A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from August 23, 2012
“All publicity is good publicity” ("There is no such thing as bad publicity")

American showman P. T. Barnum (1810-1891) is often credited for having said, “I don’t care what people say about me as long as they say something.” “He doesn’t care what his enemies say about him so long as they say something” was written about a person in 1879; this was said to be “like Barnum.” It’s not known if Barnum ever said the quote for which he has long been attributed.

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) wrote in the novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1910), something similar to the Barnum-attributed remark:

“It is silly of you, for there is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”

“There isn’t any such thing as bad publicity” has been cited in print since at least 1916. “Any publicity is good publicity” has been cited in print since at least 1925. “‘There isn’t any such thing as bad publicity,’ or, to express the same idea in reverse, ‘all publicity is good publicity’” was written in 1939.

The Irish writer Brendan Behan (1923-1964) added a memorable variation when he said in 1960, “There’s no bad publicity except an obituary notice.”


Wikiquote: The Picture of Dorian Gray
The Picture of Dorian Gray (often mistakenly referred to as The Portrait of Dorian Gray) is the only published novel written by Oscar Wilde, first appearing as the lead story in Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine on 20 June 1890. Wilde later revised this edition, making several alterations, and adding new chapters; the amended version was published by Ward, Lock, and Company in April 1891. The basic theme is of a man whose portrait ages while he remains young, leading him to debauchery.
(...)
Chapter 1
It is silly of you, for there is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.

Google Books
The Dictionary of Modern Proverbs
Edited by Charles Clay Doyle, Wolfgang Mieder and Fred R. Shapiro
New Haven, CT: Yale University Press
2012
Pg. 208:
Any (All, Even bad) publicity (P.R., press, notice) is goof publicity (P.R., press, notice).
1925 “The Comity of the Northwest,” Outlook, 141:588: “On the theory of P. T. Barnum that any publicity is good publicity, the Seattle criticism is good” [quoted from an editorial in the Seattle Times].
1925 Fresno [CA] Bee 1 Aug.: “The prevailing psychology of Hollywood is that any publicity is good publicity.”
1927 New York Times 8 Jun.: “People wonder whether the theatres were sincere when they agreed that ‘any publicity is good publicity.’”
(...)
The saying is widely attributed to P. T. Barnum. It perhaps originated as a counter-proverb rebutting “Not all PUBLICITY is good publicity”—or vice versa.

6 November 1879, The Daily Commercial (Vicksburg, MS), “Star Paragraphs,” pg. 2, col. 3:
Ben Butler is reported to be like Barnum in one respect—he doesn’t care what his enemies say about him so long as they say something.

9 August 1891, Chicago (IL) Herald, pg. 24, col. 2 ad:
We fully recognize the weight of the remark attributed to Barnum: “So that people talk about me, I don’t care what they say.”
(Siegel-Cooper & Co. store—ed.)

29 October 1897, Eau Claire (WI) Leader, pg. 5, col. 1:
“He handed me the paper,” said the alderman, “saying: Now I like that. I don’t care what the papers say as long as they say something about me.”

Hathi Trust Digital Library
13 July 1904, Printers’ Ink, pg. 5 ad:
Little Lessons in Publicity.—Lesson 43.
(...)
Every business man has to advertise, even if it is only by a sign over his door. All advertising is good. P. T. Barnum said: “I don’t care what people say about me as long as they say something.”

Hathi Trust Digital Library
May 1910, The American Educational Review, pg. 453, col. 2:
... which helps to make good the statement of that illustrous American, the late Mr. P. T. Barnum, who once upon a time remarked that “it doesn’t matter what people say so long as they say something.”

Hathi Trust Digital Library
November 1916, The Retail Coalman, “Favorable Publicity an Aid to Business, pg. 55, col. 1:
The second dealer had refused to give a local newspaper some information concerning the coal situation, when asked for an interview, on the specific ground that it wouldn’t be “good publicity” for him. And this remark reported by the reporter to the first-named coal man, caused him to snort with disgust.

“Good publicity?” he repeated. “What does he think he means by good publicity? There isn’t any such thing as bad publicity.”

Hathi Trust Digital Library
February 1920, The Smart Set, “Modern Improvements” by Bertram Bloch, pg. 80, col. 1:
Word of his nocturnal adventures, some of them wild riots of colour—red lips, white shoulders, golden wine, black eyes and blue coats—coming to the ears of his father, that worthy gentleman, denying that any publicity is good publicity, objected.

10 March 1933, Omaha (NE) World-Herald, “Babe Versus Colonel Jake,” pg. 19, col. 1:
Mr. Walsh knows that in the case of athletes, hoofers and novelists darned near all publicity is good publicity.

Hathi Trust Digital Library
So you want to go into the theatre?
A “manual.”

By Shepard Traube
Boston, MA: Little, Brown
1936
Pg. 195:
There us an adage in the theatre which runs, “All publicity is good publicity except bad publicity.”

Google Books
Juggernaut:
The Path of Dictatorship

By Albert H. Z. Carr
New York, NY: Viking Press
1939
Pg. 342:
Daumier and Cham caricatured him and his followers in fifty penciled sarcasms for the Parisian press, but Louis could afford to smile; he had something of the modern politician’s knowledge that all publicity is good publicity if there is enough of it.

31 December 1939, Sunday World-Herald (Omaha, NE), “Czar Petrillo’s Victory,” pg. 6C, col. 2:
Real experts in the art of keeping their names before the public believe that “there isn’t any such thing as bad publicity,” or, to express the same idea in reverse, “all publicity is good publicity.”

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityMedia/Newspapers/Magazines/Internet • (1) Comments • Thursday, August 23, 2012 • Permalink


I was looking for some articles when I stumbled into your post. I read and then I got interested, so I read more.

Posted by mouse trap  on  08/24  at  01:36 AM

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