Behind so many of the successful and influential is public relations advisor Matthew Hiltzik, a strategist who promotes the good times and manages the bad. NY1's Budd Mishkin filed the following One On 1 profile.
As a public relations strategist for the prominent, working from Kips Bay, Manhattan, Matthew Hiltzik has to deal with all types of crisis management — contract disputes, a star on the front page, even a tiff between a pop singer and a prime minister.
But he's been trained to deal with crisis management. He is, after all, a New York Jets fan.
"That's a gift from my father, of being a Jets fan. I am proud of the suffering and I hope they can get to a Super Bowl in my lifetime or my children's lifetime," Hiltzik says.
You may not recognize Matthew Hiltzik, but you certainly recognize the people he represents, like TV newscaster Katie Couric, talk show host Glenn Beck, actor Alec Baldwin, pop star Justin Bieber, New York Mets owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon and many others. Hiltzik has influential power behind the powerful.
"It's just as satisfying to know you helped people find the right words or you supported them during a challenging time, or you helped encourage them during a really good time,"
Understandably, Hiltzik does not talk in specifics about his clients. That's how his clients remain his clients. And he knows that their issues don't always crop up between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.
"I've had some really great calls and been introduced to fantastic clients and where I had no idea who the person was and had no relationship with them until getting into a conversation with them at a quarter to 11 [o'clock] at night. And there was one case where I did that and was on the phone until five in the morning," Hiltzik says.
Occasionally, the clients become friends. He has a picture of his daughters blowing out candles with Katie Couric on the set of the CBS Evening News.
Hiltzik and Baldwin became friends in the late '90s on the campaign trail and they even attended a Jets playoff game and saw the team lose in Denver in 1999.
Through triumph and tribulation, Hiltzik is with his clients.
"The stuff that happens, they have to be accountable for what they do. And there's other things where people have it wrong, being supportive and helping to share a whole picture of someone during the moments when they don't have their best day," says Hiltzik. "And it's something of making sure to correct the record and be supportive of somebody where they've been inappropriately portrayed."
Hiltzik, a lifelong Democrat, worked for former Democratic State Chair Judith Hope, then served on Hillary Clinton's Senate campaign.
One of the causes his firm, Hiltzik Strategies, represents is a program called Define American, pushing for immigration reform, led by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, who made international news when he wrote about discovering he was undocumented.
All of the above makes Hiltzik's representation of conservative talk show host Glenn Beck that much more compelling. The strategist says representing clients with diametrically opposed politics is not a dilemma.
"There’s really no juggling act because the political causes that I support and the issues we're part of the advocacy for are issues I believe in," says Hiltzik. "The work we do with Glenn and his company is not content-driven, it's about the business he has and the positioning of the company."
"I'm proud to work with him," Hiltzik continues. "I don't believe in a certain percentage of what he may believe in, but by signing on with a client, it's not necessarily true that the opinions expressed by this individual are the opinions expressed by me."
It's hard to imagine that Hiltzik could be thrown by any situation at this point after working for Miramax head Harvey Weinstein. Hiltzik describes Weinstein as "larger than life," a man with an insatiable interest in television, books, magazines, music, politics, philanthropy and, of course, movies.
Hiltzik remembers his Miramax time fondly, but also as "tiring and rigorous."
"We had a fun back-and-forth, specifics better left to the imagination because I wouldn't want to disappoint anyone," says Hiltzik. "Harvey is colorful and more than anything he, at the end of the day, really did appreciate my perspective on it."
In his office hangs a map of his hometown, Teaneck N.J. It was uniquely known as a racially diverse suburb when Hiltzik was growing up in the '70s and '80s.
His father was a television agent and also volunteered with a group that fought racial steering in Teaneck real estate.
As the Teaneck little league's head umpire, Matthew Hiltzik had his own causes.
"My two biggest accomplishments there were hiring the first girl umpire in Teaneck and the other was throwing the commissioner out of the game because he violated my rule for cursing," he says.
Hiltzik's mother Linda just happened to be at the office on the day of his One On 1 interview, every interviewee's dream.
Linda Hiltzik: Did you tell him about the little book you wrote in third grade? No? He was a very —
Matthew Hiltzik: Two 150-page books on a robot named Nice Guy in fourth grade.
Linda Hiltzik: He was always interested in many things and also in many people.
Hiltzik occasionally lends his talents to producing documentaries.
Most prominently, he was the executive producer of "Paper Clips," a 2004 film about middle school students in Tennessee who studied the Holocaust and aimed to collect six million paper clips.
Hiltzik saw how the film elicited emotional responses.
"One woman in Dallas sent in a paper clip in honor of her father who she said was a bigot, and she wanted to send it to combat that bigotry," Hiltzik says.
As a public relations professional, it is not surprising that Hiltzik usually speaks in a calm, measured voice.
But NY1 got a glimpse at his ability to be direct, in this recollection about someone from his early political days, a fellow Jew who Hiltzik says gave him a hard time about his observance as an orthodox Jew.
"He was brutal when I was out for the Jewish holidays in September, and it was unfortunate," says Hiltzik. "I think karma is a bitch sometimes. His career didn't quite have the trajectory that he probably would have liked. I think it had more to do that he wasn't respectful of people."
Hiltzik is married with three children and says his beliefs have caused him to turn down some prospective clients.
As for those times when the clients Hiltzik does work with do or say something with which he might not agree, he has learned to keep it all in perspective.
"I am not going to judge someone based on their worst day, especially when I know the context of the rest of who they are," Hiltzik says.
He has worked on movie campaigns and political campaigns and social issues that are significant to him. But Hiltzik understands that to represent his clients, he has to juggle the important and the mundane.
"Katie Couric specifically brought that up to me a few months ago. I was in the middle of dealing with some issue with somebody else and she felt bad that I had to deal with the more minor aspects of it," says Hiltzik. "The fact that I have the opportunity to deal with extraordinarily talented and accomplished people who actually are doing a lot of important things too, I’m okay with the rest of what goes with the rest of that."
Hiltzik planned to pursue another of his passions Monday night — rooting for his beloved New Jersey Devils in Game 4 of the Rangers-Devils series at the Prudential Center in Newark.