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12 June 2002

I don't know what a real publicist is like. I like to call myself one, but I know that I fall short of the mark.

I started doing publicity for theatre groups here in town when the kids were involved and when we were working with the Gilbert & Sullivan group (which Walt still is), and some of the other groups that were operating in our early days in this town. I would send out information about the shows and try to find "hooks" to get us free publicity, find ways of having the performers appear at local events (the annual Picnic Day Parade, for example).

It was a lot easier in those days. We had a wonderful woman who ran a "Town Talk" column. As writers go, she wasn't the best, but she would print anything, no matter how trivial. I was one of her biggest contributors for a long time. I was always so sad when she died, and her column with her.

When the kids got onto the diving team, I had great success getting publicity. We were able to get lots of photos in the paper and I even managed to get a Sacramento sports caster to come and do an interview with the diving coach--one of my big coups. 

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I did publicity for just about every group our famliy was involved with, from PTA to La Leche League to school events.  I sometimes think people got sick of seeing the Sykes kids in the paper!

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For someone who cringes at having to meet new people, it's amazing that I came to involve myself with something like "publicity," which is nothing but meeting and speaking with new people.

I even started schmoozing the local drama critic (now I AM a local drama critic--why is nobody schmoozing me?) I called and offered to take her to lunch. We had a lovely hour together and while I never tried to take advantage of anything, she was rather nice when I asked for things like the cover of the weekend section.

When I met Steve, I asked him who did his publicity. He said nobody did and I offered to take on the job. Little did I realize what new areas this would open up for me. For one thing, over the years, I'd become accustomed to the quirks of the various local papers and knew how to approach which reviewers or which editors.

Publicizing Steve was a whole new ballgame. I was cold calling newspapers and radio and TV stations all over the country. Usually I wasn't successful, but occasionally I hit paydirt (like getting him on a talk show in LA. The surprising thing was finding out that they would all (well, except for Oprah's booking person) actually talk to me. I had very nice conversations with people from NPR and the Today Show. There was safety in talking with these faceless voices at the other end of the line. Somehow I was able to find the chutzpah to do it.

I think one thing about a "real" publicist is that it becomes a job of selling something or someone whether you truly believe in them or not. It was easy to sell Steve to media because I believe so strongly in what he does (educating young people about the realities of living with AIDS, talking with caregivers about what it's like to be a dying patient and what a difference their care makes in a patient's desire to live or die--BTW, if anybody has a school or a hospital or a caregivers' organization that would like to have him come, let me know [I can't help it--I'm a publicist!]).

In the past year, I haven't done as much publicity for Steve as I did the previous year (mostly because he didn't have as many bookings--he was rehearsing and performing The Last Session in Rochester rather than traveling around the country, for one thing).

But now Steve is getting ready to preview his new show, "The Big Voice," about two guys who go looking for God and find Ethel Merman instead. Not only is the music good and the plot funny, but I wrote lyrics for one of the songs, so I have a vested interested in the success of this preliminary performance!

So it means I'm dusting off the old publicist genes and trying to find obscure ways of generating interest...posting to theatre boards on the Internet, working behind the scenes to get a good discussion going among Steve's fans, and...uh...mentioning it in my on-line journal!

At the same time, I also believe in Dr. G's message and the way he delivers it to peri-menopausal and menopausal women. With the current news about findings concerning hormone replacement therapy, this seems the ideal time for him to get some wider exposure (especially since he's in the middle of writing a book about menoause and perimenopausal issues), so I decided to take him on as well. He's the only certified menopause clinician in the Sacramento area (certified by the National Menopause Society), so I managed to get the local paper to agree to interview him about the government findings with regard to HRT. I also called local TV stations, trying to get him a slot in some sort of interview format (one indicated interest), and managed to get a couple of other newspapers interested in doing an interview. This publicity job was a no-brainer! Talk about being in the right place at the right time!

(The publicity it would generate would be fanTAStic for business!!)

It's been awhile, but I'm finding that as long as I believe strongly in the person I'm representing, I can put my natural reticence in the background and forge ahead, calling anybody and everybody. If you'd told me ten years ago that I'd be doing this, I'd have laughed at you. It always surprises me the things we human beings are capable of overcoming!

(And by the way, if you live in the LA area on August 12, come and meet me at the preview of "The Big Voice"!! You can find information here . I'll get you a hug from Steve!)

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--Dalai Lama

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Tom at a Family Olympics
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