Dan Harary’s life has been filled with celebrity encounters.
Long before he became a publicist in Hollywood, Harary was a celebrity magnet.
At 15, he started working at the Sunshine In, a concert hall in Asbury Park, New Jersey. It was 1972 and on his first night on the job he had his first run-in with a famous person. Musician Richie Havens performed that evening and Harary asked him to sign a poster for that show, which he framed and still has hanging in his Beverly Hills home.
It was that poster that inspired Harary to write his book, “Flirting with Fame: A Hollywood Publicist Recalls 50 Years of Celebrity Close Encounters.” The book chronicles the famous folks Harary came in contact with—for better or worse. He’ll be at Book Soup in West Hollywood on Aug. 10 for an in-person book discussion and signing; he’ll be introduced by his friend of him, the actress Dee Wallace, who he met on the set of “The New Lassie” in the late ’80s.
“Last year, during a time when we were still locked down because of COVID, I was turning 65 and I looked at that poster in my living room and I thought, ‘Wow, that was 50 years ago,” Harary said during a recent phone interview. “I just took out a piece of paper and a pen and I started writing down as many celebrity names as I could think of — and there were hundreds. I wrote it in a very linear way and when I was done, I said, ‘Well, I guess this is a book.’”
Harary grew up with working-class parents who were musically gifted, he said. His dad played trombone in marching bands and his mother was a singer. Harary played piano until “The Monkees” television series debuted in 1966 and he ditched the keys for a drum kit to be more like his new hero, Micky Dolenz. He would meet Dolenz in person 20 years later at an Alice Cooper show, feeling disbelief he was casually chatting with his idol of him.
Since Harary played in bands in high school, his job at the Sunshine In was a dream gig. He got to meet Fleetwood Mac and Kiss. He also hung out with Bruce Springsteen, though he admits he was never really a fan of his music. He had many encounters with Springsteen in those early years, including one instance when he and his mother were in the car and saw Springsteen hitchhiking. Though Harary knew him, he shrugged him off and they blew right past The Boss.
“Now that I’ve been doing these book signings after I get through the Bruce section, I look up and I go ‘Bruce, I’m so sorry my mother and I didn’t give you a ride that day,’” he said with a laugh. “And I mean it, too.”
Harary’s celebrity run-ins continued through college. He attended Boston University at the same time as Howard Stern and he met several stars working at Columbia Pictures in New York, including a chance meeting with comedian Joan Rivers who told him if he wanted to be a comedy writer, he needed to move to Los Angels. He did and though the comedy writing thing never panned out, he did go on to find several other jobs in the entertainment business. He worked at the Playboy Channel and at various publicity firms before starting his own company, Asbury PR.
Harary said his all-time favorite movie is Steven Spielberg’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” and of course he eventually met the director at an event at Universal Studios Hollywood in 2010.
Harary said he knew he couldn’t just tell the filmmaker how much he loved his movies.
“So I walked up and I said, ‘Hi, my name is Dan and your mother makes the best blintzes I’ve ever had in my life,’” Harary said. Harary and his own mother would often walk to The Milky Way, a kosher restaurant just down the street from his house on Pico Boulevard in Los Angeles, which was owned by Spielberg’s mother, Leah Adler. He said they enjoyed the blintzes and chats with Adler about her “lovely boy” Steve.
“He just looked at me and said, ‘You know what, you’re right; she she does make the best blintzes in the world ‘and we bonded over that, of all things, ”he said.
Not all of his meetings went that smoothly. When he finally got to meet actress Meryl Streep, he was so nervous that he accidentally called her Carla.
“That’s how flustered I was,” he said noting that the friend he was with at the time, named Carla, pointed out he had called the actress by the wrong name. “My friends still laugh about that today.”
He writes about an encounter with Arnold Schwarzenegger in the early ’90s; Harary’s son, who was eight years old at the time and a huge fan of “The Terminator” films, begged his dad to get him an autograph.
“It should have taken him eight seconds to sign, but it turned into the longest two-and-a-half minutes of my life,” Harary said, recalling that he seemed to irritate the actor when he approached him at an event, though the star did eventually sign something. “I thanked him and told him it would mean the world to my son and it did. You should have seen my son’s little face light up! I felt like the Jewish Santa Claus being able to give him a special gift like that. And yes, my son lives in Anchorage, Alaska now and he still has that signed photo framed in his home of him. ”
At 66, Harary said he’s slowed down a bit. He’s still doing PR for industry clients, and he represents the legendary Musso & Frank Grill in Hollywood. However, he said he’s enjoying his new career as an author. He said he plans to publish more in the future, including a memoir and a science fiction novel.
“I’ve been doing PR for so long and, not to degrade it because it is my living, but I’ve been doing it forever, so it has become routine,” he said, but promoting his own work has been a surprise . “I signed autographs at Barnes & Noble the other day. People stood in line for me? For my book? Is this really happening? I’ve been a publicist for hundreds of other people, but for me to be signing autographs on my own book, it’s just remarkable.”
Dan Harary’s “Flirting with Fame” Book Signing
When: 7pm Aug 10
Where: Book Soup, 8818 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood
Tickets: Free; Copies of the book are $28 in-store and at booksoup.com