Written by Hugh Simpson
I certainly did not start out to be a publicist as there was no Publicist 101 in my University of Illinois Masters program of Advertising and Public Relations in 1973. I do not remember even knowing what a publicist was much less what he or she did!
Starting My Business
After starting my public relations consulting business in my hometown of Jacksonville Florida I heard of this organization that offered an annual expo, where the college students gathered to see booths of potential speakers and entertainment reps that they might be interested in hiring at their college or university for events for the students.
At the time the expo was being offered I represented several potential clients that might be of interest.
Working with Stephen Burke
One was Guinness record holder Stephen Burke, who held the record as the quickest escape artist out of a straight jacket that then was wrapped with yards of rope and knots!
On the Fourth of July at Jacksonville Beach we entertained the thousands gathered there by having Stephen escape from his straight jacket while dangling from a rope over the shark infested waters of the Atlantic Ocean that was attached to a helicopter hovering at 100 feet above the waves!
We would put Stephen in the straight jacket at a close by landing area attached to the rope. The helicopter would then begin to carefully ascend with Stephen for the short ride to Jacksonville Beach.
The helicopter would make several trips up and down the beach with Stephen dangling over the Atlantic Ocean to gather more attention of the audience.
Then we would have the pilot hover over the most crowded area of spectators as Stephen would make several attempts to get out of the straight jacket failing each time. Stephen was the perfect showman and of course deliberately held the audience in suspense with each failure.
Then in a flash he was out of the jacket that fell to the waves and holding on to the rope waving to the crowd as the helicopter began to return to base station!
I thought this might be entertaining for college and university students during the half time of a football game as Stephen performed his escape his escape over the stadium!
I had several other Guinness record holders but Stephen had the best chance of being booked.
Super Dome Expo
I told my Mom about the opportunity and she agreed to come along with me to the New Orleans Super Dome for the expo and even helped pay for the trip and my booth.
Being an interior decorator she also helped set up my booth display using her decorating skills.
Students actually looked at my display of Guinness record holders featuring photos of Stephen doing his escapes and asked questions.
I decided to leave Mom to handle the booth while I toured other booths to see my competition.
I spotted one booth that really caught my attention. It was the Original Marlboro Man’s booth. In the USA young men grew up dreaming of riding the horse out in Marlboro Country! He was an advertising icon!
I was disappointed he was not at his booth.
I returned to my booth and told my Mom about the Marlboro Man being at the expo but not at his booth.
She just smiled and said:
“Yes, I know as he was at our booth fascinated by your Guinness record holder clients and wants to take us to dinner tonight.”
I was speechless. We were going to have dinner with my hero the Original Marlboro Man!
Meeting The Marlboro Man
Fortunately my Mom also was a super dresser and had brought along the correct attire for me. I was counting the hours until dinner like a kid waiting for Christmas morning!
Soon the time arrived and there standing all 6 feet 4 inches was William Thourlby, the Original Marlboro Man!
During dinner he told my Mom and I he had his first book coming out and needed a PUBLICIST.
He said to me: “Hugh when I stopped at your booth and saw who you represented and having a charming talk with your wonderful Mom, I knew you were the one.”
Again I was speechless and listened to his plan of how I would be moving to Atlanta living in his extra downtown condo high over the Atlanta skyline! Then I would use my public relations skills to book him on radio and TV talk shows and get newspaper and magazine reporters to do features.
He had a very reputable publisher, who also would be handling public relations. I agreed and on September Labor Day arrived in Atlanta in 1978, where one of my Florida State University friends Stephanie Petis, was performing with her jazz group for the day. She introduced me to her friends.
I then went to the condo with Bill as he liked to be called. I had never been in a high rise condo and it was mind blowing!
The following Monday I went to work in Bill’s condo becoming a PUBLICIST.
Working As A Publicist
Back in 1978 there was no Internet and your only way to contact people was the landline phone. You also had only the telephone Yellow Pages with phone numbers and nothing else.
Bill had purchased what we had in the University of Illinois library. It was a directory of every radio, TV, magazine and newspaper in the USA with the contact name, address and phone number.
Thank goodness I did not have to wade through a stack of dozens of Yellow Pages!
I began to call these contacts and pitch Bill being on their radio or TV show to discuss his new book. Back then you sent out press packages through snail mail. It consisted of a 8×11 glossy photo of the client and a typed up bio.
Of course having the most recognized ad icon in USA history sure helped and the bookings began to materialize. Bookings at the Saturday Evening Post, radio stations from Florida to New York to Texas, TV shows like the famous syndicated David Susskind Show in New York City to discuss dressing for success along with several other authors, the grand opening of the New York City Barnes & Noble along with mega stars Charlton Heston, James Michener and Jim Fixx and The Larry King Show in DC.
Working With William Thourlby
Bill decided to use his brand new Lincoln Continental and drive to all the 99 interviews! In one radio station we were interviewed by a young African American woman who today is just known as O – Oprah!
In New York City I was invited to a party by some hot girls in a posh apartment, where I met Count Von Furstenberg, another dress consultant and the divorced husband of Diane Furstenberg, a fashion designer icon. He was very pleasant and had wished Bill had come to the party too.
His book has become a classic You Are What You Wear that men today still refer to. At last count it had sold over 600,000 copies not only on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, private book stores but corporations and libraries. What if I had 10 CENTS for every book sold!
Actually I did better than that as Bill introduced me to all the mover and shakers of Atlanta as his pal PUBLICIST. It eventually led to being a publicist for the late Robert Taylor and his best selling fictional book Paradigm that Business Week described as the “DaVinci Code for the Wall Street set.” He and his family of his lovely wife Delle, daughter Congresswoman Marge Greene, and son David became my best friends in Atlanta. Bob was nominated for the Nobel for Economics for his phenomenal discovery and solution that had stumped Newton and every physicist and Bob was not even a physicist but a very successful business man!
So I sure am glad to have had the opportunity to be a PUBLICIST!
How To Find Your Own Career
If you decide to follow into this exciting and challenging career, remember to be HUMBLE when presenting your client. I don’t mean that you have to be meek. I was never meek and presented with enthusiasm in my voice as I only had that to sell Bill and Bob.
Let me give you an example. When I pitched Bill to The David Susskind Show it was too a savvy New York City born tough as nails woman, who had heard every pitch imaginable!
She said David would never do a show like I was pitching as he only did serious ones with controversial authors and politicians.
I finally convinced her to at least present it to him. I guess she felt sorry for me and agreed. She told me that if I had not heard from her in 30 minutes then she was right and not to call again!
Within 10 MINUTES she called back and said for us to be ready to go on the show at X day. She said David was actually excited about the show idea and had always wanted to meet the Marlborough Man, who had gone from being a model and a star on Broadway to dressing several US Presidents.
The show was a hit with Bill arguing with Dress for Success author John Malloy and poor woman author Emily Cho who hardly got a word in edge wise!
NEVER TAKE NO AS THE FINAL ANSWER BUT BE CIVIL AND HUMBLE!
Find more from Hugh Simpson:
A Family Survival Manual for Y2K & Beyond/Hugh Simpson
Connecting The Dots: A Journey from A TV Reporter to A Serial Entrepreneur/Hugh Simpson
The Happiness Algorithm/Hugh Simpson
The Blissful Entrepreneur/Hugh Simpson
The Trillionaire & Nine Knights/Hugh Simpson
Dome Living in the 21st Century/MR Valentine
Sea Gypsy Live-Aboards/MR Valentine
Xtreme Preparedness on Land & Sea/MR Valentine
Disappear & Reappear/MR Valentine
Barter Wealth/MR Valentine
Guaranteed Wealth Control/MR Valentine
XtremePreparedness Commandos Training Manual for 2020 Grand Solar Minimum/MR Valentine
Xtreme Preparedness: Be Prepared Not Scared
I write exclusively for Amazon.
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