Wednesday, May 17, 2006

A Way To Make a Living

A Way to Make A Living

What do Advance people do after a campaign? Am I jumping ahead? OK. What are Advance people? They are the people who travel in advance of a candidate or as we used to say, ‘The Principal,’ and make everything happen. There was a time when an Advance man (yes there was also a time when they were only men), did everything - decide the type of event, the location of the event, which routes were the best to take to get to the event, which direction to walk in at the event, how to get large or small crowds to the event, how to get the media to cover the event at no cost to the campaign, what would be served at a coffee, lunch, or dinner, who would introduce the candidate, who would stand on the platform, how many flyers, buttons, credentials needed to be produced, how would they be distributed, what to do in case of rain, where to put the media for the event or an overnight, check to make sure all the toilets flushed in every room occupied with anyone associated with the campaign, make sure all the luggage was picked up and delivered to press and staff without losing a bag, plan the arrivals and departures and of course, brief the candidate on everything that was supposed to happen. Over the years the job has become specialized and one Advance person doesn’t do all those things. Now there are people who only do press, who only do sites, who only do overnights, who only do credentials, who take care of the staff, crowd building, and VIP and event coordination. They never determine any of the politics and hardly ever do the candidate briefing. Advance people today don’t know what it means to pass the hat to get to the next event, or charge a meal to an unsuspecting reporter, but I don’t want to blob about how things were when I was alive.

What is it that these multi-talented able-to-multi-task people do after the campaign is over? Some go to public relations firms, some, having made very good connections over the course of the campaign, become lobbyists, some write books, go to law school, become political consultants, some even become candidates and some start their own businesses and become trouble makers for clients.

The Da Vinci Code will open in movie theaters across the country on Friday. It was a supposedly controversial book and has been promoted as a most controversial movie. It is a novel. That means it is fiction. The movie is just that, a movie, but people need something to talk about and there-in lies the basis for promotional activity. Who and how is this done? Now I’m not saying that I know this for a positive, actual fact but you may recall “The Last Temptation of Christ” which opened to massive protests at movie theaters around the country. You may be too young to remember this film but take my word for it, there were protests all over the place. Do you think that crowds appear spontaneously and miraculously? (And there’s a tooth fairy and people are basically good). Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news but those protests were carefully coordinated and choreographed by me and a number of other former Advance people. Best I can remember, a few of us (former Advance people who they knew from some campaign), were approached by a publicist from Universal Pictures. They wanted to create some buzz for the launching of the film and what did we think about helping them to build crowds of protesters in a variety of places—not only big cities because that would look too planned. They would pay us good money and we would have substantial amounts of cash to throw around. It was an Advance dream.

David and I had been married for 4 years and Jordan was only 2 but I was going to coordinate rather than travel so it was perfect. I had to talk to the publicists, and identify religious leaders and people who could shape opinion in places Universal wanted to be. Carol Innaone, a professor at NYU wrote “The film was condemned by virtually every Christian denomination, both here and abroad, was protested, picketed, subject to boycotts and bomb threats…” I don’t remember bomb threats but if there were any we probably called them in or paid someone to do it. It was a great gig. David, over hearing one of my conversations asked if the reverends, priests, etc. knew they were being manipulated. And here is the difference between an artist (David) and an activist (moi). We never manipulate, we simply see the potential in a situation, we look for common ground in ideas and beliefs, we identify the possibilities for a getting people to see a problem, merely help them to organize or give voice to an event that is potentially going to happen anyway.

So when I hear all the news noise about “The Da Vinci Code” I do not think the Catholic Church has banded together to stop the heresy, to prevent the sacrilege or to demonstrate dissent. I think, “I am really happy that a few more Advance guys have found a way to make a living." We’re Just Sayin…


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