
Hollywood's Fixers, Fakers and Star Makers Shaped the Publicity
Industry [more than 20 other leading 'fame makers' are examined in the
book].

Mr Borkowski, who has exercised his PR skills on behalf of Michael
Jackson, Sir Cliff Richard, Mikhail Gorbachev and Michael Moore, spent
seven years researching his subjects and insists that Nottage was a
real person, although he concedes that some of his activities may have
been exaggerated. His book tells how he was approached in a hotel by
Nottage's granddaughter, who gave him a bundle of his personal papers
that she had kept since 1964.

The character that emerges from the papers seemed to love alcohol and
women as much as he did publicising films, with the book suggesting
that many of his women clients “were nothing less than a personal
harem”.

The book records Nottage's friendships with the legendary director
D.W. Griffith and actresses such as Clara Bow and Marion Davies.
Nottage kept his clients supplied with alcohol and stimulants and his
parties were “characterised by nudity and wild abandon”. Over a ten-
year period he seemed to pop up at some of the main events of his
time, like an early 20th-century Forrest Gump.
He toured with Buffalo Bill's Wild West show and was credited with
being the brains behind the career of Theda Bara, cinema's first sex
symbol. The book also claims he promoted Florence Lawrence, the first
star to be identified by name on screen. In one bizarre episode
Nottage is even linked indirectly to the adoption of black shirts and
swastikas by the Nazis.

Mr Borkowski also places the publicist “right at the heart” of one of
Hollywood's most notorious murders: the still-unsolved shooting of the
director William Desmond Taylor in 1922.

He claims that Nottage was questioned by the police about the murder
and that he was friends with Mabel Normand, a comedy actress who was
addicted to drugs and alcohol and was the last person to see Taylor
alive.

Nottage never quite conquered Hollywood despite his talent, in part
because of his love of alcohol and his “not particularly healthy”
relationships with his women clients. Unable to cope with the new
demands of the studio system and the Hays Code on morality in films,
he faded away and died drunk and bitter in the Hollywood suburbs in
1965.

The Fame Formula has an extensive bibliography but it contains only
one mention of Nottage as his story “is derived largely from his own
papers and I thank Linda Fairweather and family for access to his
archives”.

The Margaret Herrick Library in Los Angeles, which has one of the
world's biggest collections of film-related material, could find no
reference to Maynard Nottage. There was also no mention in the indexes
to the library's collection of books on Florence Lawrence, Clara Bow,
Marion Davies, D.W. Griffith, Theda Bara or Willian Desmond Taylor.

Shelley Stamp, Professor of Film at the University of California in
Santa Cruz, said that she had searched the online archives of the Los
Angeles Times and a dozen other daily California newspapers between
1910 and 1930 but could find no trace of him.

“This doesn't mean necessarily mean that he's a fictitious character,
of course,” she said. “since publicists wouldn't always publicise
themselves. But it does strongly point to that fact.”

The US Census of 1920 lists no one named Maynard Nottage.

Yesterday Mr Borkowski defended Nottage's reputation, saying: “He had
a pretty startling ten years' career. He wasn't very significant but
as a coda to what happened he shows how destructive that level of
celebrity is.”

He added: “Did I consider I was being hoaxed? Of course I did. But I
don't think so.”

--
Bruce Calvert
Visit the Silent Film Still Archive
http://www.silentfilmstillarchive.com

PikaB

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Oct 17, 2008, 7:00:16 PM10/17/08
to
On Oct 17, 2:10 pm, Bruce Calvert <silentf...@attbi.com> wrote:
> http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/fil...

>
> From The Times
> October 17, 2008
>
> Mystery of the starmaker who left no trace of his life
> The story of a ‘hard-living Hollywood PR guru’ made our correspondents
> suspicious
>
> Marion Davies: books about the star do not mention Maynard Nottage
>
> Richard Evans and David Brown
> As a hard-drinking Hollywood publicist, Maynard Nottage was linked to
> some of most dramatic stunts of the silent movie era. But in the smoke-
> and-mirrors world of public relations, one central question remains
> unanswered: did the larger-than-life celebrity-maker really exist?
...

There is a related article on the reporter's skepticism at
http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/film/article4959020.ece

Of course, it's hard to "prove" that someone never existed, but there
is also no record of that name in the Social Security Death Index, and
that name never crossed my path despite the supposed connection to the
Taylor case. If he really existed, the author should have been able
to easily come up with at least a half-dozen contemporary documents
which mention him. Since he did not, the reasonable conclusion is:
pure fiction until proven otherwise.

Bruce Long


sir m

unread,
Oct 17, 2008, 10:04:07 PM10/17/08
to
On Oct 18, 9:00 am, PikaB <br...@asu.edu> wrote:
> On Oct 17, 2:10 pm, Bruce Calvert <silentf...@attbi.com> wrote:
>
> >http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/fil...
>
> > From The Times
> > October 17, 2008
>
> > Mystery of the starmaker who left no trace of his life
> > The story of a ‘hard-living Hollywood PR guru’ made our correspondents
> > suspicious
>
> > Marion Davies: books about the star do not mention Maynard Nottage
>
> > Richard Evans and David Brown
> > As a hard-drinking Hollywood publicist, Maynard Nottage was linked to
> > some of most dramatic stunts of the silent movie era. But in the smoke-
> > and-mirrors world of public relations, one central question remains
> > unanswered: did the larger-than-life celebrity-maker really exist?
>
> ...
>
> There is a related article on the reporter's skepticism athttp://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/fil...

>
> Of course, it's hard to "prove" that someone never existed, but there
> is also no record of that name in the Social Security Death Index, and
> that name never crossed my path despite the supposed connection to the
> Taylor case.  If he really existed, the author should have been able
> to easily come up with at least a half-dozen contemporary documents
> which mention him.  Since he did not, the reasonable conclusion is:
> pure fiction until proven otherwise.
>
> Bruce Long

we certainly do not want any more "mysteries"

PikaB

unread,
Nov 1, 2008, 9:04:23 PM11/1/08
to
On Oct 17, 4:00 pm, PikaB <br...@asu.edu> wrote:
> On Oct 17, 2:10 pm, Bruce Calvert <silentf...@attbi.com> wrote:
>
> >http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/fil...
>
> > From The Times
> > October 17, 2008
>
> > Mystery of the starmaker who left no trace of his life
> > The story of a ‘hard-living Hollywood PR guru’ made our correspondents
> > suspicious
>
> > Marion Davies: books about the star do not mentionMaynard Nottage

>
> > Richard Evans and David Brown
> > As a hard-drinking Hollywood publicist,Maynard Nottagewas linked to

> > some of most dramatic stunts of the silent movie era. But in the smoke-
> > and-mirrors world of public relations, one central question remains
> > unanswered: did the larger-than-life celebrity-maker really exist?
>
> ...
>
> There is a related article on the reporter's skepticism athttp://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/fil...

>
> Of course, it's hard to "prove" that someone never existed, but there
> is also no record of that name in the Social Security Death Index, and
> that name never crossed my path despite the supposed connection to the
> Taylor case.  If he really existed, the author should have been able
> to easily come up with at least a half-dozen contemporary documents
> which mention him.  Since he did not, the reasonable conclusion is:
> pure fiction until proven otherwise.
>
> Bruce Long

I took a look at the book. There is absolutely nothing in it to make
me think that was a real person, and lots to make me think he is
fiction. (And, no surprise, the name is not listed in World War I
draft registration index.)

Bruce Long

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