OK! is the celebrity magazine that is the most willingly manipulated by celebrity flacks, which is really saying something. So it's perfectly appropriate that the magazine just promoted sleazy former celebrity uberflack Rob Shuter to its executive editor position. That's because Shuter is skilled at doing the two things that OK! is most famous for: lying on behalf of celebrities, and losing other people's money. Even he, the great fabulist, couldn't write a more sickening script than this.
Who is Rob Shuter? Once upon a time, he was one of the most powerful celebrity flacks in America, repping clients like Paris Hilton and Jessica Simpson. Eventually he got fired from his agency, Dan Klores Communications, lost his big clients, and ended up at OK!, which is really where he belongs. What went wrong?
- Shuter planted a fabricated item in Page Six about his client Paris Hilton being attacked at a club by a supposedly "jealous" Zeta Graff. Graff subsequently sued for $10 million, which compelled Shuter to give legal depositions demonstrating his sleazy method of doing business (plant fake shit on Page Six, specifically). It was all very entertaining. Paris Hilton ended up paying $2 million for this transgression.
- He treated his work on behalf of vapid singer Jessica Simpson like he was a Cold War CIA operative behind enemy lines. He planted nasty items about Simpson ex Nick Lachey. Then he decided to help Simpson get some press by fabricating a big romance between her and singer John Mayer. He convinced People and Us Weekly to put the story on their covers, and then made them all look like fools when the celebs themselves admitted there was no big romance at all. In one masterstroke, Shuter had shattered his own credibility (ha), made his own client look like a desperate liar, pissed off fellow celebrity flacks, and, perhaps worst of all, made enemies of some powerful celebrity magazines. He was then fired by Joe Simpson, for all of the above reasons.
- Having established himself as an untouchable dirtbag that no legitimate PR agency would hire and no smart news outlet would trust, Shuter was scooped up by OK!, first in a consulting role and then as entertainment editor. And now as the top guy. Just perfect.
In unrelated rumormongering, there was gossip earlier this year that Shuter may have been somehow involved in a purported FBI investigation of In Touch magazine for "payments to at least one editor in exchange for prominent placement of certain B-list celebrities." Supposedly some shady British cabal of celebrity flacks and gossip reporters was under scrutiny. We hoped Shuter was wrapped up in it! Alas, no evidence ever confirmed the rumors. And to be fair, he even has some admirers among the gossip press, who say he's friendly and witty.
So what will Shuter be doing for OK!? A good guess: helping them continue to spend big with no apparent monetary return. We hear that OK! is the leading bidder in the war for Angelina Jolie's upcoming baby pictures, with a sum rumored to be around $15 million for worldwide rights. That's in line with the magazine's history of profligacy; we also hear that they've yet to turn a profit, despite an investment in the nine-figure range.
And Shuter, the fabricating flack, will fit right in. One of the best quotes I ever heard while working at PRWeek was from an editor at OK! who gushed on and on about how nice the mag was to its friends in PR, summing it all up by explaining, "We work directly with publicists and celebrities themselves to get the real story." Sure. All together now in the race to the bottom.