Smile pretty for the camera

Jerry Lewis and Steve CodyHaving witnessed countless celebrity interviews this past Super Bowl weekend, I thought I’d share my personal remembrances of celebrity close-ups.

I never worked for a Hollywood-type publicity mill, so my encounters with celebrities depended solely upon client sponsorships or chance encounters at trade shows.

Thanks to Showtime’s sponsorship of their tours, I spent time with Phil Collins (nice lad), Rod Stewart (very decent chap) and The Rolling Stones (even way back during The Steel Wheels tour, Mick, Keith & the Boys were angry old men).

Sony Car Stereo afforded me the opportunity to meet celebrities up close-and-personal. I spent a full-day with Willie Mays (a very special guy) and John McEnroe (he was, indeed, a SuperBrat).

But, Jerry Lewis provided me with my best celebrity experience of all.

I was in Las Vegas, along with other members of the Sony team. Lewis had agreed to be interviewed in his dressing room before a scheduled 8pm performance. The subject: his use of Sony audio and video equipment.

I’d never been a fan, so I wasn’t exactly psyched. But, Lewis couldn’t have been friendlier to the reporter or this lowly flack.

And, Jerry absolutely wowed us with his knowledge of photography, videography and technology in general. He held court for a full half-hour, answering every question in an extremely thoughtful, serious and informed manner. In short, he was the antithesis of his zany, low-brow, on-stage self.

Then, just as the interview ended, Jerry asked the reporter and me if we’d like to have our photographs taken with him. We both jumped at the chance.

A nanosecond before this pic was snapped, ‘Serious Jerry’ left and the Sultan of Slapstick returned. Lewis jumped up and down, shouted a few absurd things, squeezed my arm and said, “Smile pretty for the camera, Stevie.” And, I burst out laughing.

Jerry later signed the photographs AND gave a shout-out to the reporter and me in front of some 2,500 people at his show.

Jerry Lewis was far, and away, my best celebrity close-up.

How about you? Feel like sharing your best or worst celebrity close-up?

If so, remember to smile pretty for the camera.

17 thoughts on “Smile pretty for the camera

  1. Mine would be actress Elke Sommer. I was in California in 1985 promoting a young Indy race car driver named Scott Brayton out of Coldwater, Michigan and was using Elke to help hype the driver to attract sponsorship attention and then was in Palm Springs for some TV production. The client told me to make a dinner reservation at the best restaurant one night. Elke doesn’t put up with any crap. She was driving to the restaurant when a passenger in her jeep was commenting about her driving. Right then and there she stopped the vehicle in the middle of the thoroughfare, got out of the driver seat and told the other guy to drive. Later on at the restaurant Elke — who speaks seven languages fluently — was perturbed and told the waiter to go f— himself in a foreign language. What’s more, she loves to paint and would paint in the nude at home so she didn’t get paint on her clothes. She would just drive into the pool.

  2. I don’t what what I like better, the hair or the lapels. (Yours, not Jerry’s).

  3. My favorite: two encounters with Telly Savalas. The first came around 1976 when my parents took us on a trip to Universal Studios. We were having lunch in the Sheraton Universal. Telly came in wearing one of those red velour track suits with the zipper down to his navel and gold chains. He noticed my mother about to light a cigarette, came over and lit it for her, kissed my mother’s hand, milady-style, shook my dad’s, smiled at me and walked off with his little entourage. My mother’s reaction: “Wow, he really is larger than life, isn’t he?”

    In the late Eighties, I’m sitting at the now-defunct Sporting Club in Tribeca — it was very near EPB’s Hudson Street digs. I’m half-watching the Knicks while waiting for someone, while reading an article on Telly Savalas coming back as Kojak in a series of TV movies. Then I look up and see Telly! I go over to him, show him the article and we start talking. He’s filming in a warehouse around the corner and waiting for the next shot. I told him the Universal story. Telly said he does that kind of thing a lot. Very nice — he bought me a drink and sent his brother Gus to bring me a still.

    Telly signed it “To Peter — Good luck and God Bless.” I lost it during one of my moves.Then he got called back for shooting. I was sad when he died of cancer a few years later and remember that one of the networks scheduled “The Marcus Nelson Murders,” one of the best TV movies ever and the basis for Kojak, as a fitting memorial. I’d love to see that again on DVD.

    I remembered this three weeks ago when I saw Telly’s pic over the counter of the Cozy Soup N’ Burger on Broadway & 8th Street. Five minutes later, Mayor Bill de Blasio came in, sat down at a counter and ordered soup with one of his young aides. When I joined the cashier and customers in shaking his hand and wishing him well, Mr. Mayor was extremely gracious. I put in a plug for my wife’s boss, who needs to be re-appointed, but I’d be amazed if that has any effect.

    I’ve also worked many hours as a chauffeur and transported many famous people. The nicest were Senator Ted Kennedy and actress Cynthia Nixon. The most obnoxious? No surprises here – Alec Baldwin and NFL jerk Warren Sapp.

  4. Syd: You’ll be interested to know I handed down that three-piece suit to Ted. He still wears it to new business meetings with prospects who are only respected in France. Go figure.

  5. Mine would be Mark Cuban. When I was at Golin Harris, near the crest of the dot-com boom we did a series of events with Sprint in different cities that featured various cyber thinkers and public figures. Cuban was one of the panelists at the Dallas event and couldn’t have been more of a “regular guy” with our PR team, joking around with us as we prepped him in our hotel suite. No attitude at all – totally down to earth. This was just before he sold Broadcast.com to Yahoo!, so it’s entirely possible that things have changed since he bought the Mavs and became a thorn in David Stern’s side, but I found him refreshingly honest.

  6. Peter: You have too many stories to respond to at one time, but here’s a virtual lollipop for you and Mr. Savalas. Matt: The Mark Cuban story is way cool. One wonders if he’s still a halfway decent guy?

    • You’re right and I’m sorry, that’s TMI. But hey, who loves ya baby?

      My 2-year-old crack up when I say that.

  7. Just when I thought you’d reached the apogee of my esteem…along comes Jerry Lewis. Jerry Lewis? Welcome to the realm of the gods, Steve.

    Mine is Leonard Nimoy. When I was a technology journalist, I was asked to sit on a panel sponsored by a large tech company. I was the third-party “expert.” (HA!) For reasons that are still a mystery to me, this tech company decided that it would be a fantastic marketing coup to hire Nimoy to moderate the panel. I imagine they were thinking his light years of experience with plastic phasers and communicators made him the perfect celebrity technologist.

    In person, Nimoy made his stoic Spock character seem warm and fuzzy by comparison. He was so cold, you could have flash-frozen a bowl of Dippin’ Dots on his forehead. He clearly wasn’t being paid by the word, because he said as few words a humanly (Vulanly?) possible.

    Live long (enough to cash the check) and prosper, indeed.

  8. I guess silence, and not space, was Nimoy’s final frontier, Matt. Any photos from that magical moment you care to share? Beam me up, Lee.

  9. Great story, RepMan. I did a media/special event tour with Jack LaLanne and his lovely wife Elaine LaLanne back in the early 80s. They couldn’t have been nicer. And I could always rely on her to get the brand mentions in!

  10. You know, someone, out there, is saying, “I met Steve Cody once. What a terrific guy. Agency provocateur. Stand-up comedy stud. Mountain climber extraordinaire. And he spent two hours with me one day stuck on NJT and was the nicest guy ever!!!”

  11. Appreciate the comment, Eric. But since I’m almost always in a foul mood when commuting on NJT, I doubt those words were ever uttered.

  12. Rep- mine would have to be Dr. K. I literally bumped into him while walking into my office as he was walking out of the building. I said hello, we chatted for a few minutes and I came up with a biz idea while talking to him which I mentioned. He gave me his card and asked me to be in touch and we met again a few weeks later at my office. He spent 30 minutes talking to my kids, signing stuff, taking pics, etc and then we got down to business. He was the most down to earth person I ever met with- you would have no idea he was once the toast of the city and considered one of the greatest talents to ever step on the mound.