Meet Mark Kerrigan, the Man Who Finds Famous People
Sourcing famous people’s contact info is crucial to what we do at Interview, and Mark Kerrigan is the man we have on speed dial to make it happen. As the managing director of Celebrity Service, the online database that most magazines use to find the details of any talent they’re looking to feature, Mark has worked for nearly three decades making the most inaccessible people a little more accessible. We thanked him for his service with some sangria at Sevilla, where he arrived with a briefcase of pre-internet Celebrity Service artifacts, and some stories about his years of seeking out the stars.
BEN BARNA: Celebrity Service was established in 1939 by a man named Earl Blackwell. Can you tell us about him?
MARK KERRIGAN: The thing that put him on the map was, they couldn’t get any guests to the 1939 World’s Fair out in Flushing, Queens. Somebody, I think it was Bank of America, offered him the use of a car and a driver and a small budget to have celebrity days, so he started getting celebrities to come. There was Mary Martin day, Noël Coward day. He got it all going. He was also a big Kennedy supporter. He got Marilyn Monroe to sing “Happy Birthday Mr. President” at Madison Square Garden.
BARNA: How long have you been working at Celebrity Service?
KERRIGAN: I started in 1994 when I was 24 years old.
BARNA: What did you do at the very beginning?
KERRIGAN: Computerized the offices. When I got there, there was a group of older ladies and gentlemen still using typewriters.
BARNA: When someone asks you what you do for a living, what’s your response?
KERRIGAN: I typically say I’m in the entertainment industry in talent and VIP outreach, but no one has ever been able to really sum up what Celebrity Service is. Even Earl Blackwell couldn’t do it. We’re a database and an information service on people in the public eye.
BARNA: How are you keeping up with all the celebrities?
KERRIGAN: It’s tough. A decade ago there were, let’s say, 120 scripted television series on the various channels. Last year there were 520. And you have to follow everybody. Blackwell’s thing was, anyone whose name needs no explanation is the definition of a celebrity.
BARNA: I know. I called you asking to help me track down Mia Khalifa’s contact info, and you said you’d never heard of her, which, according to your company’s motto, means she’s not a celebrity.
KERRIGAN: Well, Blackwell did an interview in 1940 on CBS radio, and someone said, “What’s your definition of a celebrity?” And that’s what he came up with. Nowadays, of course, it’s hard to stick to that hard line because there’s just too many other people.
BARNA: How did you end up in New York? And how did you end up at Celebrity Service?
KERRIGAN: My husband’s brother, when we were sitting out in Greenwich, Connecticut, one day, said, “I think I want to move to New York. You wanna go?” I’m like, “Yeah, okay.” I found a job at a personnel agency, and they had Celebrity Service as a client. One day I got a call from the owner saying, “I’m looking for a director of marketing.” I sent a bunch of resumes thinking I’ll make a commission off this. None of them worked. Eventually, just for the hell of it, I threw my resume in there. I got a call instantly saying, “If you’re interested, we want to talk.” I took the job sight unseen. I was young and very dumb.
BARNA: So you weren’t a fame-obsessed kid getting his dream job?
KERRIGAN: No, I had no idea what I was doing. Today I have many celebrity friends, but in this context, they’re an inventory that other people are looking for. I have no investment in this. If their agent says, “Oh, fuck off,” I say, “The agent said to fuck off.”
BARNA: You see celebrities as inventory?
KERRIGAN: No, no, no, no. You can’t say inventory when you’re dealing with humans. It’s a very blithe way of looking at things. It’s an inventory only insofar as it’s names and not people.
BARNA: Have you ever been stumped?
KERRIGAN: I can find anybody. Very few people have stumped me. For a long time, my golden apple, if you will, was an actress named Tamara Dobson. At the same time that Pam Grier was Foxy Brown, [Dobson] was Cleopatra Jones in the old Blaxploitation films. I couldn’t find her anywhere. I even called Pam Grier and said, “Do you know what happened to Tamara Dobson?” Eventually it turned out that the New York Times had an obituary that she had contracted either multiple sclerosis or muscular dystrophy, some disease that put her into an assisted living facility.
BARNA: What is the weirdest request you’ve ever gotten?
KERRIGAN: Somebody called and asked if Jerry Lewis’s dog had a hearing aid. We called his office, got him on the phone, and I said, “Somebody legitimately wants to know if your dog has a hearing aid.” And he called his dog over a couple of times. “Come here. Come here.” He gets back on the phone and says, “No, but he’s getting one in the morning.” And hung up.
BARNA: Has anyone ever been upset with you for giving out their info?
KERRIGAN: Oh god, yeah. Well, not me, but the company, sure. We’ve gotten thousands of letters from celebrities saying, “Stop giving out my home phone number.” One of the more notorious things that was not our fault, but yielded a gassy result way before I was there, was Mark David Chapman called Celebrity Service to find out where John Lennon lived. And Francis Van, who had been with the company since 1941, said, “We don’t give out residential information and we’re a subscription service only. I’d be happy to mail you a media kit or a package if you’d like to.” And he said, “Well, you can send it to me, care of so-and-so at the YMCA.” And of course, within a very short period of time, I don’t know if it was days or whatever, he shot Lennon outside of the Dakota.
BARNA: Wow. Who’s your favorite celebrity right now?
KERRIGAN: I can’t do that because I love a million people. I think Keanu Reeves is a marvelous actor. I just love his energy and I think he’s really, really a cool guy. I’ve been introduced to him on a couple of occasions but make no claims to a particular friendship.
BARNA: Can I go through some people who you’re sharing the issue with, and you can tell me if you’ve heard of them?
BARNA: Meg Ryan.
BARNA: Olivia Rodrigo.
KERRIGAN: Of course.
BARNA: Adèle Exarchopoulos.
KERRIGAN: Not ringing a bell, but that doesn’t mean anything, because it doesn’t mean that whatever venue she works in, my staff hasn’t already got her in there. What’s her name? Adèle?
BARNA: Exarchopoulos. She’s a French actor who was in Blue Is the Warmest Color.
BARNA: What about Kit Connor?
BARNA: Erika Jayne?
KERRIGAN: Of course.
BARNA: Have you heard of Tems?
KERRIGAN: Yes. Do you know why?
KERRIGAN: That’s not the name that she uses. It’s T-I-M-S, right?
BARNA: No, it’s T-E-M-S. She’s a singer.
KERRIGAN: I know who she is. I think Nicole Perez represents her, if it’s the same person I’m thinking about. I know she’s in our system, Christine Tems or something.
KERRIGAN: Do you know what I mean? Just because it’s very difficult for us to find people. Like, when Kanye West changed his name to Ye? It will never come up in a database search. So we actually have him as “Ye, FKA Kanye West” in our database.
KERRIGAN: It’s important that we do that and respect his name change, but fuck him. Keep going.
BARNA: Jordan Roth.
KERRIGAN: Yes. He’s a producer, of course. Daryl’s son. He’s kind of flamboyant.
BARNA: Peso Pluma? [Editor’s note: Peso Pluma canceled on us the day of his shoot.]
KERRIGAN: Not a clue.
BARNA: He’s a new singer. Sexyy Red?
KERRIGAN: Again, no.
BARNA: How about Ayo Edebiri?
KERRIGAN: Yes, from The Bear.
BARNA: Dixie D’Amelio?
KERRIGAN: Kind of ringing a bell, but I couldn’t tell you what they do.
BARNA: Lily Gladstone?
KERRIGAN: Yes, of course.
BARNA: Christopher Abbott?
KERRIGAN: That’s also ringing a bell. Is he a stage actor?
BARNA: Yes, he was in Girls, and he does movies and theater as well.
KERRIGAN: Okay. I’m sure he’s in our system.
BARNA: He is definitely in your system.
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