Is there really a Keoki Atoll in Hawaii?
No. I made it up. But I based a lot of its history on Kure Atoll, a trio of distant islands currently owned by the U.S. government. It’s a major hangout for the Hawaiian monk seal and their sick little sex games.
Was the part about Edward Bernays and the Torches of Liberty Brigade true (Chapter 1)?
Absolutely. Edward Bernays was by all accounts the father of modern PR. For more information, I recommend the excellent biography by Larry Tye.
Is all that stuff about Video News Releases true?
Tragically, yes. Our TV news programs routinely air pre-packaged story segments from corporate/government flacks without ever disclosing the source. It’s been a dirty little secret of the news business for decades.
If Miranda’s so repulsed by what Scott’s doing in Keoki Atoll, then why does she help him?
Because like any real journalist, Miranda knows the story Scott’s feeding her (200 WOMEN STRIP NAKED) is much more interesting and marketable than the truth (PR GUY MANIPULATES NEWS).
Is there really a book by Bruno Bettelheim that provides a Freudian analysis of classic fairy tales?
Heavens, yes. I read The Uses of Enchantment in college, and I’ve been blushing at Jack’s beanstalk ever since.
Is there really a Melrose High School?
For the sake of me and my lawyer, I sure as hell hope not.
Was the Annabelle Shane school shooting based on a real event?
Not a whit.
Both Hunta and Mean World Records are entirely fictional, right?
Were the “Bitch Fiends” based on some real life incident?
They were loosely—VERY loosely—based on the Spur Posse, that rather awful clique of high school boys who gained media attention in the 1990s for their sexual exploits.
Was Scott’s brief history of Wilshire Boulevard true, or was he just spinning Miranda as usual?
As far as Scott and I both know, the story of H. Gaylord Wilshire is true.
Ira certainly is…interesting. Is he based on anyone you know?
Mercifully, no. He’s a product of my troubled mind.
Is it really a myth that one of out two American marriages end in divorce?
The divorce rate could very well be 50%. Or even higher. No one really knows. What is known is that all of the research behind the 50% figure has been based on faulty mathematical reasoning or wide-spanning projections. Sadly, the figure has been repeated so many times, from so many different sources, that we just take it as the gospel.
Do programs like Move My Cheese really exist?
I’d be amazed if someone wasn’t developing something somewhere, but I haven’t personally heard of any revolutionary breakthroughs in that field (not that I’m looking too hard).
You take great pains to establish Scott as a clever and cautious fellow. Would he really agree to take a PR job without knowing the details?
Scott only agreed to attend a kickoff meeting. And he was intensely intrigued by the urgency and secrecy of the assignment. Plus, he trusted Keith’s wife, who Scott worked side-by-side with for four years at Tate & Associates (a fictional firm, by the way).
Is there really a Hotel L’Ermitage?
Yes, and it’s very snazzy.
When Scott lists Maxina’s accomplishments, he mentions that the “people who wish she was never born include Marge Schott, Mark Fuhrman, John Ashcroft, the executive board of Texaco, and every publicist for Denny’s.” Care to fill me in?
These are all people and organizations who at one point or another have been raked over the coals for blatant (in some cases, stunningly blatant) racism.
Marge Schott (now deceased) and Mark Fuhrman were infamous for their liberal use of the N-word. In 1998, John Ashcroft (then a senator from Missouri) gave a Dixie-licious interview to Southern Partisan magazine that had many people up in arms. And both Texaco and Denny’s had their own mini-scandals in the 90s regarding institutional racism. In each instance, it’s not hard to imagine Maxina leading a righteous smackdown from her home base in Atlanta.
You cram a lot of Tupac history into this chapter. What are your sources?
Virtually all of my research was culled from old news articles and Tupac biographies.
Jean seems to be really good at lipreading. How accurate is it really?
As Jean later reveals, even veteran lipreaders still routinely miss or misread roughly a quarter of everything said. But through practice and logic, they learn to fill in the gaps.
Is there a real life precedent for the kind of hoax that Scott’s proposing?
None that I’m aware of.
Where did you get the idea for it?
Back in 1998, when the Monica Lewinsky scandal first broke, I wondered if maybe it was a clever ploy by the Clinton handlers to upstage and ultimately defuse the Paula Jones crisis. That didn’t pan out.
Hunta readily dismisses the possibility that Tupac faked his own death. I assume you feel the same way?
Yeah. In order for Tupac to fake his own death, the conspiracy would have to involve over a hundred people, including many members of Death Row Records, the Las Vegas Police Department, the hospital where Tupac “died”, the county coroner’s office, and a whole mess of other key organizations. And it would have to be planned out months, if not years, in advance. Is it impossible? No. It’s just not very likely.
Scott tells Madison that the U.S. is only six percent of the world’s population, and yet we consume 57% of the world’s advertising. Where did you get this figure?
I got it from The Age of Propaganda, an excellent book by Eliot Aronson and Anthony Pratkanis. They, according to footnotes, culled it from various issues of American Demographics magazine, plus information from the 2000 U.S. Census.
In Chapter 7, Scott highlights three ads from an old issue of Brandweek. Are those real ads?
They were. The first two (for The Learning Network and Tripod) were pulled directly from a 2001 issue of Brandweek. The MTV ad (“Buy This 24-Year-Old and Get His Friends Absolutely Free”) was taken from Jean Kilbourne’s terrific book, Can’t Buy Me Love: How Advertising Changes the Way We Think and Feel.
Where did you come up with Harmony’s tragic childhood?
In researching Harmony, I came across a non-fiction book by Miles Corwin called And Still We Rise, which chronicles the struggles of a group of gifted black high school students in LA.’s Crenshaw district. Some of the girls featured in the book had absolutely heartbreaking backstories. I basically threw a few of them into a blender, added some of my own touches, and then mixed it all up into Harmony’s past.
There seems to be a running joke in the book that Scott is uniquely non-descript. What does he look like?
All he’s willing to divulge about his appearance is that he’s tall (6’6″, to be precise) and white. A few other characters (notably Miranda) have revealed that he’s handsome in a non-descript sort of way. For some reason, I picture Scott looking like Michael J. Fox after being stretched out on the rack. But your mileage may vary.
As to why Scott doesn’t really describe himself, that’s just his way. If you notice, he doesn’t really wax eloquent about anyone’s description. A poet he ain’t.
Is Scott’s history of the hostess club true?
Truncated, but true.
Is the Flower Club fictional?
Right down to the Naugahyde couches.
What’s the deal with the “Dave from Richmond” guy that Scott meets at the hostess club?
Surface answer: “Dave” is an intelligent and affluent businessman who is simply too old and jaded to search for his next wife. So he relies on hostesses to fulfill his need for non-sexual intimacy.
Deeper answer: “Dave” is a grim portent of Scott’s future, as long as Scott keeps the world at arm’s length. Is it any wonder why Scott leaves the Flower Club so thoroughly disturbed?
In Chapter 10, Scott tells Harmony that all the major media companies (Viacom, Disney, etc.) lose money on 90% of their investments. Is this true?
Well, Scott’s stretching the truth a little. In the media business, you have your few big hits and your few big flops. Nearly everything else lands a shade north or south of breaking even. Usually south.
By the middle of the car ride, Scott is ready to shout Harmony’s name from the rooftops. Why is he so taken with her?
Scott compares himself to an artist who’s found the perfect model. For the past 36 hours, he’s been immersed in his epic hoax idea, but he knew his entire scheme would depend on a finding a frontwoman who’s sympathetic, telegenic and painfully authentic. Harmony fits the bill and then some.
It’s not until the next chapter that Scott begins to adore Harmony on a more personal level. But like most smitten people, he has a tendency to exaggerate her good qualities.
In the Noise interlude, you wrote about Ben Franklin’s devious media hoax against his main competitor in the almanac business. Was that true?
What about the part with the moon men hoax?
And the hoax with the zoo animals?
And the thing with William Randolph Hearst?
At the end of the interlude, Scott refers to a trick that a group of Washington publicists pulled off in 1990. What’s that about?
In October of that year, a 15-year-old Kuwaiti girl named “Nayirah” gave tearful testimony to Congress about Iraqi soliders who had entered the hospital she worked at and proceeded to pull 312 babies from their incubators, leaving them on the floor to die. It was a terrible image, one that got major play in the news media. A number of U.S. senators cited Nayirah’s testimony as a significant factor in their decision to support a war resolution, which had passed in the Senate by a mere handful of votes.
Except the whole thing was a hoax. Nayirah never worked at a hospital. In fact, she was the daughter to the Kuwaiti ambassador to the United States. Her testimony was part of a multi-million dollar lobbying campaign conducted by PR firm Hill & Knowlton. The Kuwaiti royal family had hired Hill & Knowlton to drum up government and public support for a war, and they did their job admirably. And by “admirably,” of course, I mean “shamefully.”
Scott claims he knew one of the perpetrators of that particular endeavor quite well. Who’s he referring to?
He’s referring to his old mentor/lover Drea.
And that’s the job that “took her down” and “destroyed her from the inside out”?
Yes. Even publicists have souls, and Drea wasn’t accustomed to her campaigns ending with a six-figure body count. It was enough to send her into a fit of remorse. I was originally going to work the tale into the later chapters of Slick, but I just couldn’t find the right place to squeeze it in.
Did the publicists involved in the real-life hoax suffer fits of remorse?
Actually, some did. At the time, Hill & Knowlton was one of the largest PR firms in the world. But in the early 1990s they suffered a crippling wave of employee walkouts. Some of it, I’m told, had to do with the “Nayirah” incident. Others say that campaign was just the tip of the iceberg.
Would it really be so easy for Scott and company to backdate a civil restraining order request against Hunta?
If you know the right people to bribe, and they know the right signatures to forge, and you have the complicity of the lawyers from both sides, I can’t see why not. Mind you, I’ve never tested this assertion.
Why does Scott feed Harmony such a rich account of her own “rape” if he never expects her to talk about it to the press?
As usual, Scott is just being excessively thorough. He feeds her the details so she won’t get tripped up by a reporter playing “gotcha.” But he clearly doesn’t feel good about what he’s doing.
Is Alonso Lever based on any real lawyer you know?
No. Alonso is a full-fledged character, in all respects.
Did Charles Lindbergh really spark the creation of the LAX airport?
He sure did. I guess everyone wanted to land where he landed.
Did Disney’s California Adventure theme park really open on the day Harmony became famous?
Amazingly, yes. It really did open on February 8, 2001. In the real world (the one without Harmony), the theme park was the big news of the morning. And of course Good Morning America (a property of ABC/Disney) dropped a big steaming pile of synergy on their viewers that day.
In Chapter 14, Maxina convenes a big meeting in the L’Escoffier Room at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Is that real or fictional?
Real, but it’s not as bright and sunny as my writing implied.
Did Columbia Records really change the title of Marvin Gaye’s “Sanctified Pussy” to “Sanctified Lady”?
They sure did.
The Judge tells Scott a story about Al Gore and the origin of the Parental Advisory sticker. Is is true?
Also true, although I should point out that there were three other senators who presided over the music obscenity hearings while simultaneously shepherding a bill that would put hundreds of millions of dollars back into the pockets of the big music labels.
Have a question that isn’t answered in this FAQ? Need clarification on something I posted here? Send me an e-mail and I’ll see what I can do.