For journalist and podcaster, 2012 was a memorable year. Rob – who holds Australian citizenship – began representing Russian pop star Emin as his worldwide manager. He was also instrumental in helping bring the 2013 Miss Universe to Moscow, where Emin also performed to an international viewing audience of over one billion people.
What happened next led to his debut book, Pop Stars, Pageants & Presidents: How an Email Trumped My Life, which details how he found himself caught up in the RussiaGate investigation.
Rob, whom I had wonderful fun working with at AAP in the late 80s, now hosts a podcast series “An Englishman In…” – which has already charted at #1 on the Apple Podcast Entertainment Charts in three countries.
The Carousel is proud to feature Rob’s podcasts regularly on our platform. But first more about Rob ….
When we first met during our time together at AAP, you had befriended Michael Jackson while he was on tour. He even wanted the jacket off your back. Tell us more about that.
“I think when you are young and keen, you think you can do anything! I certainly did. So when Michael Jackson announced he was touring Australia, I simply decided I would somehow get in on the act.
I went to the official launch with Jackson on a boat on Sydney Harbour, and by the end of it, had talked my way into becoming accredited to be a part of his traveling tour party. For the next 10 days I went wherever Michael went, followed him around, and even sat next to him on flights between Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne.
His manager at the time, Frank DiLeo, took a kind of liking to me and so allowed me to act as a de-facto touring publicist. Each day I would grab a few words with Michael and his team and send out stories via my bosses at Australian Associated Press (AAP). It was kind of surreal. He was arguably the biggest star in the world, and I was part of his tour. There is some amazing TV footage of us arriving at Melbourne Airport and me alongside Jackson as tens of thousands of screaming fans greeted him as the airport doors opened. He is all smiles…I look like a deer in the headlights with sheer terror. When we got in his car I asked him how he coped with this day after day. He told me “it’s all I have ever known.”
I never treated him as a superstar and would tell funny stories and ask him lots of questions. I even gave him my jacket. On one of the tour days I wore a black military style jacket which I had bought from a designer in Five Ways, Paddington. I saw him looking at it as we toured a local hospital. Afterwards, he asked me about the jacked, and I took it off and gave it to him. He was shocked. A day or two later I swapped it with him for one that was his size, which I had the designers make in 48 hours telling them it was going to the King of Pop. He seemed stunned that anyone would actually GIVE him something, and kept asking if it really was “for me.”
He was pure genius – the likes of which I don’t think we will see again.
Later on you managed plenty of pop stars. Who do you keep in touch with and who would you avoid like the plague and why?
I hate managing anyone. It’s true. I have done PR for lots of celebrities, but only managed a couple. One of my earliest was Jason Donovan. It was never official, and I didn’t have a contract, but for a while in the late 80’s I looked after Jason – with regards to his music career. He was just transitioning from acting to music, and we had become friends, and I gave him all kinds of advice. However, I always remember his fear at his first UK tour as a pop star. He told me in all seriousness that if no one showed up for the gigs, he could always use the trip to visit family in England! I told him I didn’t imagine that would happen. We ended up falling out over me feeling pushed out when his father hired a more established manager, and we never really spoke again. Except … when he had his first UK number one single – I messaged him congratulations and reminded him that perhaps he wouldn’t have time to spend with his UK family now!I keep in touch with some of the famous folks I have worked with thanks to Facebook and Instagram, but eventually you just lose touch.
I wouldn’t really avoid any like the plague – as I usually have good instinct when it comes to choosing my clients, and avoid them by not working with them in the first place.
What inspired your podcast and describe some of your most memorable interviews to date?
My podcast came about because for a few years lots of friends and people in the media had been asking why I hadn’t done a podcast. To be honest, I had no idea what to talk about on a podcast and most importantly, what to call it. I believe a name is hugely important. During the 2020 Coronavirus lockdown in the USA, I had lots of spare time. I thought it was perhaps the time to create the podcast series, and out of the blue, I decided on the name: “An Englishman In…” – it allowed me to add a final word to each episode making each one a unique theme.
The next issue was deciding who to invite as guests. I think it is natural to use your own address book or friends initially, and I am fortunate that some of mine are also fascinating and in some cases famous people. My first interviews were with media celebrities like Jessica Rowe, Planet America’s John Barron, Aussie “differently abled” singer Emmanuel Kelly, American actor and Roseanne ex-hubby Tom Arnold, a former Miss Universe – Riyo Mori – and even an etiquette and civility expert.
I also loved my interview with America’s #1 gossip columnist Rob Shuter, who gave me two amazing pieces of advice: firstly, he said in order to stay positive, always compare yourself to average people – not high flyers – that way you will never be disappointed; secondly, he said whenever he feels afraid, he puts his hand on the bible – but the bible is in fact Sarah Palin’s autobiography. He then says to himself “you thought YOU could be the Vice President of the United States…I can do ten minutes on the Today Show!” Both are great pieces of advice. Think about it! You’ve been in a few crazy situations, care to describe a few?
One of the craziest situations I have been in was when I represented Australia’s Virgin Megastores and its owner Richard Branson.
I had planned this amazing store opening to launch their Darling Harbour store. Everything was set, but a day or two before the opening I had this recurring sixth sense that something was wrong. Branson had planned to absail off a CBD building onto the newly built – but not operational – monorail, and then crawl along it like Spiderman and end up at his newly opened megastore. Although the monorail had yet to be opened, I decided to call the City and ask if it was in fact electrified. It was. At the last minute I had to abandon this PR plan, and Branson himself came up with the idea of waterskiing into Darling Harbour dressed as an airline captain. If we had gone with the original plan, he could have been electrocuted or even killed. It’s funny how sometimes you have to follow your instinct or sixth sense.
What was it like being thrust into the spotlight in the States?
Andy Warhol famously stated that in the future, everyone would be famous for 15 minutes. Well, in 2017, I had mine…and it lasted almost three years. I wrote what has now been called in the media “the most famous email in history.” The email in question was a 137 word text to the son of Donald Trump – who was running for President of the United States. The email was sent by me on behalf of one of my clients, a Russian singer named EMIN. What followed was a meeting at Trump Tower, which I attended, and which became one of the cornerstones of the explosive RussiaGate investigation. In the space of two years, I was called upon to testify to Senators and Congressmen and Women on Capitol Hill, to Robert Mueller’s inquiry, and even to a Grand Jury. Ultimately these inquiries decided, as I stated from the beginning, that there had been no “collusion” in any of these actions, despite what the media had made of it. I had simply sent an email on behalf of a client – no different to what I had done hundreds of times for dozens of clients in the past. The major difference in this case was that the person I sent it to had a father who became President of the USA.
During that period, my life was turned completely upside down. I was accused of being everything from a KGB spy, Putin’s Puppet, Hilary Clinton’s disruptor, Donald Trump’s close and dear friend, a Mossad agent for Israel, and, of course, a modern day James Bond. The truth was that I was a publicist and manager doing a job. But that didn’t seem to matter, especially to the media. I was in hundreds of newspapers, TV reports, and online almost 24 hours a day for well over a year and a half. Eventually, I wrote a book: Popstars, Pageants and Presidents, How An Email Trumped My Life. The reason for the book wasn’t for fame or fortune, but to set the record straight and most importantly, to give it context. With context, the story made sense. Without context, I was James Bond.
Not many can manage it, but you’ve pulled off working in multiple countries. What’s the benefits and any tips to living in places far afield like Thailand and Vietnam?
I have always been kind of nomadic. I left home at 18 and never really returned. I emigrated to Australia from the UK at 25 and almost a decade later, emigrated from Australia to the USA, where I have lived ever since. In all that time, I have taken chunks of time to spend overseas in far flung places like Thailand and even Brazil.
I think it helps give you a sense of reality and helps understand how other people view what we take for granted often in more developed Western nations. My one regret was never having lived in a country which was non-English speaking. I mean, don’t get me wrong, we definitely speak differently in America compared with the UK or Australia, but I really wanted to live somewhere where you could only communicate if you learned say Pashto, Finnish or Slovakian. I do speak bits of many different languages, probably most fluent in Brazilian Portuguese, but it is a regret never to have really immersed myself for long enough in a truly “foreign” land.
My favorite parts of the world are without doubt South East Asia (Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos) and Brazil. I learned my Portuguese from friends, waiters and even cab drivers on the streets of Rio, so they find it funny when I speak now and tell me I sound like I come from a “favela” – one of Rio’s infamous shanty settlements. In 2021, I am expanding my podcast series from just themed episodes, to a destination series. There will be “An Englishman In…some of the world’s most interesting and perhaps misunderstood cities including Bangkok, Rio, New York, Baku, Moscow, Hoi An, and many more. Look out for that in the new year, and hopefully we can all soon travel internationally again.
Finally, Channel Nine news reader Peter Overton calls you Wally. What is the story there?
Peter Overton is one of my dearest and oldest friends. We met when I was the weekend news-reader and editor for Sydney’s Radio 2UE, and Peter was the sportscaster. He was young, a kind of trainee at the time, and always eager to help. One Saturday, I was about to read a news bulletin when I noticed there was some big story going around about a wallaby. Now, I had not long moved to Sydney, and new absolutely nothing about wallabies or sport. I asked Peter what all the fuss was about this indigenous creature. He looked at me like I had three heads. “It’s The Wallabies, not a wallaby. It should be the lead story, as they have just scored a record breaking victory,” he told me. I quickly changed the news bulletin and when I came out of the studio, red faced, he said: “Never mind Wally!” He has called me Wally ever since. Funnily enough, I call him Wally also. He is one of the nicest human beings still to this day, and my first port of call whenever I get the chance to be in Sydney.
We are kicking off with your podcast on Jessica Rowe. Name three reasons why she’s so, well, loveable?
Having been friends with Peter for years, of course I am also friends with his fabulous and fun wife Jessica. She is the best. I love her “Crap Housewife” platform and couldn’t wait to talk to her all about it on the podcast. I found what she said to be really important for people to learn. You don’t have to be the best at everything, just own your crap! We then got talking about her other passion, cats, and discovered she calls herself the “Crazy Cat Lady.” There is a hilarious part of the podcast where we talk about the recent movie of CATS – and I was a bit naughty telling her that I would rather have watched Andrew Lloyd Webber be clawed to death by angry cats than re-watch that movie again! You will have to tune into the podcast to find out more.
Rob Goldstone’s website – – www.isanenglishmanin.com twitter @GoldstoneRob
Check out Rob’s podcast: link is https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/rob-goldstone-is-an-englishman-in/id1528028046