For Gibson Flack, Crisis Is Just Another Day at the Office

By Rebecca Spence

Published August 04, 2006, issue of August 04, 2006.
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When rock star Courtney Love was looking to resurrect her tarnished public image and regain custody of her daughter, Frances Bean, she turned to Hollywood spin master Alan Nierob — the same publicist who is now aiming to save Mel Gibson following his latest gaffe.

And if the Anti-Defamation League’s willingness to meet with Gibson when he gets out of rehab is any indication, Nierob may have scored yet another public relations coup. Apparently he has a knack for getting his clients out of sticky situations.

But in a career filled with mopping up celebrity messes, this week’s episode may prove to be the stickiest yet. Already, in a nod to Nierob’s unflagging efforts, the Hollywood gossip Web site Defamer just named him the “Hardest Working Man in Show Business.”

Whether Nierob, a Jew whose parents are Holocaust survivors, keeps Gibson as a client after he has pulled him through this latest crisis, remains to be seen.

Nierob — who has represented the likes of Jennifer Lopez, Denzel Washington and Steve Martin in his 27 years at the powerhouse public relations firm of Rogers & Cowan — guided the alcoholic A-lister through the controversy over “The Passion of the Christ.” But some industry insiders suggested that Gibson’s drunken antisemitic tirade could prove to be the final chapter of his professional relationship with Nierob. Others argued that the middle of a crisis is no time to drop a client, even if he’s spewing hate speech against the publicist’s own ethnic group.

“There’s something to be said for loyalty and not leaving someone in the midst of a very difficult time, but ultimately that’s a personal decision,” Matthew Hiltzik said. Hiltzik is president and CEO of Freud Communications, which represents Weinstein Films. He is also executive producer of the 2004 Emmy-nominated Holocaust-related documentary “Paper Clips.”

“It’s very difficult to hold a publicist accountable for their client’s comments,” Hiltzik added.

Nierob could not be reached for comment.

During the heated debate over “The Passion of the Christ,” which outraged some Jewish leaders who accused Gibson of portraying Jews as responsible for the death of Jesus, Nierob touted his own Jewish credentials to provide cover for Gibson.

The New Yorker reported in a 2003 article that Nierob was a founding member of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. A spokesman for the museum said that while Nierob was not a “founder” — a distinction requiring a gift of $1 million or more — he had made donations both before and after the museum opened its doors.

Nierob isn’t the only Jew to be tangled up in Gibson’s drunken folly. As the sauced superstar spewed his antisemitic rant, he reportedly asked the arresting police officer, James Mee, if he is Jewish.

As it turns out, he is.

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