Women Helping Other Women SONIA WOLFSON Sonia Wolfson – publicist – 20th Century Fox – EVERYONE WANTS TO BE A STAR!

Relationships between women have seriously changed over the years. We are heading into a new dimension where female against female for a man, a job, a contest are over. We’re all in this together—whatever the future turns out to be. The plight of women has been well documented, but until women were willing to work together, helping each other in every capacity along the way, half the population was at war with each other. 

Below is how SONIA WOLFSON helped me; just one example of giving another woman ‘a leg up’ in what was a male-dominated profession. 

Here I was in my early 20’s, knowing no-one, and heading from Miami, Fla. to Hollywood, Ca. with my husband and two small children–holding tight to a childhood dream of becoming a Hollywood columnist and interviewing famous celebrities. 

Oh, I knew the names, backgrounds and movies of every actor going way back to the 40’s. I knew their life history, how they were discovered and what they had been through to become a hero or heroine. 

Where to begin? 

Sonia Wolfson was one of two publicists on staff at 20th Century Fox. I called and she did not laugh at my dream as others I had pitched, gave me the “Catch 22” example (when you’re in print call back—but then how do I get into print if you don’t give me a break?) That day, she asked me to have lunch with her the following week on the studio lot. Her opening remark was this: “You are far too beautiful NOT to want to come in by the backdoor and be an actor. I can tell you—that will NEVER work. You MUST be discovered by a producer or director, and this is my advice. …”

I listened politely and then I told her I wanted to be a writer, beginning with interviews of movie stars as I had just been hired by a group of fan magazines owned by Marvel Comic Books. She took one long look at me and immediately (after lunch) gave me pictures and biographies of “unknowns” she hoped I would pitch in my columns. 

She also set up several interviews and talked to several other publicists. Covering the phone while speaking to an old friend at Warner Brothers, she said, “They don’t think very highly of those magazines. But publicity to some of these future stars is still publicity.”

Thus began a 20 year friendship. She set me up with tickets to various events—the Academy Awards, The Emmys, Toastmaster dinners, and movie premiers—where she taught me how to mingle and what to say so the star would not forget that I would be calling his or her agent in the morning. No-one questioned my credentials yet I was still a neophyte recommended by a well-known powerhouse female who had successfully worked the town for 40 years.

Soon as friends, we went to screenings together on Sunday afternoons, met for lunch at various restaurants just opening up in what became Century City (the film “Hello Dolly” starring Barbra Streisand and the expense and then the loss of revenue from what was to be a blockbuster, pushed Fox almost into bankruptcy. Instead, Fox sold off pieces of valuable property and thousands of antiques to save themselves.) 

At those times together Sonia rarely talked about herself but was eager to know what my long-range plans were; shocked when I told her I wanted a formal education and then to begin to write books (of which I had several outlines and chapters already completed in draft form).

Sonia obviously loved her job and as we spent more time together, no-one was prouder than she was when my interviews and then short stories came out in print, some even with compliments from the actors I interviewed as I began to sell my work to more outlets. 

(Later, I was told how Sonia once dressed such stars as Rita Hayworth; telling her what to wear, what to say, and to come home early from an event in the limousine and with no-one else in the car. 

It took a lot of lunches before she told me her first ambitions in life. She had wanted to be a reporter for a major paper. When nothing panned out, (a single girl with no income has to work!) she began as a script girl at Warner Bros. and worked her way up to writing short biographies of regular people who had dreams of fame and fortune. She did not enjoy talking about herself, but because I was eager to learn, and to know her—a successful woman who never married and had no children—we remained fast friends until her death and I had left the fan field to begin my college education,  

All those years we spoke at least once a week and got together about that often for lunch or a preview of a film before release in the theatres attended by the actors, producers and those who worked behind the scenes. 

I still miss the inspection as she would give me the once over to make sure I was dressed appropriately. Thus, I would always quiz myself beforehand: Was I dressed correctly? Did I have enough lipstick on? 

She gave me a prized set of Jade earrings and matching necklace from the cast of “South Pacific”.  This was given to her during the two months she spent in Hawaii on the set as she released daily tidbits to various columnists at major outlets. She told me they had all signed the program. When I was reluctant to take them both, she insisted they went together and she would not take “no” for an answer. 

Her picture has come along to every workroom I’ve ever had, proud to know that such a giving, hard-working person who never took seriously the stars she was exposed to or whose careers she had contributed to—that she also had helped a young, naïve woman full of dreams that were fulfilled in part because she was my willing guide.

SONIA WOLFSON was a fine example of a woman who took the time and interest in helping another woman start a career in writing in a tough town and in a tough business, who gave me the confidence to do what I had dreamed of so since childhood. She did not enjoy talking about herself, but because I was eager to learn, and to know her—a successful woman who never married and had no children—we remained fast friends even when I left the field to begin my college education, until her death.