The Day Ben Affleck Almost Kicked My Ass
For a few years I would make money being hired as a fake guest speaker for corporate event entertainment. For example, during the after dinner awards and speeches I might be introduced as the CEO’s brother…
… I’d then go up and “roast” my bro’ as the “favorite child” and get laughs, as I’d “out” all of his supposed family secrets.
Another time I was hired to play the guest speaker at a corporate weekend for architects. My speech entailed my design for a mental hospital under the ocean, explaining that being underwater relieved the pressure on the brain for the patients, which in turn, allowed for medical procedures to be accomplished more successfully.
This type of performance has to be done meticulously. It’s a very slow burn. If rushed, the audience will know they’re being bamboozled and the arc of the piece will be cut too short for the comedy. The longer you can go without being questioned on the absurdity of what you’re selling, the better it is. More importantly, you’re being paid. So to finish in five minutes, would be bad. (That would’ve been fine for me in a few situations…)
As I continued to explain the partnership between myself and the medical community, it was clear I was focusing on the mental issues more than the structural details of my architectural accomplishment (invention, innovation). Of course the crowd began murmuring and hands raised to question me.
I explained it was like working with paper mache. “You blow up a big balloon, cover it in cement, then pop the balloon in the middle!” The more I went on, the more agitated and verbal the crowd got.
“That’s absurd!” someone yelled. The more I talked about the mental stability of the patients, the crazier I became.
Yelling and throwing things, I was finally dragged off stage. The CEO then came on and revealed the hoax. I returned for my bow.
It was this event that brought me to Ben Affleck.
I received a call from the PR department that was handling the Affleck/Lopez movie, Gigli. I was to be planted into the press core for the all-day junket to make a disruptive, combative scene. Not enough to be arrested, just enough to get thrown out and create some press. They would not confirm whether Ben was in on it and there would be no one to help me if it turned ugly. It was $500, a press pass, and an “oh yeah… you’ll be on your own…”
I arrived at the New York hotel early in the morning where the junket was taking place and picked up my credentials. I was listed as being with the publication, the Las Vegas Sun. Ben wouldn’t be there till much later in the day. I had to attend from the beginning so I could integrate with the press and so I wouldn’t/didn’t expose myself as a plant. I should’ve asked for more money. It was exhausting to banter while being nervous all day!
Ben and J-Lo had just broken up so before his arrival we were all instructed not to ask about her. Of course once he entered and started taking questions, I stood up and asked a point blank Jennifer Lopez question. There was annoyance from Ben. The other press people were amused. The moderator corrected my lack of protocol.
In the middle of him chatting away, I took out a disposable camera, walked right up to his face, snapped a photo and walked back to my seat while winding the film to the next frame. People thought I was nuts.
About eight minutes in, my third question wasn’t being answered. I wasn’t even being called on. It was time to bump it up. I yelled, “You don’t seem very pleased to be here Ben. I mean, you’re not Matt Damon! When’s that second Oscar winning script coming out?”
We got into a yelling match! I stormed right up to the dais pointing and flapping my arms! I have no idea if he was in on it or not, but he seemed livid.
The studio people were having a fit and the press cameras were flashing away — just as planned. I was escorted out while still snapping photos and thumbing the loud “advance” button on my Kodak disposable.
There was some exposure on Extra or one of those shows and a few newspapers about a rogue reporter making a scuffle. No one knew the real story except me. And now, us …
I stopped doing those kinds of things because it’s super stressful and frankly, my insurance wasn’t good enough for the risk of getting my ass kicked.
Years later I used this kind of “reality” marketing strategy when I was brainstorming with the PR team for Jay Johnson’s Broadway show, My Two and Only. Some of you may recall Jay when he co-starred in the TV show Soap as “Chuck Campbell” along with his ventriloquist sidekick, “Bob.”
I wanted to contact the local press just before the six o’clock news, informing them that there was a suicide jumper on top of the Helen Hayes Theatre. They would arrive to find “Bob” screaming and threatening to “do it”!
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