We’re not big on using celebrity spokespersons. Many in our business have experienced problems when a paid celebrity becomes embroiled in a media controversy, has a run-in with the law or – as some high-profile personalities are wont to do – cancels at the last minute when media and fans are already expecting to see a star.
We’ve worked with many celebrities over the years and most have been a lot of fun, although some have been a royal pain. We won’t mention any names, although one is currently embroiled in one of the most distasteful court cases in recent history.
But we did have several opportunities to work with a true celebrity and I will never forget that this man, who was also one of my boyhood heroes, was not only a fantastic “draw,” he was an extremely effective spokesperson and one of the most humble, pleasant and gentlemanly people I’ve ever met.
John Glenn was a partner in a Holiday Inn ownership group we represented for many years … a group built by Henri Landwirth, also founder of Give Kids The World. Landwirth had been a hotelier in Brevard County during the earliest days of the Space Race, and the Mercury astronauts often stayed in his hotel and became his lifelong friends.
So when we launched a new family-oriented brand of Holiday Inn with Henri and his group, Senator Glenn was more than happy to attend a major New York City media event for travel writers. If memory serves me, we had almost 100 percent acceptance of our invitation to attend the news conference, meet our American hero and receive an autographed copy of his book John Glenn: A Memoir.
About a year later we hosted another group of travel writers for a visit to the innovative new resort and once again, John Glenn was a willing storyteller. I will never forget that he also made one lady very important to me very happy. My mother-in-law had just lost her husband and we were most concerned that she not be left alone … but my wife and I had to be at the hotel for the events the senator was hosting. Henri and John’s managing partner Terry Whaples insisted we bring my wife’s mother along and that she be included in a dinner with our astronaut friend.
Imagine the impact when John Glenn wandered over to our table and asked “could I please meet Louise Kiefer?” He sat down next to her and they had a wonderful time chatting. It lifted her spirits and you could see in his eyes that he was totally focused on her … including when he handed her a personalized autographed copy of his book.
It rests on a shelf near our fireplace today, a memory of Louise and a true celebrity now gone. I hope they meet up soon.