High Profile: R. Couri Hay, Publicist, Gossip Columnist

R. Couri Hay
R. Couri Hay

From Manhattan to Southampton, R. Couri Hay is the spokesman for stars and VIPs.

Hay’s storied career began as a gossip columnist in the ’70s. In his early days, he developed a friendship with American artist Andy Warhol. While learning from Warhol every step of the way, Hay wrote a column and interviewed everyone from family friend Bette Davis to Warren Beatty for Warhol’s publication Interview magazine, he recalls. “No one knew more about art, marketing and promotion than Andy.”

After Interview, Hay’s work would appear in celebrity, society and gossip columns across several other publications, including People magazine, where he helped create the “Chatter” column, as well as in Town & Country and Hamptons magazines. He also contributed to stories in The New York Times, New York Post, WWD and W.

Hay then evolved into one of the most prolific names in the New York public relations landscape. His career as a practitioner has brought him and his company, R. Couri Hay Creative Public Relations, much acclaim, such as being named among the “Top 20 New York City PR Firms” by Expertise for the sixth consecutive year in 2022. He is seen by many as the go-to name for PR advice — formally and informally counseling many of the “who’s who” in NYC and Southampton. However, his company’s mission has always been “to combine luxury with philanthropy.”

Now, after 25 years in business, his client portfolio is diverse, inclusive of some of the world’s most notable VIPs, institutions and brands. He has represented iconic fashion and jewelry brands including Harry Winston, Prada, Bergdorf and BVLGARI. He has planned events for the centennial anniversary of the Juilliard School and the 10th anniversary of the Broadway show Chicago. Hay has also orchestrated galas for Lincoln Center, the American Ballet Theatre, the Budapest Symphony Orchestra and the Society of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

Iconic football player Joe Namath and Hay teamed up to open Art Miami in 2018 to benefit both the Hope for Depression Research Foundation and the Joe Namath Foundation where Hay guided “Broadway Joe” down the red carpet through a sea of media. Current celebrity clients of R. Couri Hay Creative PR include Suzanne Somers and Brock Pierce.

Locally, Hay has represented the Southampton Animal Shelter, Southampton Hospital and the South Fork Natural History Museum, among other East End institutions. He has also authored stories about Robert Wilson’s Watermill Center, the Parish Art Museum and Guild Hall. Additionally, Hay opened Southampton Hospital’s Audrey and Martin Gruss Heart & Stroke Center.

In a 2014 profile in The New York Times with metro journalist Corey Kilgannon, he credits his success to “having a nose for news and gossip,” honed and developed through his early years in journalism, recognizing that anything — quite literally — can be a news story when viewed through the right prism.

“I’ve always had an instinct for news, and I can ferret out a story for every situation,” Hay says. “There is always a story if you look for it, and being a columnist, I understand exactly what other columnists, editors and producers want to know, which has allowed all of my clients to remain relevant and in the news — you can’t read an NYC newspaper without reading about my clients.”

In 2018, Hay was featured in an eight-page profile in Town & Country. He is consistently quoted in local and national outlets on celebrity news, and he is a regular contributor on television, speaking about high society and Hollywood. He is also featured on Showtime’s new documentary Gossip about legendary columnist Cindy Adams as well as in CNN’s film Halston.

“I have always found that being in the media is good for business, everybody’s business. People think that, ‘If he can do it for himself, he can do it for me.’ My message is: If I can be here, I can put you here, too,” Hay says.

“My media appearances are meant to be a magnet for my business,” he adds.

A Google search will yield images of Hay pictured alongside many A-listers. He has been photographed with John Lennon, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Princess Grace, Brooke Shields, Amanda Hearst, Paris Hilton, Nicky Hilton Rothschild and the Trump family. “I’ve been to the White House under five presidents: Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Obama and Trump. I make it a rule to never turn down an invitation to the White House — no matter who is in power — because you never know who you are going to meet,” Hay explains. It is clear that behind the legend is a man with influence, impact and PR advice perfectly suited for a celebrity or a New York professional.

“My forebear John Hay was a personal assistant to Abraham Lincoln and co-authored the 10-volume biography of Lincoln with John Nicolay, and later became secretary of state under President William McKinley. My great grandfather was the mayor of Westbrook, Maine, so politics is in my blood,” he continues.

Today, Hay splits his time between NYC and Southampton, and with the East End becoming more of a year-round oasis for the rich and famous since the pandemic, one can find Hay on Jobs Lane in Southampton throughout the four seasons.

“The East End reminds me of growing up in Maine. I am lucky to live on the water in Southampton. I love the beach and ocean, the trees, the grass, gardening and the sea air. I am an ‘outdoor guy’ when I am out here,” Hay says of his fondness for the East End.

On weekends, he can be found at Hamptons hotspots like Le Bilboquet, The Palm and Sant Ambroeus.

And, while the summer months remain the most happening time of year, Hay finds the East End’s other seasons a welcome escape from NYC’s hustle and bustle.

“In the quiet season, I am gathering for lunch and dinner with my vaccinated friends. When the weather gets colder, everything becomes more intimate, and thankfully, we have time off from all the galas. I love being able to connect with friends and clients on a more personal basis,” he says.

“Being in the Hamptons is the American Dream for me.”

Todd Shapiro is an award-winning publicist and associate publisher of Dan’s Papers.

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