Thomas J. Madden, Chairman and CEO, Transmedia Group
We’ve all had them. Those moments we wish we could take back, do over. And then there were those doozies, those insanely awkward screw-ups. Those foot-in-mouth utterances or actions we wish to God had never happened.
Like me, I’m sure there were times you’d rather had not said or done something as afterward it made your face beet red. Made you feel like an idiot. Or downright dumb, foolish or blatantly insensitive.
Fortunately for most of us they don’t happen often, but when they do, man do they stand out in our memories.
Why on earth did I do that? Say that? Yikes!
If you’d care to share one of yours, I’d be interested in hearing it. Meanwhile, I’ll share one of my most embarrassing moments.
In happened early in my peripatetic career. I was a cub reporter at The Philadelphia Inquirer.
One day I was assigned to cover a big story. I mean the BIGGEST story of my life!
The President of the United States was coming to Philadelphia to try out the new high-speed rail line between Philly and DC. He was coming with Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and his whole entourage of secret service personnel.
My assignment was to cover him from the moment he arrived and throughout the evening when he was scheduled to attend a concert at The Academy of Music. I was to stay glued to him.
Everything was going great. I was phoning in newsy tidbits throughout the day. How he liked the train ride. His new open-door policy toward China. How he felt about the City of Brotherly Love.
I was on top of it. Doing well covering this momentous story, but my most embarrassing moment was ahead. It would shake my career, not to mention my self-esteem, like a jarring earthquake.
I went along with Nixon and his entourage to The Academy of Music where he was to attend a concert sitting in one of those box seats in a private booth at stage right.
Before the concert began, the secret service had roped off the entire area leading to the President’s private and secure balcony seat. I was to wait until the end of the concert and then try to get a quote from him about how much he enjoyed the performance. So I stood there, my heart racing, my palms perspiring as I was covering the biggest story of my life.
Then something incredible UNBELIEVABLE happened.
SHOTS WERE FIRED. THEY CAME FROM THE STAGE IN THE CONCERT HALL. STAGE RIGHT!
I visualized the President being assassinated just like Lincoln and here I was the only reporter at the biggest crime story of the century.
In utter panic, I burst into the area the secret service had roped off. Like an Olympic runner, I leaped over one of the ropes and ran as fast as I could toward where the President was sitting, when suddenly a secret service agent tackled me and brought me to the ground.
“Let me go, I’m a reporter. I’m covering the President and those shots were near his booth.”
And then I heard the Most Embarrassing retort I ever heard in my life, which is as fresh in my mind today as it was then decades ago.
“You schmuck,” the agent said. “That was cannon fire. It’s part of the 1812 Overture.”
About the Author: Thomas Madden is CEO of TransMedia Group, one of the largest independent PR firms in Florida, where it currently operates. The firm’s clients have included AT&T, American Red Cross, City of New York, GL Homes, Jordache Enterprises, McCormick and Schmick’s, Rexall Sundown, Stanley Steemer.