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Adventures and Misadventures of a Spokesperson

Lights, Camera, Action!

“On the buttocks.” That is most of what I remember saying during my first television interview in 1998.  I had just joined the Peninsula Humane Society and “spokesperson” was among the hats I wore (and still wear today). Weeks into my new position, I was in front of the camera with a reporter asking about a jogger who had been bitten by a coyote while jogging on Sawyer Camp Trail. My coyote knowledge was limited to Wile E. Coyote and that wasn’t to get me through this interview.

I bumbled through a few more questions related to the attack and rushed home to catch the news (this was well before the DVR). My buttocks comment, unfortunately, made the segment. This made me the butt of a few jokes and Forrest Gump comparisons.

I’ve since been on television or the radio a few hundred times, and I’ve not had another occasion to talk about a woman’s hiney. Still, there have been other highlights and a few more “made for YouTube” moments.

When the Peninsula Humane Society announced its plan in 2002 to outfit local fire departments with special oxygen masks that would allow firefighters to treat animals suffering from smoke inhalation, Hollywood called.  And, I hung up -- almost.  A producer from the Sharon Osborne Show called to see if I could appear on Ozzie’s wife’s popular talk show.  I figured it was a friend pulling my leg, but finally believed him, and we booked a date.  Two weeks later, I was seated inches from Sharon, meeting her for the first time as the stage-director called out “…5, 4, 3, 2, 1. LIVE!”

She opened by saying the mask resembled a breast pump. My dog, the “demo” dog for our rescue equipment, was a champ and Sharon gave us a generous check!

On a local level, I worked with Evening Magazine.  The first time, they covered the world’s biggest guinea pig rescue effort, which started in our parking lot. After we busted a hoarder with some 200 guinea pigs, we announced a plan that piqued interest nationwide.  We loaded 181 pigs in our mobile adoption vehicle (it was dubbed the Piggy-bago or Squeals on Wheels) and drove cross country, bringing pigs to awaiting shelters in towns such as Pocatello, Idaho and North Platte, Nebraska.  Our crew returned 13 days later (with just one remaining guinea pig) to awaiting media, again.

My second spot with Evening Magazine came when they wanted an “animal guy” and his dog to visit a number of high-end, pet-friendly hotels in San Francisco. And who was I to say no?

Moving down the glamour scale, there’s local cable TV. Don’t get me wrong, I love any opportunity to expand my organization’s profile.  I wish Cooper, my sidekick, had felt as appreciative. During a guest spot on one show, he began to doze off and slide right off his chair. I tried to brace the fall and I fell out of my chair.  We still had 30 seconds left in the segment, but managed!  

“That was great TV said the floor director,” after we wrapped.

We actually had our own Peninsula Humane Society cable TV show. We taped one monthly show, which aired several times on Peninsula TV.  I had three co-hosts over the six-year run, but always had my dog, Cooper, at my feet. Coop was unfazed by the lights, camera and stage directions. He mostly slept during the 27-minute long show. And he passed gas! One viewer actually called to ask if the dog on the show was real.

Cooper stayed awaked when we were guests on another show, Bay Area Women.  Maybe he felt privileged. To this day, I think we are still the only male guests in the show’s history.

Being a spokesperson includes working with media when the news isn’t positive. Like this past year, when a Pacifica woman was killed by her own dog; there were actually two dogs in the home, but evidence proved just one was involved. I answered questions about the dogs, about our prior history with the family (none), about our veterinarian’s necropsy report and legal issues surrounding this case, but decided we would not provide access to either dog.  Some local media outlets weren’t happy, but it was the right decision.

Being on TV can be challenging and incredibly helpful for our organization and its mission. And, it’s fun for the whole family. Last year, my wife recorded a segment for our then 2 and a half year-old daughter.  I was on the news with Dusty the Klepto Kitty, the world famous cat –adopted from our shelter – known for late night raids in his San Mateo neighborhood.

“Daddy….Da-deee” called our daughter, utterly confused since I wouldn’t look her way or talk back to her on video.  I’m mostly glad that my coyote clip from ’98 isn’t around.  

But I’m sure my little girl would get a kick out of it. “What is a ‘buttocks’ Daddy?”

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