Tom Madden, Founder & CEO, TransMedia Group
That’s what my mother would ask me when we took her with us on a trip from Florida back to where she was born and raised in “The World’s Playground,” Atlantic City, NJ. “Where is home?”
Soon we’re about to celebrate “The Longest Day” on June 20, the day with the most light– summer solstice. On that bright sunny day people worldwide will fight the darkness of Alzheimer’s through a fundraising activity of their choice.
For me it has special meaning. My mom, born Clementine Imperial, whose 10 brothers and sisters called “Lena,” suffered the last dozen years of her life from Alzheimer’s. She died at age 89 wondering probably to the last minute “where is home?”
Fighting Alzheimer’s has been an inspiring thread spiraling through my life. When I left NBC and started my PR firm, TransMedia Group, in 1981, it was the same year Hollywood star Rita Hayworth was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. The mega movie star was only 62 and just a few years later her daughter Princess Yasmin Aga Khan retained my firm to help her in her mission to find a cure.
Ahh those spooky, spiraling, sometimes sublime circles in our lives. The dreams, desires, the people looping back like whimsical planets in the galaxy of our wilting memory. They can show darkly under our eyes. Or bewilder as we run around in them. Or when they’re super chic and Palm Beachy, we crave and aspire to join them, dance with them.
Then there are the heroic ones that come full circle, returning amazingly, strikingly and completely into our lives. They start early, then one day climax in a flourish of irony.
One of those majestic circles commenced royally for me back in the 80’s when princess, Yasmin Aga Khan, became my most known and admired PR client.
She was the elegant and philanthropic daughter of the blisteringly beautiful redhead actress Rita Hayworth who married Prince Aly Khan, the richest man in the world.
Yasmin hired me to do PR for the launch of her premiere Rita Hayworth Gala at the stately Pierre Hotel in New York in honor of her mother who died from Alzheimer’s disease and ever since we’ve helped to raise funds for Alzheimers at other events.
That first star-studded event at the Pierre was hosted by Joanne Woodward and Jack Lemmon and was a hit, raising over $1 million in one night for Alzheimer’s.–not too shabby back in those days. The glamorous event drew many Hollywood celebrities, from Raquel Welch to Jack Lemmon who had appeared with Hayworth in the film Fire Down Below with co-star Robert Mitchum.
Since that inaugural event, Princess Yasmin has helped the Alzheimer’s Foundation raise over $75 million in the many more annual Rita Hayworth Galas that were to follow our dazzling Manhattan debut.
In addition to caring for her mother, Princess Yasmin became an early spokesperson for those with Alzheimer’s, bringing public attention to a neurodegenerative disease that few openly discussed as opposed to today when it’s so widely spread, particularly among our older population.
Formed in 1980, The Alzheimer’s Association® is the leading voluntary health organization supporting Alzheimer’s care, support and research. Its mission is to lead the way to end Alzheimer’s and all other dementia — by accelerating global research, driving risk reduction and early detection, and maximizing quality care and support.
Princess Yasmin could have chosen to lead her life out of the public eye, but she chose instead to use her name and position to help fight this world’s most misunderstood and fatal disease and I was pleased to play a small role in her admirable quest.
Today, Yasmin’s yearly celebrity gala is the most successful fundraising event for the disease research. Her untiring devotion to the cause keeps Alzheimer’s Disease research moving forward.
Yasmin knows that someday a cure will become a reality and I pray for that day when all will know . . . where is home!
About the Author: Tom Madden is an author, speechwriter and public relations expert who is founder and CEO of the international PR firm TransMedia Group (www.transmediagroup.com). Prior to launching the firm in New York City, Madden was Vice President, Assistant to the President, of NBC and was head of PR Planning at American Broadcasting Companies. Among his books are his autobiography “Spin Man” and “King of the Condo,” a murder mystery thriller that satirically depicts life in a Florida condo based on his own harrowing experience as a condo president. His latest book WORDSHINE MAN is due out this summer. He currently writes a blog called “MaddenMischief’ (https://maddenmischief.com/), which chronicles his sometimes whimsical, comical and critical views on politics, media and other subjects.