Big Daddy

Dear Big Daddy

Hey Big Daddy,

I work for a broadcast outlet and we frequently have high-profile
politicians as guests. I’m responsible for booking the guests, and recently
I found myself in an uncomfortable situation. There was a misunderstanding
when a certain statewide politician showed up to appear on a program for
which he was not scheduled. The politician’s PR handler sent the station a
nasty letter about my incompetence, though he conveniently didn’t mention
the sexist comment he had made at the station about me prior to the
incident. I am just learning this business, but I feel I may be too
thin-skinned for it. Do you think I should call it quits this early in the

–Grumbling in Sacramento

Dear Grumbling-

I’ve been trying to think of a more annoying life form than a flak for a
candidate for statewide office, but I’m having a hard time coming up with
one. Pigeons come close, what with that incessant
gargling/cooing/clucking/swallowed-a-bullfrog sound and their ability to
spread fertilizer over anything of value, but I still don’t think it hits
the bull’s eye.

Did you make the mistake of not recognizing this so-called “high profile”
politician when he or she waltzed through the door? Now, that’s certainly a
gaff, but it’s a perfectly understandable one considering how “high
profile” has taken on a new definition since Big Daddy ran the dance hall.

These days, every city councilman from the sticks thinks he’s “high profile”
once he gets elected to the Assembly and has access to a gas card and a
leased SUV. Who’s ever heard of half of these “high-profile” folks running
for statewide office today, much less their pencil-necked, over-dressed,
self-important, blackberry-toting PR flaks? Damn, in my day, you actually
had to accomplish something beyond sitting upright to become “high profile.”

Just because you don’t recognize every one of these newbies that come
through the revolving door of term limits is no cause for alarm. I’d be a
lot more concerned if you said you wouldn’t recognize ol’ Jesse Marvin if he
showed up in your lobby one day, but clearly as a loyal Capitol Weekly
reader, good taste and common sense are not your problems.

No, your problem is you’re either too timid or too honest. There’s a time
and a place for everything, but in dealing with human pigeons, timidity and
100-percent honesty is never advisable.

If the flak fouled up the show date because he was too busy pretending he
was starring in a West Wing episode, fight fire with fire and tell him he’s
the one who screwed up. Politicians always are eager to blame someone and
most times it doesn’t matter who it is, so long as it’s not themselves. That
means that even if the error was yours, you can still probably blame it on
the human pigeon and get away with it.

Your other choice, assuming this is a taped program, is to have a little fun
and tell the flak he’s early and offer the candidate a little JWR. Sit them
in the green room and flip the game on, any game will do. Then, after the
regularly scheduled taping is done, go back and tell ’em the power went out
in the control room. Or that at a staff meeting, people decided this
politician was too boring to have as a guest and you couldn’t risk having
viewers flip to the Obituary Channel while he was on. The possibilities are

If you can deal with the overblown egos of television personalities, you’ve
got a chance of dealing with the king-sized egos of self-appointed
“high-profile” politicians and their lackeys. When all else fails, think of
the pigeon: Sometimes you’ve got to fight fertilizer with fertilizer.

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