Friday, July 08, 2011

The Night I Saved Richard Simmons' Bacon

Let's all jump in the way-back machine and return to 1982, shall we?

Time: About 11p.m. (I'd probably just finished watching Dynasty.)
Place: My condo in the Valley
State of mind: Just ready to lay my head on the pillow for a nice snooze, when...


A brief debate ran through my mind--something like, did I give my number to that annoying guy at the bar last night? After deciding the coast was clear, I picked up and found myself speaking to someone who identified herself as Richard Simmons' publicist.

Oops. Sidebar. In case I haven't mentioned it before, I used to work for the company that syndicated The Richard Simmons Show.

Anyway, said publicist calmly announced that Richard had moved out of his suite at the Waldorf Astoria. That he was now happily tucked in at the Helmsley Palace.

Which wouldn't have made a bit of difference to me...except for the fact I had arranged for eight of New York's biggest ad firms to attend a lunch/preview of Richard's nightime show the next day in his suite at the Waldorf.

"Just thought you should know," she said cheerfully before hanging up.

I remember sitting there, letting the shock ooze in. Ticking off the ways I was so screwed. First, because my boss was on a red-eye to New York, so no contacting him. Second, because our NY sales person was on the same flight, so no "local" person to call.


I was on my own.

Do you know how hard it is to cancel and re-book an event like that from the opposite coast in the middle of the night?

Trust me. I was NOT happy.

I mean, it's not like those types are on-duty twenty-four/seven. (And by types, I'm referring to the people you need when trying to pull off an elegant lunch followed by a TV screening.) Plus, what with the time difference, it was about 3 o'clock in the morning. I made about a million calls setting up a new menu, arranging for audio/video equipment, you name it. Lots of details.

Then, about 8 a.m. New York time, I paged my boss and our salesperson at the airport. Yeah, right. Like they were gonna hear it.

About 8:30 a.m., I began phoning all the advertising agencies to advise the change in venue.

About 9:00, I CALLED RICHARD IN HIS SUITE to confirm the new plan.

"Oh hi," he says blithely. "What can I do for you?"

"I want to confirm you're in the suite at the Helmsley," I grit out through clenched teeth.

"Yeah, I had to ditch the Waldorf. Someone died in that room."

I blink. Really? Euw. "Oh," I say. "Well, then...I don't blame you."

All right, YES. Call me STUPID. CALL ME NAIVE. It was YEARS before I realized no one actually DIED in Richard's suite. He was simply referring to the decor.


Well, all's well that ends well. It was now 6 a.m. in the Valley and time to get ready for the daily trek into Hollywood.

The lunch went off without a hitch, the ad agencies bought into the nighttime show, and everyone made a lot of money.

I'm still waiting for my thank you note from Richard and his production staff.

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