On June 23, New York publicity doyenne Peggy Siegal and upstart professional party-tosser Andrew Saffir have scheduled dueling movie bashes. Siegal’s screening of Michael Moore’s Sicko—the invitations name-check the power hosts, including Harvey Weinstein, Sandy Gallin, Ron Perelman, and Mort Zuckerman—will be followed by dinner at Prime 103. Saffir’s presentation of Griffin Dunne’s Fierce People will be capped by an after-party at a private beachfront estate in Southampton. There are only so many weekending opinion leaders to go around, so the question is, who’ll get the boldest faces? “We do know a lot of the same people, and it’s safe to say that definitely some of them are getting both invites,” says the 40-year-old Saffir, a native Upper East Sider and former Ralph Lauren executive.
Siegal pioneered the marketing concept of hosting screenings and dinners for celebs and media elites to create buzz—and generate Oscar campaigns—for Hollywood movies. For the past quarter-century she’s dominated this niche, putting her 25,000-name Rolodex at the service of major studios, and she produces 100 or more events a year (about 75 of which are screenings).
The very size of the Siegal operation is where Saffir saw an opening. In September 2005, he staged his first event, a star-studded screening of the Gwyneth Paltrow movie Proof, held in a makeshift screening room in the then-new West Village Richard Meier building. “My goal has been to reach out in a fairly strategic manner to a small group of actors and their peers, along with an assortment of notables—and select press,” Saffir says. In other words, his events (he does 20 to 25 a year) strive to be more exclusive. And he has his supporters. “What makes Andrew’s parties terrific,” attests Ivanka Trump, “is the intimacy of the setting. Then there’s the quality of the people he invites. There’s never any pressure to stand in queue on a red carpet and have your photograph taken. It’s the kind of thing I can run to straight from work. It’s a great draw for me—but I’m someone who prefers to go to the movies with a bunch of friends than go to a fancy party.”
But the real difference between the two is that while the studios pay Siegal to produce her shindigs, Saffir gets outside sponsors—Dior, Donna Karan, The Wall Street Journal—to pay for them (and his estimated $20,000 service fee). Various studio marketing execs—who, for obvious reasons, won’t go on the record about Siegal vs. Saffir—give Siegal points for her knowledge of Hollywood and the media, and Saffir for being cool under fire. “Peggy can be frenetic,” says one.
Both seek to downplay their rivalry. “There were over 600 movies released last year, so I think there’s room for Peggy and there’s room for me,” Saffir says. “We’re not in competition,” Siegal claims, noting that 25 percent of her business is non-Hollywood work for cultural institutions. “I think he does a great job. He’s a very nice guy, and everybody likes him. Everybody tries to pit us against each other, but it doesn’t work. There’s so much work, there’s plenty for both of us. If I tried to do any more events, I’d have a complete nervous breakdown.”