Australia’s James Bond: Inside US’s Russia probe
BRITISH publicist Rob Goldstone was sunning himself in Greece on his adult gap year when "all the email stuff blew up".
Courtesy of a 137-word email to Donald Trump Jr on behalf of his Russian pop star client Emin Agalarov, the entertainment spin doctor was instantly and shockingly as famous as the celebrities he promoted.
That missive would expose the journalist turned press agent, manager and event planner as an unwitting middle man in setting up the infamous meeting which has been at the centre of the ongoing investigation into Donald Trump's links to Russia during the 2016 Presidential campaign.
Goldstone found himself internationally infamous all because of what he calls a "puffed-up" email that suggested the Trump camp might be interested in the "sensitive information" possessed by Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.
That meeting on June 9 in 2016 at Trump Tower between Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort and the lawyer fuelled the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into possible Russian interference in the US election.
It also irrevocably changed Goldstone's life.
"I've been trying to plot what I am going to do next because it isn't a given that I will go back to what I did before," he said.
"Being a PR is hard when you become famous yourself because they just want to talk to me about Trump."
The flamboyant publicist who has spent decades putting pop stars in the spotlight was now the story.
Like blogger Rosey Blair who found herself in the eye of a social media storm sparked by her #PlaneBae tweets about an alleged fledgling romance between two passengers on her flight.
Or Ryan McKenna, the 13-year-old caught on camera during the Super Bowl staring at his phone as Justin Timberlake performed his halftime show right next to him.
Now 18 months after the email's existence was revealed in the American media and went globally viral, taken as evidence of alleged collusion between the Trump camp and the Russian government, the 58-year-old Goldstone remains shocked to be recognised by strangers.
He gets most grief in New York, where the whole saga went down and his Oui 2 Entertainment company is based.
Even for someone who has had to do his fair share of damage control for pop stars over the decades, Goldstone remains incredulous about how he has been portrayed.
"At the beginning, people were saying I was like a James Bond spy character with links to Putin and the Kremlin and the KGB," he says.
"At the same time, others are saying 'He's an idiot, he's a playboy who could bring down Trump.
"Both camps, left and right, claimed me at some point.
"People and media have said I am Trump's best friend, or family friend. I've met him exactly five times."
Goldstone has tried to make sense of his unwanted fame by penning his side of the story in the over-the-top titled but engaging memoir Pop Stars, Pageants & Presidents: How an Email Trumped My Life.
The British-born dual Australian citizen who once spruiked the tours of Cyndi Lauper and James Taylor and promoted the opening of the Hard Rock Cafe and Virgin Megastores here in the 1980s, was in charge of the unenviable task of making the relatively popular Russian pop singer and businessman Emin Agalarov a global star when his career was detonated by the email.
He first met Trump as part of the mission orchestrated by Emin's father, Azerbaijani-Russian oligarch Aras Agalarov, to bring the Miss Universe pageant to Moscow in 2013.
When the son requested the politically agnostic Goldstone set up a meeting with "the Trumps" in New York City for a "well-connected" Russian lawyer on behalf of his father, the publicist was reluctant.
But he had fielded and executed so many weird and wonderful requests on behalf of his pop star client over the years, that sending an email to Donald Trump Jr which promised information detrimental to the Hillary Clinton camp in the middle of a presidential election campaign was just part of the job.
The consequences of that email continue to rattle him.
Unlike the Trump camp who were present at that ill-fated meeting, including campaign chairman Paul Manafort, continue to be caught up in the legal fallout of Mueller's investigation, Goldstone faces no prosecution and appeared as a witness at the US Senate Judiciary Committee.
That evidence was presented behind closed doors. Out on the street, it is another matter and Goldstone has no protection against those who are "very angry Donald Trump is in the White House and want to vent that anger at me in some way."
Strangers yell at him, call him the "f … er who set up Trump"; others congratulate him, fantastically believing he helped "get Trump into the White House."
He has no fear of retribution from either the Russians or the Trumps but is cautious in restaurants and bars.
"I am not concerned about the KGB might be out to get me. I am concerned some nutter may want to punch or scream at me," he says.
Of course he lost his day job as Emin's manager and marketer when it all went down and Goldstone isn't too impressed the fabulously wealthy pop star thought "this cloud will pass", as he texted him eight months after the email storm wreaked havoc on his life.
"At the height of it when I was trying to make him understand how serious it all was and to get a lawyer, he asked me if I had checked out his new music video," he says.
"To me, that summed up life in the world of people in music."
Pop Stars, Pageants & Presidents: How an Email Trumped My Life is out now.