August 18, 2019

The Last, Best Press Agent

But, as Mr. Presten likes to say, listen to this: One day, Ms. Anderson went into a small shop on Madison Avenue and 58th Street called Salem Hosiery. The owner’s son, Michael Salem, had started an offshoot of his family’s hosiery business by selling undergarments to closeted, cross-dressing men who came in to buy lingerie for their “wives and girlfriends.”

Mr. Salem ultimately advertised in Penthouse magazine and introduced Mr. Presten to the son of the publisher, 19-year-old Bob Guccione Jr., who would go on to found Spin magazine. Then, he was peddling a three-page poster magazine called Rock Superstars.

Mr. Presten sent the younger Mr. Guccione to speak at a school in Harlem and put him on Barry Farber’s radio show. He turned the affable Mr. Salem into a clip machine, with his titillating “male-order business.” And he became a go-to outside P.R. man for Penthouse and the elder Mr. Guccione for years.

Mr. Presten was there for the release of the X-rated “Caligula” (1979), financed by Mr. Guccione, and the sweeping media blush of 1984, when Penthouse bought and published nude photos of Vanessa Williams, the first black Miss America. Reliably, there were the “Pet of the Month” parties at Mr. Guccione’s Upper East Side double townhouse, which contained Judy Garland’s gold piano, a silver-tiled sunken pool and the owner’s posse of Rhodesian Ridgebacks.

For all the stories, personal devastation has not eluded Mr. Presten. He described his marriage to Ms. Anderson as tumultuous. In 2003, Kary Presten, a banking executive and the older of Mr. Presten’s two grown sons from his first marriage, committed suicide at age 44.

“Those are the breaks, man,” Mr. Presten said, his voice heavy for a change.

In 2002, a wall collapsed at Nirvana, and the owner, Shamsher Wadud, couldn’t pay the new lease. The next year, Mr. Guccione’s publishing empire, General Media, filed for bankruptcy.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/23/style/what-is-a-press-agent.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

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