ROBERT (BOB) HARRISON practically invented modern celebrity journalism. Handsome and charming beyond belief, he was catnip to the ladies and men wanted to be just like him. After initial success with publishing girlie magazines like Titter, Wink, and Flirt, the driven, obsessively detail-oriented Harrison created Confidential Magazine, a cultural phenomenon that turned the rules of Hollywood PR upside down, selling 5 million copies of every issue—more than T.V. Guide, Time, and The Saturday Evening Post. No one ever admitted buying it, but no one could put it down: White Glamour Girls with Black Bachelors, Homosexuals in Hollywood, Society Swells in Hock. Harrison swore to Tell the Facts and Name the Names. So he did.
Newspapers called him “The Titan of Titter Tattle” and “The Sultan of Sleaze,” with columnists breathlessly covering his nightclub tours, always with a blonde on his arm, always driving a white Cadillac, wearing a white alpaca coat, and always picking up the check.
In the beginning Robert Harrison wanted little more than a lifetime membership in Café Society. Yet he would leave behind a legacy defined by accusations of murder, blackmail, suicide, and libel. Separating truth and fantasy proved impossible as his life became more and more like a story in Confidential. But Harrison loved to laugh. Even when the joke was on him.
Harrison’s niece, MARJORIE MEADE, was a young, newlywed living in Manhattan. She was brought up to be a good wife and mom, but like Joan Crawford in a ‘50s melodrama, all she wanted was to get up, get out, and get something more out of life. Uncle Bob sent her to Hollywood where she headed up his new research organization, a vast network of tipsters and private dicks trolling for Tinseltown trash.
Tabloids called her the “Flame-Haired Femme Fatale” and “The Most Feared Woman in Hollywood.” She risked prison for Harrison, but was bound and determined not to go down with the ship. Sexy. Sure of herself. Marjorie was nobody’s plaything.
JEANNIE is an amalgam of three different women in Bob's life. GEENE COURTNEY is pictured to the right. She and Bob were great friends and often appeared linked in the gossip columns. He put her on the cover of the first issue with "Showgirl Sells Shares in Self!" and she was the dame who supposedly got Harrison shot in the jungle. She released a novelty record that has to be heard to be believed called "Putzie Putz, the Octopus" in the mid-'50s. JUNE FREW was his girlfriend during the height of the Confidential madness. She was, by most accounts, a little high strung. She created a huge scene at the airport during the Dominican Republic "jungle shooting," when she arrived with photographers in tow to meet Bob's plane, and promptly started screaming and hitting him in a jealous rage. REGI RUTA was his girlfriend from the late '50s until his death in 1978. Unlike our Bob in the musical, in real life, Robert Harrison never married nor lived with anyone.
Bring on the goofball-popping, alcoholic, violent, anti-Commie witch hunter, HOWARD RUSHMORE, a man so unpleasant, he wasn’t just hated by the Left and the Middle—but after a stint working for J. Edgar Hoover, McCarthy, and Roy Cohn, the Far Right couldn’t stand him either. At first Harrison relied on Rushmore for one crucial business contact, but soon, Rushmore’s flameouts and betrayals would lead to grisly coast-to-coast headlines and the fall of an empire.