#writering: publishing disasters, part II

Beth Wareham is editor-in-chief of Lisa Hagan Books, an independent publisher. #writering is a random blog about all things publishing, writing, and editing.

The first post on publishing disasters led to requests for part II. I aim to please. Enter Mary Carlomagno, former national events coordinator for Barnes and Noble. Mary was our “go to” person to get the ear of the then giant retailer. Mary had the power to assign your author to a plum store in New York for a signing or a strip mall ten miles outside of Boise.  Mary could make you look like a marketing genius or just another cube lurker. You didn’t mess with Mary.

In addition to brokering events nationally, Mary oversaw the big signings at the flagship store in New York.  Movie stars. Sports icons. Presidential candidates. These events often included a lot of cameras and lines that snaked around the block. NYPD had to manage the street with barriers. And there was Mary, curls flying, keeping it all in order.

Feels like those days are gone, but maybe not. Someone always comes along that seizes the imagination and a new line forms. Whether this event is about theater, art or celebrity, it doesn’t matter. It’s still a lot of fun.

Here are some of Mary’s favorite memories for her life working the lines:

“I went to the back of the store to see if he was ready. He was. He stepped out, a 7-foot basketball player, in a wedding dress with full make-up. He asked me if he looked pretty and I said, ‘of course you do, honey. Now go sell some books.”  The same man went on to attempt getting North Korea and the U.S. to be “Sister” countries. The project failed.

“Hunter S. Thompson required a bottle of 75-year old Scotch and Cabernet all day long. If it ran out, everything stopped.”

“I was working with Steven Tyler of Aerosmith when a woman approached me and rambled on for many minutes about the last time she saw me in the student center. Then she walked off.  Steven looked at me, laughed and said, ‘you have no idea who she is, do you? Happens to me all the time.’ Then he pulled me to him where he sat and kissed my side. I’ve not washed it since! I LOVED that guy!”

“A former First Lady, turned Senator, turned Secretary of State turned Presidential candidate needed something soft to stand on as she shook hands with each person in the line – she had signed her name on the books beforehand. I had to run to Bed Bath & Beyond down the street to find a ‘soft landing’ for her campaign-weary feet. I grabbed what looked best – a bath mat – and that’s what the New York Post wrote about the next day: the bath mat.”

“Whenever Whoopi Goldberg signed, she liked to answer the phones in the store for awhile. She was amused by callers reacting to her distinctive voice.”

“Cindy Crawford demanded hot chocolate with mini marshmallows in the green room. She wanted other things I’ve long since forgotten but I remember no one but the staff could touch anything.”

“I almost had to call 911 several times when women were fainting at the sight of L.L. Cool J.”

So, that’s Mary. She’s got a lot more but isn’t spilling. So I’ll throw in a few of my own:

I was pulling up my Spanx in front of my desk when Stephen King walked in and kissed me on the neck.

I went to the bathroom and there was Leonard Nimoy, lost.

I went to the bathroom and there was Yogi Berra, lost.

The cast of Jackass pitched me a book and the one who had been on “World’s Stupidest Criminals” asked me out.

Now that the cubicles have so taken over the business, all of this wild activity might be gone. I hope not. Publishing was and can be EXHILARATING, almost as good as a raucus party in hotel suite overlooking New York City.   There is glitter and thought and crazy and chaotic and I say it was just really good for the industry, all this “show business” of yesterday.

I say, let’s get our goofy on.  Throw some heat and create some energy. Everyone still loves a good performance. Get out of your cubicle and get it on.

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