It's all in a name for celebrity wrangler.
By Jocelyn Voo
New York Post | January 14, 2008
Growing up in the Technicolor '80s with Madonna as a surrogate mother, Lori Levine almost had no choice but to go into celebrity wrangling - doing everything from getting Clooney's face on this event's red carpet to getting J.Lo's booty into that brand's jeans.
At 16, she was already trekking in from Long Island to work parties in the city with a promoter friend.
"He had the hottest party on Long Island, whatever that means," Levine laughs.
Nowadays, as founder and CEO of the talent booking and brokering agency Flying Television, Levine puts together parties a far cry from those of her B&T years. Current projects include Entertainment Weekly's opening weekend fest at Sundance, and she recently took over the entire Louis Vuitton store on Fifth Avenue to throw Kanye West's 30th birthday bash.
But for Levine, a former "Late Night With Conan O'Brien" booker, it's not always about the glitz. Yes, she has Jessica Simpson on speed-dial, is a sucker for a pair of heels (the walk-in closet at her Gramercy duplex holds more than 100 pairs), and cavorts around town with her Shih Tzu, Suki, in a handbag. But she's also committed to working charity events, and says Bill Clinton is the only celeb who's left her star-struck.
Describe exactly what it is that you do.
We specialize in celebrity events, award shows, charity initiatives - really, anything that has to do with getting a celebrity from point A to point B. Beyond that, we also do event production.
2008 marks your 10th anniversary. How has the business changed in a decade?
It's a total turn-around. When I started, I could see the climate changing. It was clear that the power of celebrity had shifted - celebrities were becoming true brands and full-on commodities. When we opened, people would say things like "I can't believe no one thought of this before."
Were you always into pop culture?
My parents always worked, so the TV was my baby sitter. I would come home and watch everything. I was learning to read in school, so if I was watching television, I'd read the credits. I still do it.
How did you build the business from the ground up?
We started with a few clients and no listed phone number. We spent our first few years working from word of mouth and repeat business. We were lucky to have some incredible clients who signed on immediately. It helped to have a great Rolodex.
What's best about your job?
Building connections with people. Especially after talking to someone over e-mail for two years, then all of a sudden you run into them at Sundance or the Oscars, and you're like, "This is you!"
Stress. But, you know, I take Pilates five days a week.
You place celebrities at events that match a brand's ambitions. So let's play word-association: I name a celebrity, and you say the type of brand they match. P. Diddy.
I invite Puffy to a lot of charity and socially responsible events. I like to bring him to stuff that makes sense to whatever his social platforms are at the time.
Describe exactly what it is that you do.
We don't invite Britney Spears to stuff right now.
Short of baiting a bear trap with vodka and 10 grand, how do you get celebs to events?
Celebrities come to events for specific reasons: They're promoting a project, they're supporting a friend, they're there for a charity or it's just a really fun night. We're never in a mindset where we're like, "Please, just do us a favor!" Don't do us a favor. If you want to come, come. It's a wonderful place to be, and it makes sense for you.
Has anyone ever pulled any "no brown M&Ms"-type diva behavior?
I don't think it gets any weirder than "How much air is in first class." That takes the cake.
What do you mean, "how much air"?
I don't know! The amount of oxygen!
What quality do you have that makes you good at this?
The people I work with call me The Oracle [from "The Matrix"]. In the busy season, I might get 300 e-mails a day. But I can get an email from anyone, and I'll know whether their information is updated in the Rolodex. And we have easily 15,000 entries. I have this kind of memory for what's in there; it's almost a gut instinct. My girlfriend was on "Who Wants To Be a Millionaire," and she picked me as an entertainment lifeline.
She didn't use me. But, yeah, I definitely would've gotten the question right.