on 13th October 2016
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Imagine you are having lunch at an exclusive restaurant, filled with Hollywood’s hottest stars.
And a masked gunman walks in and takes everyone hostage.
You must bargain for your life against a twisted individual.
He also has a bomb set to detonate if his heart rate changes.
If he dies. You die.
You have four hours to stay alive.
What would you do?
So, how are you going to play this one?
First you switch off your cell phone, then you take a deep breath and count to ten. Knee-jerk reactions are not your style. You need time to process what you’ve just heard, a moment of quiet reflection before leaping into the hurricane. Once those ten seconds are up you’re going to make two lists, one for the pros, one for the cons. Then you’ll take everything you’ve learned and put it in one column or the other. Inevitably, you will end up with more cons than pros, otherwise you wouldn’t have got the call.
Your clients don’t live in the real world, which is just as well. That one simple fact is the reason you’ve got a convertible Maserati Spyder, a suite of offices up with the clouds, and a condo with views across the valley in one of LA’s more exclusive zip codes. These people believe their own hype. They think they’re gods, but they’re not. Deep down they have the same insecurities and flaws as the rest of us, and, like the rest of us, they screw up occasionally. The big difference is that when they screw up it makes the headlines. This is where you come in. Trying to stop those headlines is an exercise in futility, but you can angle them to your advantage. And that is the Art of Spin.
So, what do you know?
You know this particular client isn’t a regular A-lister, he’s in the A+ category. There’s rich, and there’s Learjet rich, and this client is most definitely Learjet rich. He’s got the leading man looks, the healthy, twinkling smile and a great body. He made his name playing the all-American good guy and has basically rehashed the same role in every movie he’s ever made. However, so long as he keeps packing out those movie theatres, this doesn’t cause the studio bosses a problem.
Mr A+’s whole reputation rests on him being seen as whiter than white. According to the media he doesn’t drink, doesn’t smoke, doesn’t do drugs or screw around. He eats healthily, exercises regularly and does plenty for charity. He married his high school sweetheart and they have a couple of kids, a boy and a girl. You’ve seen the photos. How could you miss them? There’s the four of them with their perfect teeth, perfect skin and perfect smiles, living their perfect life. There’s even a cute little pooch at Mr A+’s feet to complete the picture. Mr A+ came from nothing and now he’s sitting right up there at the top of the mountain. This is the American Dream made real.
If something looks too good to be true, it is. That’s something you’ve seen time and again in this town. So it comes as no surprise that Mr A+ is currently languishing in a Beverley Hills police cell, nursing a hangover and wondering what the hell he’s doing there. As far as he’s concerned he hasn’t done anything wrong. As far as the law is concerned, he has. This time the law wins big. Being caught in a sleazy motel with a dead hooker and a large bag of cocaine definitely contravenes a law or two.
And you know one more thing. Rather than phone his lawyer, Mr A+ phoned you.
Your clients fall into two broad categories. First up are the quiet ones. They know they’ve royally screwed up and will do anything you say to make the problem go away. Then there are the clients who roar like lions. In the end they’ll do what you tell them, but it takes time and persuasion to help them see the light. Mr A+ is a lion, and then some. Before he can wind himself up into a righteous fury, you tell him to shut up and listen.
Home truth number one: things will get uglier before they get better.
Home truth number two: he’ll lose contracts.
Home truth number three: for the foreseeable future his career will resemble a car wreck.
Judging by the silence on the other end of the line, you’ve got his attention. No mean feat when dealing with an A+. Now he’s listening, you lighten your tone and tell him to hang on in there because things will get better. So long as he plays the long game and doesn’t get suckered into short-term thinking, everything will work out fine. You repeat this a couple of times to make sure it sinks in.
Next, you tell him he has to follow your instructions to the letter. No ifs, no buts. You’re in the driving seat now. You’re calling the shots. Unless he does everything you say, he can kiss his precious career goodbye. The grunt coming from the earpiece indicates that he isn’t convinced. Not a problem. What he thinks is irrelevant.
You let the silence stretch to breaking point, then tell him you want a million dollars, the whole amount up front, the money transferred to your account immediately. His first reaction is to tell you to go to hell. You keep quiet and give him all the time he needs.
‘You’re really that good?’ he asks tentatively.
‘For your sake, you better hope I am.’
By the time you hang up he’s a believer.
Your first call is to the presenter of America’s highest-rating daytime chat show. Not her office, the woman herself. You promise a soul-baring confessional. You promise tears. You promise great TV and a ratings bonanza. She tells you she’d be delighted to do the interview.
Your second call is to the National Enquirer. Half a million dollars secures them exclusive rights to a fuzzy video still of Mr A+ using a plastic straw to administer cocaine to the hooker in an unusual and imaginative way. For your strategy to work, Mr A+ needs to be seen to have hit rock bottom. As with all great tabloid stories, the more spectacular the fall, the better.
Your third call is to a five-star rehab clinic.
Your fourth call is to your pet pap to give him an ETA for Mr A+’s arrival at the clinic. As usual, the split on any photos sold is seventy/thirty, the percentage in your favour.
Once the important calls are out of the way, only then do you call in the lawyers.
Your name is Jody ‘JJ’ Johnson.