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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Handler

You have to be both bouncer and caretaker when the client starts drinking after the event.

“Ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages, step right up and see the pretty ladies in their tight dresses who haven’t eaten in a week. Now direct your attention the handsome men in the penguin black and whites with extra shirt starch…”

It’s a big top of a different sort: the Red Carpet that would typically make the Ringling Brothers, and even P.T. Barnum himself, jealous and proud. Like any good traveling show, the red carpet features the meandering erotic creature in need of a stiff crack of the public relations whip.

‘Crack’ snaps the Blackberry and iPhones as the sage trainers tenderly nudge the A-listers towards the Access Hollywood crew and the C-listers towards the Channel 5 Des Moines Iowa news team. Only the experienced media maniacs can handle the demands of escorting media darlings such as Kim Kardashian, Leonardo DiCaprio and Angelina Jolie/Brad Pitt.

Inside the agency, the handler is treated with apathy by the higher-ups. Down in the trenches, the negotiations and positioning begins. For many, it will be one of their highest-profile assignments as they transform into ninja-mode ,blending into the sea of press, fans and peers. Staying invisible is the key, because we know that any good publicist would be razzed mercilessly if they became the story.

Never blow off the walk-through or your credentials are toast.
My first red carpet experience was in 1998, babysitting Brooke Burke and Yasmine Bleeth at consecutive events. I was merely a kid back then. It was the most invigorating time of my life as The Media Guy turned publicist. These ladies were the hot ticket and everyone wanted a piece of them. In front of the cameras, they were a dream. Behind the scenes? Well, that's another story. 

Truth is, that on those burgundy fibers that shine amber under foot, it’s a mosh pit with a wave of stars set to swallow you up as you crowdsurf into the main event. You have to channel your inner gladiator to survive such days, serving simultaneously as dark-attired guide dog and psychiatrist.

Every quality handler, er, publicist, knows three things:
  • 1) know every step of the route,
  • 2) tonight is not amateur hour, and
  • 3) the real work begins at the after party as you urge your clients to avoid making themselves fodder for
And, point #3 is the subject of another blog. Later. Much later.
The handler (over Meryl Streep's right shoulder with the yellow badge) is ever present, yet invisible. 
Do you see the handler? Good!