Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Happy Days At The Today Show For A Publicist

Yesterday was one of those days most publicists strive to have but don’t often experience.  I spent some time with television icon  Henry Winkler, being part of his entourage at The Today Show and The Late Show with David Letterman. The experience reaffirmed why I promote and market books.

Being around a Hollywood legend is special but Henry makes it go smoothly with his humble, easy-going approach.  The Fonz is now 65 and his leather jacket was traded in for a sports jacket and a tie. He is still making movies (he just wrapped up the filming for one due out in 2012) and he’s still on TV (Royal Pains season premieres this week).  And now he’s a New York Times best-selling non-fiction author for his new book, I’ve Never Met an Idiot on the River.

I saw a man at peace with his celebrity.  He wasn’t barking orders or acting like a spoiled, insulated star.  Not that I expected that from him, but all too often we see such behavior from those we worship.

He was super friendly to everyone, from the camera grips to the hosts.  When waiting around in the green room of both TV shows he would just introduce himself to others in the area, including other show guests.  It turns out he knows everyone.  I mean everyone.

He’s like two degrees of separation – never mind six- from everybody. He even knew the other performers on The Letterman Show.  The musical act, Dawes, actually played for his daughter’s wedding.  Another guest, Transformers movie hunk, Shia LeBouef, played Henry’s son in Heroes.

At The Today Show, the guest that followed him was Kevin James, who is in Henry’s 2012 movie as well.  As Henry walked to or from the set of his interview he seemed to shake hands with familiar faces all around.  And if they were strangers he made them feel warm and welcome.

Even those he criticized respect and adore him.

For the Letterman Show Henry’s book got plugged in exchange for being a guest celebrity judge.  An unknown act was brought on stage, in this case an odd dance interpretation that looked like Blue Man Group if they were aliens.  Henry politely gave them a thumbs down under a segment called:  “Is This Anything?”  When Henry was leaving, he ran into the group in the hall and they asked to take a photo and shook his hands.  He feared they’d be angry in that their one chance for fame they were dismissed.   But they said they loved what he said and shook his hand.  Imagine, even in rejection they love him!

When coming out of the exit of both TV shows he shook hands with fans and strangers in the middle of Manhattan.  He could have ignored them and hurried to his car but he wanted to say thank you to those who support him.  He also must love the attention.  I don’t think it ever gets old to be applauded, to be liked.

As he walked towards his car, the paparazzi flashed off scores of photos. It must be fun to be him.  For part of a day, by association, I felt like I was him, and it is an unbeatable feeling, one you just want o bottle up and sip from when you have days when even a D-rated blogger or small-town radio producer turns your author down.

One of the funniest moments came when, after he did his six-minute segment on The Today Show, he was interviewed briefly by Al Roker for his six am show, Al In the Morning.  Thirty seconds into the taping, Henry’s cell phone rings.  Al answered it on the show!  It was Henry’s wife, calling to congratulate his successful appearance. But these two pros just incorporated what could have been a segment-killing embarrassment into a great bit.

In the time I spent with Henry I asked him a number f questions, but certainly didn’t want to be a pest.  I was so curious about what it’s like to be in his shoes.  But I am there to help him make sure things go smoothly, not for him to entertain me. Plus I was in awe. What do you say to a legend about a guy who has a career for about as long as I have been alive?

It was Henry’s day and nothing could go wrong.  I was so glad to be a part of it.  When you’re with someone who values his own celebrity but also seems to value others it is refreshing and inspiring.

Ann Curry, who was on The Today Show set but wasn’t the one to interview Henry, may have said it best when she told him, “Henry, do you know what you are?  You are amazing.”

Brian Feinblum is the chief marketing officer at Planned Television Arts (www.plannedtvarts.com) and blogs daily at http://www.bookmarketingbuzzblog.blogspot.com/. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert.

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