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Out of Our Minds
Friday, July 01, 2005 9:40 AM
When Work Is in the Public Eye
Kevin Salwen on Culture

At last Friday's taping of public radio's 'A Prairie Home Companion,' host Garrison Keillor spent much of the show trying to focus on his task at hand -- storytelling, singing, emceeing -- while members of the live-theater audience barked out requests: 'Tell the one about the dog' or 'How's the fishing this year?' Finally, a frustrated Keillor finished the program, then hustled offstage without a curtain call, bow or his customary after-show chat with the audience. Later, on his website, he apologized to the rest of the audience and his fans.

A few days later, Texas Rangers pitcher Kenny Rogers shoved two cameramen before a game against the Los Angeles Angels in a tirade that included throwing a camera to the ground, kicking it and threatening to break more. This came after he announced at the beginning of the season that he would not talk to the media.

All of this comes on the heels of actor Tom Cruise's string of outbursts (including one in which he snapped, yelling 'You're a jerk!' after someone sprayed him in the face with water during a press conference).

Most of us toil in relative anonymity, working solo or in teams, with rare moments of public appearance -- maybe an occasional speech, presentation or even radio interview. We never get razzed; the demands we face are private.

What must it be like to always be in the public eye? We're not talking about Paris Hilton here, in which celebrity is celebrity for no cause other than celebrity. Garrison Keillor and Tom Cruise are entertainers by profession, Kenny Rogers a baseball player; while they need the public (the customers) to support their endeavors, does that necessarily come with a requirement to be saintlike? What is the threshold for those working in public?

1 comment

Eric Sohn - 7/1/2005 5:14:45 PM
A person's professional value is, at least partly, determined by their public PITA factor. While you don't necessarily have to be saintlike, every time your employer has to waste time, energy and possibly money on damage control, it impacts the next time you need to negotiate compensation or need a favor (e.g. working out of a professional slump).

How many roles did Dustin Hoffman not get offered because he was a pain to work with? How many people wouldn't bid for John Rocker because of his outspoken racist comments?

Everyone has an off day, although there are still some repercussions. Keillor fans may well have told their fans about his abrupt behavior and impacted sales of his products somewhat. Does it rise to the level of Rogers' sins? Definitely not - I didn't even know about it until I read it here.

Long story short: being in the public eye, whether in business, politics, sports or entertainment has a price. The price is that you pay for your fame with the constant threat of bad press every time you step out of line - and bad press often has a financial impact.


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