Her accompanist [Ernö Balogh] urged her to hire a publicist. America is such an enormous country. Good notices in New York papers are not necessarily read in Detroit or New Orleans or Kansas City. Lotte was horrified at the thought of paying to get her name into circulation. How unworthy of the dignity of an artist! In Europe that had never been necessary. She was famous because of the excellence of her art. Publicity of the American type is still practically unknown in European musical circles. Lotte was adamantly against any such thing. So Otto and Ernö Balogh, the accompanist, decided that a bit of subterfuge was called for. Behind her back, they hired Constance Hope, a brilliantly clever publicist who had recently opened her own business and—partly thanks to her success with Lehmann—soon had most of the great names in the classical music field as clients. The next time that Lotte returned to America she was astonished to find her name everywhere. Sometimes she was not exactly thrilled with what was written about her. Often the Lotte Lehmann of the articles was unrecognizable as herself. She might read about “Lotte Lehmann’s favorite recipe for `brown Betty'” (definitely not a typical Lehmann specialty); her advice on child-rearing (she was actually terrified of children); almost anything that would present her to the American people as folksy, lovable, and down-to-earth. But the name Lotte Lehmann, like the name of a toothpaste or an automobile, was beginning to get reader recognition. Lotte was told that her manager had arranged for the publicity, and that it was he who had hired the charming Miss Hope, who soon made herself indispensable to Lotte, performing all sorts of helpful services not generally included in a publicity contract. By the time Lotte found out the truth—that Constance was on her own payroll—they were fast friends and the advantages of the relationship were totally obvious.
Constance Hope wrote an amusing book about her clients and the campaigns she dreamed up for them. Lehmann heads the list. Here, from “Lehmann for the Layman,” are some excerpts from Publicity is Broccoli:
No one who knows me will be surprised to see that I begin this book with a chapter about Lotte Lehmann. In the first place, Lehmann influenced the course of my business more than anyone else. Secondly, in the case of Lehmann I’m a press agent con amore. As a member in good standing of the “Lehmaniacs,” I’m only reverting to type by opening with Lehmann. And finally, Lotte has become the star salesman for Constance Hope Associates. I got Lehmann, who begot Lauritz Melchior, who begot etc. Therefore it’s logical, if not chronological, to commence with her.
…In spite of the press of business, I often found time to indulge my first love and attend a concert. Thus it happened that I was present when Lotte Lehmann gave her first New York recital. I knew via the musical grapevine that Lehmann was a Prima Donna in its noblest sense in Europe’s most famous opera houses and concert halls. I went with my mother and sat in the very last row, while she sat in the first. At intermission we met and compared notes. My mother was wildly enthusiastic, while I—well, to put it brutally, I wasn’t that impressed. Mother, thinking this must be due to the location of my seat, insisted that we change places for the second half, and immediately I saw what the trouble was. Then and there I made a mental note that if ever I had Lotte Lehmann as a client I would see to it that she had footlights whenever she sang. It’s not only the glorious voice, but the face, mirroring every emotion and mood of the song, that makes Lehmann supreme as a lieder singer.
This same quality has also been of great help in publicizing her, for whenever Lehmann comes face to face with an editor or with those hard-boiled gentlemen of the press, the photographers, it has resulted not only in good publicity, but more often than not, a friendship.
…As an artist, Lotte Lehmann is the most generous and unselfish person I’ve ever known. I don’t believe she has a single ounce of conceit about herself and her work. She is always the first to praise a fellow artist and the last to believe that she herself has given a glorious performance. Jealousy and backbiting among musicians are proverbial, but to this day I have never met an artist who has anything but the highest praise for Lotte Lehmann. And I’ve never met anyone who has heard her say an unkind or spiteful thing about a fellow singer.
…And what I was most grateful for was her marvelous spirit of co-operation. She would pose for pictures and submit to interviews even when she was dead-tired. And she never complained, although, in her own words, I “dragged her through all the hells of publicity.”
…Lotte, bless her, was never quite clear about the purpose of all these stories we released in such profusion…. Lotte has never yet seen why anyone should be interested in what she serves for Thanksgiving or how she decorates the table for Christmas, nor why she should be photographed at a flower show near a prize cactus which has interested her less than anything in the place, or at a dog show near a blue-ribbon mastiff when she prefers the Pomeranians and wire-haired terriers.
…At the end of that first season our efforts in Lehmann’s behalf began to show results, both in clippings and in the pleasant form of advance concert-bookings. Most vivid proof of her introduction to the general public, however, was afforded to Lehmann herself. One day during a shopping tour Lotte spelled her name for a clerk in a big department store. The girl looked at her with renewed interest and asked, “Oh, the opera singer?”
…Moses Smith, then a critic and now musical director of Columbia Recording Corporation…was telling me about a brief meeting with Lehmann and I said I was sorry he didn’t get to talk with her longer. “My dear,” Smith replied, “Lotte Lehmann can do more in fifteen minutes than Du Barry could do in a whole night.”[i]
In Publicity is Broccoli, Constance Hope recalled her first summer in Salzburg with Lehmann:
It was in Salzburg that I first saw a little one-act drama which I have since come to know rather well. It is called “The Disappearing Diva.”
The most modest of musicians, Lotte never seems to realize that she is a great artist with a world-wide reputation. Any important appearance at the Festival made her wonder whether she was worthy of the great honor. It would happen when she was singing with Toscanini, or when she wasn’t singing with Toscanini. A first performance of an opera could bring it on, the yearly joint recital with Bruno Walter accompanying at the piano, an important radio date—in short, any public appearance which meant a great deal to her.
The week before the concert Lotte usually spent working herself up by gradual stages to a frenzy of nervousness. She would fret incessantly about whether she was likely to be in good voice, whether she was sure of her part, whether Toscanini or Walter might not be disappointed by her performance.
Then, the night before, lugubriously she would go to the piano, run a couple of arpeggios in a discouraged way, and exclaim in tones of deepest despair: “It’s no use. I can’t sing. The concert will have to be canceled.”
Meanwhile her husband would be sitting with his inevitable cigarettes and bottle of red wine. Otto, who knew her voice like the palm of his hand, would listen a moment, nod wisely and say: “It’s all right. She’ll sing.” Then Ernö Balogh and I knew it was our cue to keep close to Lotte, who by now had a large map of Europe and was poring over it to see whom she could get to take her place on short notice. “Grossbein is in Munich,” she would be muttering; “she could fly here in time for the performance. Or maybe Langerhals from Vienna.” Like the good sport that she was, Lotte, deciding that she couldn’t sing herself, would be all for hiring a substitute on the spot, preparing to lend her her own clothes in order not to leave the manager in an awkward fix.
By main force we would hold Lotte back from the telephone, reminding her that the manager would probably have his own ideas about a substitute. We’d call next morning at nine o’clock, we said. Then there would be plenty of time to make the arrangements and get corrections in the papers.
Next morning we would say, “Well, it’s a quarter past nine; suppose we phone the manager and cancel?” So we would get the operator and put in the call, which, thanks to the easy-going Austrian method of communications, meant we were safe for at least half an hour. Meanwhile Lotte would go to the piano and try a few scales. Then she would look surprised and say, “You know, I thing maybe I can sing.”
Then to see Lehmann’s joyous entrance as Elisabeth in Tannhäuser the next evening and hear her rapturous greeting to the Hall of Song, it was hard to believe that she played the leading role in “The Disappearing Diva” the night before. Indeed it would be forgotten until the next time she sang with Toscanini or with Walter or at New York’s Town Hall or at the Metropolitan. The answer is that when she steps on the stage in Tannhäuser she is no longer Lotte Lehmann—she is Elisabeth. Each Lehmann characterization is convincing because Lehmann projects herself into the mood of the character, rather than learning the stage business by rote. In fact, she is so completely in character that she neither is nor wants to be conscious of the physical details of her interpretations.
Some years ago I met a prompter who had worked with Lehmann…. He related that once before a performance of Die Frau ohne Schatten he told Lehmann how at every performance he waited for a certain pleading gesture with which she began the reconciliation scene. Lehmann tried to analyze it in order to make it a conscious part of her interpretation. She abandoned the gesture in performances thereafter for she realized that with spontaneity gone it was no longer a sincere expression of her emotion. Lehmann realizes that an audience is quick to resent a gesture which is superimposed.
She is highly sensitive to the moods of an audience. The moment she steps on the stage, she senses whether it is a cold house which must be wooed, coaxed, cajoled and enticed into a receptive mood, or whether it is hers for the taking.
From another article I found on Constance Hope, you can find a bit more background: Asked if it was possible to keep the many facets of her life separate, publicist and artists’ representative Constance Hope responded “Absolutely not!” Indeed, Miss Hope’s lives—professional, personal, philanthropical and social- collide and interweave with apparently infinite ‘ariet’. This observation is confirmed in the rich contents of her files of correspondence, photographs and other publicity materials recently given to the Libraries. [Columbia University] The Constance Hope Collection, dating from the mid-1930s, covers over forty years of Miss Hope’s associations with hundreds of great performers, and chronicles her career as a trailblazer in the field of artists’ and commercial publicity. In a recent interview I asked Miss Hope what at first led her into the field in which she was a pioneer. “It was an accident,” was her first reply. But in fact accident had very little to do with it, for Miss Hope was well prepared from early childhood for all the roles which she later assumed. Her father, Luigenc Bernstein, was a pianist and musical coach to such artists as Enrico Caruso, Joseph Hoffman and Edward Johnson, and directed the Russian Trio, a leading chamber music organization in the United States in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. The young Constance, for the privilege of staying up late, distributed programs and tea at her father’s concerts, which «ere given in private homes to a purposely limited audience (a prospective subscriber, she recalled, usually had to wait for someone to die). Miss Hope relates with obvious pleasure the memories of a fortunate youth spent on Manhattan’s West Side, with lessons in everything and her parents’ brownstone often occupied by famous opera stars, who sometimes arrived from Europe for a Metropolitan Opera season seeking accommodations. Frequently, then, they would be housed and entertained by Bernstein and his wife Felice, and closely observed by their only child, Constance.
Miss Hope attended Barnard College for a short time, but grew restless; “I wanted to work!” she recalls. So she worked, and worked hard, first for the theatrical producer Martin Beck, and then as secretary to soprano Grace Moore and with Cobina Wright at the Sutton Club. These endeavors also proved to be good training for the years to follow. Beck, she states, was “a driver,” and not an easy man to work for. She figures the number of times she quit her job and subsequently returned—approximately ten times —by subtracting her beginning salary from her last and dividing by the five-dollar raises with which she was enticed back. In the early 1930s Miss Hope worked for three years as Grace Moore’s Girl Friday. In this capacity she introduced Moore to Valentin Parera and then arranged their wedding in France. (Whether or not this feat was a requirement of the job she does not say.) In time, however, .Miss Hope became dissatisfied with her work for Moore, a temperamental woman who addressed her letters to “My Hope” and signed them “BOSS.” Then, what Miss Hope refers to as accident took over—a friend’s career suggestions, a chance meeting with her first client at the Russian Tea Room. Miss Hope followed her confessed tendency to gamble, and passed quickly from exploratory beginnings (learning that it was bad and not good that Associated Press editor Charles Honce “spiked” her first story), through the pay-phone-and-a-roll-of-nickels phase. Soon she was a businesswoman with employees, a growing clientele, an office—and a phone—of her own.
Constance Hope began at once to expand the ranks of performing artists to whom, over the years, she would be publicist, friend, critic and representative. She has had with each of them very different and unique relationships, depending on the professional needs and also on the personality of each artist. Certainly her closest and longest association was with the operatic soprano and lieder singer Lotte Lehmann. Miss Hope cites Madame Lehmann’s warmth, generosity, artistry, and the fact that “she didn’t take herself too seriously” as the qualities that first attracted Miss Hope, and inspired her to become the first charter member of a group she refers to as the “Lehmaniacs.” Miss Hope guided Lotte Lehmann through her long performing and teaching career all over the globe. She acted as program consultant, financial advisor and confidante, and their deep friendship continued until Madame Lehmann’s death last August. It was Miss Hope who arranged for Madame Lehmann’s assistance in the 1962 re-staging of “Der Rosenkavalier” at the Metropolitan Opera. She also brought Lehmann together with Jeanette MacDonald, another client and friend, for assistance when the latter made her operatic debut. More recently Miss Hope found many of Madame Lehmann’s best qualities in Beverly Sills, whose first audition at New York’s City Center was arranged by Constance Hope.
Jascha Heifetz was an early acquaintance who later became a client and dear friend. Miss Hope admits having had a terrible crush on him in the days before she entered the publicity business. In an attempt to impress the young genius of the violin, she once bought a tiara on a European jaunt. (The tiara subsequently incurred the wrath of Martin Beck when Miss Hope wore it to the opening of Beck’s new theatre. “You’re here toW O R K ” he ranted. “Take that damn thing off!!”) On that trip, she encountered Heifetz at a shipboard party, to find him and his accompanist discussing her physical features—in Russian—cockily assuming that she could not understand their conversation. She upstaged them by addressing the pair in Russian and stalking off.
[missing photo] Jascha Heifetz (left), Efrem Zimbalist, Alma Gluck and Fritz Kreisler (right) in 1919, swimming at the Fishers Island, Connecticut, home of Miss Gluck.
Romantic involvements did not, however, extend into Miss Hope’s professional life. For one thing, it would have been bad business; for another, she met prominent ophthalmologist Dr. Milton L. Berliner while sailing via Panama to California in 1937 and he has been her biggest star ever since. She assigned him his nickname, “Tio,” on that trip after discovering his persistent inability to learn the Spanish word for uncle. At their wedding in the Spring of 1938, Lotte Lehmann, Lily Pons, Lauritz Melchior, Fritz Reiner and Erich Leinsdorf provided the music. An entrepreneurial friend muttered after the ceremony that he could have staged the event at Carnegie Hall, sold tickets, and made a fortune.
Through her clients Lotte Lehmann and Ezio Pinza, Constance Hope met Erich Leinsdorf in 1935 in Austria, where he was a promising assistant conductor at the Salzburg Festival. But Leinsdorf was artistically stifled and increasingly threatened by the advancing Nazi regime. He wrote to Miss Hope on March 17, 1936: As far as my “worries are concerned-My fate lies mostly in your hands —because if there is no possibility for me to come to America in the Fall, I don’t know what I shall do. Here in Austria, I see absolutely no possibilities for me to get a conductor’s position, and in other European countries, foreigners arc excluded . . . I got the idea that there might be a chance for me as conductor in a small American city or with a provincial opera troupe . . . if you could get the support of Maestro Toscanini, it surely could be managed. As I said, I am at the end of my rope.
And so iMiss Hope undertook a comprehensive campaign to find any kind of position, from conductor to music librarian, which the young Austrian could fill. On the sudden death of an assistant conductor at the Metropolitan Opera, Miss Hope persuaded the Met to hire Leinsdorf, and to guarantee him the chance to conduct one rehearsal. W h e n the final curtain fell on the first crucial rehearsal, the singers (many of whom were Miss Hope’s clients) came to the front of the stage to applaud the new conductor. Subsequently the Hope office capitalized on the long and glowing newspaper reviews of Leinsdorf’s first public performance, and acclaim for him grew rapidly thereafter. Miss Hope remained intensely involved in the management of Leinsdorf’s career until the 1950s, working closely with his concert managers at Columbia Concerts, Inc., and with the client himself. Unlike many artists, Leinsdorf remained actively concerned with the daily business details of his profession. He insisted on the most capable handling of his affairs, and that all things be done properly. At the end of a long and typical letter written in January 1946, Leinsdorf (then conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra) discussed the timing of publicity announcements, rehearsal conditions and itinerary specifications, and stated: I saw again this week, how people insist on their proper set-up. Horowitz cancelled his appearances with us . . . But [his] Piano had arrived and I tried it . . . It is such an instrument that even a fair pianist will seem a giant. . . and you know that Hor. wouldn’t play on any other Piano, and the saga goes that Steinway made this special action and brilliance only for Horowitz. Let us profit from the way these people see to it that they get the right frame, and let us not say that we aren’t in a position to ask for it.
Missing photo: Lotte Lehmann and Erich Leinsdorf, ca. 1935.
Over two hundred letters from Leinsdorf in the Hope Collection tell not only of his working relationships and perfectionism, but also of his views of the world around him. It was a world which changed radically from the Austria of the mid-1930s to the small Virginia farm he tried to run in the early 1940s, to his triumphal return to Vienna in 1947 and his continuing worldwide success.
In contrast to those of Erich Leinsdorf, the expressed needs of some of her other clients provided Constance Hope with touching relief. Writing to “Cara Costanza” in April of 1938, Ezio Pinza revealed his lack of concern for business details and sought her advice about trading in his car: Here is please the check for your bill . . . Please do me big favor always, not send me explanation of bill. Say only so many dollars and cents—I pay. You will give me some advice, not must have good light car— a new one. I no like parting with the old . . . All over we go together . . . is big shame sell. For me is like an old friend. Yet for the trip to South America is better a new car—
Missing photo: Lotte Lehmann, Richard Crooks and Desire DeFrerc in rehearsal, ca. 1935.
In the late summer of 1938, Wagnerian tenor Lauritz Melchior asked Miss Hope to supply him with “eine pumpe für meine Gummimatratze zu Sleeping Bag, chewing gum, a Pocket water-proof Matsch-Safe” and a number of other items; Melchior was an avid hunter. He was also a serious bridge-player, and in 1942 his cabled request to Leinsdorf (“Please arrange bridge game beginning two p.m. Tuesday. Three more players needed. Regrds.”) was also taken care of by Miss Hope.
Constance Hope took a break from running her own publicity office to assume two other big jobs. First she became publicity director for the Metropolitan Opera; later, she went on to become Director of Artist Relations in the Red Seal Records division of RCA. Here she bore the responsibilities of all aspects of artists’ relations, including signing new performers to the record company. During this time she enlisted for RCA such stars as Leonard Bernstein, Robert Merrill, Ezio Pinza, Lotte Lehmann and Patrice Munsell. But as the first woman executive at both RCA and the Met she found problems that she had not encountered as her own boss. As the only woman in an important position at RCA Red Seal, she faced determined resistance to many of her efforts. At the Met, she recalls, she had several counts against her: “I was young, Jewish and female,” and a number of the men in power there preferred to override or, at best, patronize her. Furthermore, those Met stars who had not previously been her clients openly expressed jealous disbelief that Miss Hope would give them the same high quality and volume of publicity that she had offered for those who had earlier sought her services.
Back at the helm in her own office she was far happier, although life wasn’t perfect. She confesses, “. . . they all got mad at me at one time or another—I was a driver too—but they all ended up loving me.” “They” were her office staff, a number of whom have gone on to manage their own publicity offices. “Practically all the others began with me,” she remarks of her competitors, “and we’re all friendly. I have one enemy . . . and I don’t need to talk about her.”
Missing photo: Lily Pons with a group of admirers in her dressing room, ca. 1940. At the far left is the young Tony Curtis.
Although most of Constance Hope’s energies were spent in bidding for the public’s attention for her clients, she also was concerned with promoting the entire field of the arts. She was, in fact, one of the unrecorded forces behind the development of New York’s City Center of Music and Drama. It began in 1942 when city official Morton Baum, who had been a student of Miss Hope’s father, called her with an idea for the city’s takeover of the Mecca Temple on West 55th Street. It was Baum’s plan to turn the auditorium into a sort of municipal center for high school graduations and political gatherings. Miss Hope thought it was a terrible idea, and began to counter with a proposal of her own; but Baum was already committed to his original plan. Six months later that plan had failed dismally and Baum was back on the telephone with Miss Hope. “I think,” she ventured, “that New York is ready for a center-of-the-city-for-everything-in-the-arts. Get major performers but make two dollars the top admission price. You can get the New York Philharmonic to open it with a benefit performance; start off with a big, splashy press conference at the Mayor’s office. Invite everybody.” “Wonderful,” said Baum, Mayor LaGuardia, Newbold Morris and a growing host of others. “I didn’t invent it,” says Miss Hope now, recalling that her ideas were based on a Viennese model; but she did conceive of transposing such an arena to the New York cultural scene. The plan went forward according to her design, including the big press conference, to which everyone was invited—except Constance Hope.
Miss Hope’s talents and accomplishments have not gone entirely unsung. Opera News devoted two articles in January 1973 to a lengthy treatise on Constance Hope and the others who followed in the business. Earlier (1941), in true publicist style, she tooted her own horn by writing a humorous book. Publicity is Broccoli, about her various experiences in the publicity world. She had wanted to entitle the And You Meet Such Interesting People, but her editor objected, suggesting instead something along the lines of a previous publishing success. Fashion is Spinach. So the new author compromised (to the chagrin and strenuous objections of her friend Lotte Lehmann.) Miss Hope now recalls that, about a year later, a book with a title almost identical to her discarded one was a tremendous success. But tribute to Constance Hope found its widest audience in the late 1950s when she was the subject of the television program “This is Your Life.” Lotte Lehmann flew to Los Angeles to be on the program with her astonished friend, and soprano Rose Bampton appeared to tell how Miss Hope had rescued her from despair when Bampton lost her voice. The Begum Aga Khan was flown from Paris for the occasion. A number of Miss Hope’s other clients and friends were on the program: Lauritz Melchior, Fannie Hurst, Robert Merrill and husband Tio were all there. But the dear familiar moderator, Ralph Edwards, was not; for the first time in his television career, he was ill. People viewing Miss Hope’s film of that program today usually experience an eerie sense of recognition watching Edwards’ replacement (who was met by the studio audience with noticeable disappointment)—the then-young movie star, Ronald Reagan.
Missing photo: Jeanette MacDonald and husband Gene Ravmond perform for the benefit of their dog and the publicity photographer in their Beverly- Hills home, ca. 1955.
Since she has closed up her office, in order to devote more time to philanthropies and her own well-being, Constance Hope looks back on her years as a publicist with great pleasure. There were times, however, when because of her unique personal and professional relationships with artists, she found herself caught in the midst of battles of egos or wits. One such case involved Grace Moore, who returned to the Hope office as a client in 1937. After Miss Hope, in 1938, urged the New York Post to do an article on the singer, Moore accused the newspaper of distortion; the Post in turn accused Miss Moore of being “a vixen and a bore.” Later the writer of the piece, Michel Mok, said in a letter to Miss Hope, “She treated me like a dog. She treated the photographer like a dog . . . I foresaw that you might be blamed.”
Miss Hope did her best to keep the public eye, and herself as well, out of the tangled romantic involvements of some of her clients, recalling that Pinza and Pons (separately rather than in concert) were two of her biggest problems. But she was unable to extricate herself from one Heifetz family battle. The violinist’s family, close friends of the Bernstein-Hope-Berliner clan, were greatly disturbed by the news that Jascha was to be sent to some far-off, unspecified destination by the United States Army during World War II. Heifetz had been instructed not to reveal his mission, and no amount of urging on the part of his mother or her friends could get Jascha, a naturally reticent person, to announce his destination. To each of his mother’s heavily Russian-accented queries of “Vere are you going, Jascha?!” he would answer only “YES.” Through weeks of prying Jascha still said only “YES.” Finally his brother-in-law Samuel Chotzinoff, then musical director of NBC, was called to a program meeting and was given the confidential information that Jascha was only going to Panama to play a few concerts for the troops and would then return. Much relieved, his mother agreed not to let on to Jascha that she knew this; instead she badgered her son for days while he repeated “YES.” On the eve of his flight, the families held a send-off din- ner and the parental nagging continued, until at last Mrs. Heifetz bantered from the top of the stairs with her departing son: “Jascheleh?” “YES.” “So ven you come back…” “Yes?” ” . . . you vill bring me please a Panama hat.”
Now Constance Hope has brought the curtain down on that phase of her busy years with all their ups and downs, music and discord. The business has changed, she notices; there are ever fewer outlets in the number of newspapers, magazines, syndicated columns and radio programs available to the publicist. Television has had a tremendous impact on the use of media and on the entire scope of American life and entertainment. There are also, she feels, fewer great artists around than there were in the earlier decades of this century. “They’re all too busy to be great; they take too many engagements, spread themselves too thin. I remember when Pinza started to do that . . . I heard him at Carnegie Hall, and loved and admired him, but thought, ‘The gold is beginning to go.’ You can’t produce art in a minute; it takes time and practice and rest.” Still one gets the impression from conversation with her that Constance Hope could make a tone-deaf singer a sensation in a city without a single newspaper or radio station. As she points out, “If I can’t get something done one way, I find another way to do it, until I do it. I never say no.”
Yet another article: In praise of publicity – a woman’s history; posted by Heather Yaxley on September 8, 2011 ·
I’ve yet to come across Constance Hope in any public relations textbook – perhaps not surprising as women are largely missing from the history. Indeed, apart from Doris Fleischman, I am unaware of any female voices writing about early experiences of the practice in the US; and Fleischman’s contribution inevitably is linked to her husband Edward Bernays.
So exactly who was Constance Hope and why should we care about her story? Well she authored a book called: Publicity is Broccoli (published in 1941) a title which has to be worth a bit of our attention – and that’s the point about Constance. She was a highly competent publicist working in the 1930s. Alongside various high profile celebrities of the day, she managed numerous entertainment-related clients (orchestras, restaurants, recording companies). Although strictly speaking, Constance Hope Associates was not in the business of public relations. She was proud to be a publicist – defining the work in two words: Making news.
Constance distinguished publicists from press agents and Public Relations Counsels (her capitals): The press agent is the fellow who believes there is no such thing as bad publicity. He operates on the theory that even if his client plays the leading role in a murder trial, it’s justified by the space he gets in the papers… he reasons that a plug is a plug, even in the obituary column.
In contrast, she writes “the publicist is more selective” and concerned with creating “a definite impression in the public mind”. Her methods invariably included choosing an appropriate publication and obtaining coverage that not only changed perceptions, but led to measurably outcomes. Reading her detailed, yet light-hearted, explanation of the ways in which she helped her clients provides an exceptional insight into the publicity industry of that era. Both direct and indirect approaches are in evidence – and Constance is open enough to discuss her failures too (not something I’ve seen often, if ever, among male writers of her generation).
Stunts – particularly the “screwy, space-grabbing variety” were not her method of choice, although she and her team demonstrated exceptional creativity in their work. CHA was certainly not against being creative with the truth, as Constance justified “tongue in cheek” yarns that she felt were enjoyed by editors, readers and clients alike.
What I loved most about Constance Hope in reading her book was her enthusiasm and lack of pretention for her craft. She saw publicity as a full-time job which offered moderate rewards: The publicist, as a general rule, makes more money than the press agent, but the Public Relations Counsel is rich like anything.
She was scathing rather than envious of her more salubriously located “betters”: The P.R.C. prepares impressive campaigns, studded with surveys, graphs and excerpts from Freud, to show how he will mold the mass mind, psychoanalytically. (The P.R.C. scorns anything less than eight-cylinder words).
Who can she mean with this portrait? Undoubtedly Freud’s nephew, Edward Bernays, who also dismissed press agentry (as originating in the circus) and agreed with Constance in the distinction that: Public relations is not publicity.
Bernays saw publicity as a one-way street of communications compared to the two-way world of gaining public understanding and acceptance [Your Future in Public Relations 1961]. Their different viewpoints have echoes of today’s ongoing debate between those who seek to maintain a clear divide between rarefied PR and down-market publicity. Or is that honest publicists and disingenuous public relations professionals?
Constance Hope (1908 -1977) had a successful 40 year career with an impressive roster of clients operating across the US (with offices in New York and Los Angeles) and working in Europe. Music publicist Alix Williamson (who originated the idea for the book written by Baroness Maria von Trapp that eventually became, The Sound of Music), started her career at CHA. However, Kater, in his biography of Lotte Lehmann, (Hope’s first and best known client), criticizes Constance as a self-publicizing “woman-about-town” and accusing her of almost Simon Cowellesque control of her client.
And she was that famous, being profiled in Opera News and starring in an edition of This is Your Life in 1957 – hosted by Ronald Reagan. Publicity is Broccoli was also a publicity tool for her business. The title is bemusing and not explained in the text at all, but apparently Constance wanted to call it And You Meet Such Interesting People, whilst her editor wanted to link to an earlier successful book Fashion is Spinach (by designer Elizabeth Hawes). Her choice of title is used for a fascinating article in Columbia Library Column written in 1976.
Today Constance seems largely forgotten. She does not even have a Wikipedia entry. However, her “extensive files of papers, correspondence, photographs and memorabilia” are stored in the Columbia University Libraries’ Archival Collection (where she is listed as a public relations specialist and artists’ representative). I’m not aware that any PR historian has yet studied these as has been the case with many of her male contemporaries.
Given the paucity of women’s stories in the early years of public relations (or publicity), a study of Constance Hope, her agency, nature of work and possible influence on others is surely due. At the least, we need to raise her profile as evidence that women not only worked in the field, but were capable of running a successful consultancy business. Time to write that Wikipedia entry I think.
[i] Constance Hope: Publicity Is Broccoli, The Bobbs Merrill Co., Indianapolis / New York, 1941, pp. 20-22, 24, 27-28.