It has all the makings of a Hollywood comedy: Country lawyer from Georgia finds himself in Tinsel Town, becomes starlet’s manager and rubs elbows with entertainment honchos all while imparting small-town wisdom.
In this case, however, it is a true story.
Patrick Millsaps, a lawyer from Camilla, has become something of a Hollywood broker. He has become the manager for actress Stacey Dash, best known for the role of Dionne in the movie “Clueless,” and now pitches shows to studios, reads scripts and hangs out with A-list celebrities.
“I’m still a bumpkin,” Millsaps said.
But this is no “bumpkin gets discovered, becomes star” story. And Millsaps is not really a bumpkin, either.
A lawyer at Hall Booth Smith & Slover, Millsaps is the former chairman of the state ethics commission and served as chief of staff to Newt Gingrich’s 2012 bid for president. In fact, it was politics that brought Millsaps and Dash together.
Dash, a rare conservative in liberal Hollywood, publicly endorsed Mitt Romney for president in the 2012 general election. Dash was bashed by Democrats and fellow African-Americans and promptly ignored by Romney’s team.
Millsaps watched it happen.
“I realized that it was a very bold thing for her to do,” Millsaps said. “And I was looking for the (Romney) campaign to pick up on her. Here you have this beautiful actress who’s come out of nowhere in support of your candidate.”
Instead, other than a photo with vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, “nobody did anything with her,” Millsaps said.
After the election and Romney’s loss, Millsaps wrote Dash a letter. He found her agent’s name online and put pen to paper, explaining that he’d had a unique experience as Gingrich’s chief of staff and said if she ever wanted to get more involved in politics to let him know.
He never expected a response. But Dash emailed Millsaps and said thanks. Not long after, Millsaps was headed to Los Angeles for a Republican National Committee meeting, emailed Dash and asked to go to lunch and offered to take her to the RNC meeting.
At lunch, not at the Chateau or the Ivy or some other famous celebrity spot, the two met at a nondescript Italian restaurant and talked for hours.
They kept in touch. Finally, Dash wanted to fire her agent but didn’t want to do it herself. She asked Millsaps to do it. In L.A. for business, he agreed.
Soon, he was helping Dash meet other conservative actors, such as Jon Voight, Gary Sinise and Nick Searcy. Dash, meanwhile, introduced Millsaps and his wife, Elizabeth, to other celebrities, such as hip-hop magnate Russell Simmons.
Millsaps then had his most surreal Hollywood moment: He and his wife with Dash at Simmons’ birthday party, in his home, where the original iconic Obama “Hope” campaign poster hangs.
“I’m sitting there going, ‘I’m not in Camilla anymore,’ ” Millsaps said.
Dash shortly thereafter called Millsaps and informed him he was now her manager.
“I said what does that mean?” Millsaps said.
It turns out, a manager helps promote an actor, manages her brand and consults with her on projects.
“I said, ‘Oh, you want me to run your campaign,’ ” he said. “I’m running the Stacey Dash campaign.”
Dash said Millsaps has been brilliant.
“I was just taken by him,” she told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in a telephone interview. “He’s a man of his word, which is rare. And he’s very charming and charismatic. And in Hollywood, virtually every meeting we go to they want him back. Heads of studios, executives, directors, producers.”
Millsaps, whom Dash calls “Patty,” is a “true person,” she said. “In Hollywood, that’s so rare. He gives people permission to be real and suddenly feel safe.”
Millsaps said he has no plans to model Jed Clampett and haul his family west like the Beverly Hillbillies. But there are many similarities between the entertainment industry and politics, and he said he sees business opportunities in the golden hills of Hollywood.
“Hollywood is one of the last pure examples of capitalism we have,” he said. “If you have a good idea, out there they will try it. It’s pure capitalism.”
Millsaps said he was recently asked about his politics by the head of a studio.
“I said you and I have the same politics,” Millsaps said he told the liberal executive. “I said: ‘Partner, you like making money. I like making money. That makes us both capitalists.’ He looked at me with this kind of grin.”
Instead of moving to Hollywood, Millsaps wants to help move more of Hollywood to Georgia. Already a $3 billion industry in the state, Millsaps said he will work to make sure the state tax credits that have helped lure dozens of films and television shows to Georgia continue, and that the state keeps pace with competitors for the business.
Millsaps is hardly the first Georgian to find new opportunities or careers compliments of the film industry, but he might be the most unusual, said Stefanie Paupeck, a spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Economic Development.
“There are probably 1 million examples,” she said. “People in the housing industry now building movie sets, people who were unemployed have started catering companies. People in the economic downturn were able to find new careers.”
Millsaps might not branch out into set construction, but he’ll continue to represent Dash and said he has projects in the works with other actors, such as “Grey’s Anatomy” star Patrick Dempsey and Shannon Elizabeth from “American Pie.”
Dash said it’s no surprise Millsaps has blossomed in the California sun.
“He’s good at looking at a person and knowing how they should be presented and showing them how to do that in an authentic way,” she said. “Everyone I’ve introduced him to says: ‘Will you help me? Will you be in my life? Will you please take care of me, too?’ ”