Blowfish: A Private Life in Public Relations – Episode V
Recap: Jack Vance, the colorful CEO of Blowfish Communications, has been hired to engineer the launch of VGlobe a new online video network. He has just explained the premise of a program that will put the network on the map: “Some Will Die” – a reality weight loss program engineered to render all contestants dead.
Vance was ready to sit down. Between the excitement of closing this morning’s deal followed by a constant stream of drugs and alcohol, the firing of Tom Agness and the presentation to his Group of Eight, now seven, the middle aged Vance’s body was ready to listen for a few minutes. On top of that, the room was starting to spin.
“Any questions?” he asked before sliding into the cool, cushioned embrace of his chair.
Bill Neville, his Blowfish media relations director, stood up.
“Not a question, a comment. I have been through a lot of campaigns with this agency, several coming close to what I would call a personal ethical breach. But this…”
Vance cut him off.
“Spare us the press conference Bill – you want to quit – there’s the door. I’ll have Pamela send you two week’s pay and you can keep your stock.”
Neville had been waiting for the moment to give his speech for months now. It was just like Vance to pour jello on his campfire. What an asshole. Leaving this place under his own steam felt like walking from a urine shower into a rainforest. At least he wasn’t being tasered out like Agness.
“And don’t forget that NDA you signed; a peep of this goes anywhere and our attorney, Mr. Gould, will be giving your attorney, Mr. ‘I’ll-have -to -look in the phone book and find somebody’, a call.”
Vance felt that Neville lacked the killer instinct that would take Blowfish to the next level. That was a pity; he had snatched him from Newt Gingrich’s New Nixonian party and figured that lying to the press was in his job description. Next time, he’d get a psychoanalyst to screen his applicants more closely. True public relations requires a disposition to sociopathological behavior and Neville just never had that spark. He’d handle the press himself on this one.
Vance summoned his security guard in for the second time this morning, hoping that he was done with the revolving door of departure.
He took stock of the remnants of his team: Naomi, Jimmy Wells, Peggy Bump, Mayhew, Stanley Best and himself. Well, it was a group of six now, and it was time to execute. He looked at Mayhew.
“I need the right face behind this campaign – someone that represents toughness, fitness, bad assed-ness; someone who will have no problem working people to death. Suggestions?”
The War Room screen slowly populated with images, from Arnold Schwarzenegger to Lance Armstrong to Roland Emory, reflecting the question that Vance had posed. Predictably, Jimmy Wells raised his hand.
“Bill Goldberg.” An image popped up on a side monitor and the program created a list of professional wrestlers. Bill Goldberg’s bio populated the screen.
“Jesse Ventura,” offered Bill Mayhew. Vance looked over at him. “Do I see a theme here? These guys are about as controversial as a Geritol shake.” The room was beginning to get blurry; a combination of his recreational ingestions and the actual work that had to be conducted on the candidate had extinguished what was left of his waning adrenaline flow. He head was heavy, so he let it rest in his hands. Then his hands became heavy so he placed the side of his face on the cool screen in front of him on the War Room table. The level of conversation rose in the room and he closed his eyes, just for a second.
Vance awoke and was able to work one eye open. The room was murky and he was looking down on himself. There he was – in full living color, barking out orders at his War Room desk – drunkenly weaving back and forth. Was he dying? Maybe he was already dead? He focused on what he was saying, rather belching, and couldn’t believe what an asshole he looked like. Jesus, was he getting old.
He saw the gravity of life pulling down at his face; the development of a slight stoop and paunch. He was only 45! If this is how he was going through life – a drunken, idiotic asshole, maybe it was better that he was dead. He was about to close his eyes and surrender to eternity when a thunderclap of laughter slapped him in the side of the face. He opened his other eye and raised his head. It was night. He was in the War Room and his staff was watching the secret Jack Vance blooper reel.
He cleared his throat. The laughing ceased and the screens cleared, only to be re-populated with acres of charts, demo and psychographic information, and lists of candidates with bios and photos.
“Thanks, Naomi. Having fun?”
“Working for you has always been a hoot.”
“We have our candidate,” Mayhew interjected, standing.
“Based on the criteria of overall appeal, ratings, proximate age…”
“Cut to the chase. I don’t care how you got there – who is it?”
Naomi shook her head and the screens filled with an image of a roguish mid 30’s tough guy who could have been peeled from the cover of any Executioner pocketbook cover. “You don’t watch much TV for a media specialist.”
“He was the ex-Soviet army drill instructor who accidentally killed a fellow contestant on Survivor Chernobyl. Couple years ago. Ring a bell?”
“That I remember.”
Jimmy Wells stood up, the screen filling with some mock ups of a promo of the show.
“And we’ve got the tag line: ‘Vlad’s back – and this time Some (more) Will Die!’”
A wave of unusually natural, un-drug induced euphoria washed over Jack. It was strangely pleasant, invigorating. He was suddenly more awake than he had been all month. They got it. They really got it. They bought the concept and amplified it. He had finally assembled the right crew for the Blowfish philosophy.
“I fucking love it. You all get a raise…if this pans out.” He pulled himself up, tried to stand, then decided to conduct business from a prone position for a few more minutes. He looked at his watch: 7:30 PM; he had been out for six hours.
“There’s only one hitch, Jack,” Naomi said, the screen filling with news stories. “He’s in jail in Mexico on a manslaughter charge.”
Jack sat back, his head filled with the publicity opportunities that this new twist offered.
“And we’re going to very publicly get him out for the show. This isn’t a setback, it’s a ratings boost. We’ll turn this guy from a firefly into a Roman Candle in 24 hours.”
Mayhew ruffled his bowtie, a habit as annoying as the neckwear itself. “And who is going to do that?”
Jack felt his energy returning; he loved an opportunity to create adventure. “As the only salesman in the room, me. I’ll bring Chuck along for heat.”
Naomi wrinkled her nose. “The rent-a-cop?”
“The Blowfish head of security; international security. Get me a charter to Mexico out of O’Hare and an decent camera with a light and a mic. I’ll let you know when to call CNN. The campaign starts now.”
TO BE CONTINUED