Veteran night owl Claire O’Connor is a 43-year-old publicist who has carved forged a career and a livelihood from her outgoing nature and love of socializing.
A native of Queens, O’Connor has had a varied work path, having held jobs in seemingly every conceivable aspect of the entertainment business.
“I finished school and went to college but decided that I would prefer to work,” she said.
O’Connor started working in Christie’s Auction House, which she called “high pressure but interesting.” But her real interest lie in fashion. Thus, when two of her friends who were designers approached her to do some promotional work, she was easily convinced.
“I wrote a short bio for one of the guys and he showed it to a publicist friend,” O’Connor said. “The publicist liked it and offered to hire me. He had some well-known clients, like the infamous Studio 54.”
As a result, O’Connor got a taste of the nightclub scene and liked it. Her next career move was to the Limelight Nightclub, where she was offered a position as a publicist. “I started with P.R. then moved on to organizing events,” she said. “If we held a fashion show and it worked well, I would tell the clubs in the other cities, pass the ideas on.”
O’Connor worked there for 10 years and decided that she had gained enough experience and savvy to start her own P.R. company.
Today O’Connor works from home.
“My second daughter is 2 1/2 years old,” she said. “I get up early and send one off to school, then I get to play with the baby until the nanny comes. I love working at home, just love it.”
With all her experience and contacts, O’Connor now gets to chose her projects.
“I prefer when I am called in to work on a project at the beginning,” she said. “All too often, we are called in when they run into trouble.”
O’Connor has three employees and together they assist in opening bars, nightclubs, planning events, publicizing venues and the like. She is expected to attend many of the events she has planned and has adopted a judicious attitude to socializing in the line of business.
“I never go out at night unless I am getting paid,” she said. “The company does P.R. for a wide range of things, anything from weddings to corporate events.”
O’Connor is aware that many Irish people are drawn to this kind of work and attributes it to a certain upbringing and work ethic.
“Today, kids are encouraged to follow their dreams,” she said. “We, on the other hand, were raised to go to work. I decided that if I was going to work hard, I wanted to have fun too, hence working in the entertainment business.”
O’Connor is close to her mother, a County Sligo native, though she admits to not always feeling comfortable sharing details about her line of work. “One nightclub I worked for was housed in a church,” O’Connor related. “I felt nervous telling my mother, but it turns out she didn’t mind at all.”
Some of O’Connor’s clients include popular venues like Club Spa, Revolution and Fuel. When she receives a brief for a project, the first thing she does is to notify all the people she knows in fashion, arts, sports, film and TV circles.
One of the more memorable parties she organized was for Hollywood hell raiser Mickey Rourke. He was eager to shrug off his bad-boy image so actor Johnny Depp offered to throw the party for him, thus giving respectable credentials to the gig.
O’Connor remembered how she had written 1,500 invitations for the night.
“I had just dropped them off at the post office and came home to see on TV that Johnny Depp had been arrested for trashing a hotel room,” she said. “I thought, this could be disastrous, but it was so outrageous that I had to laugh. The party was a great success in any event.”