BRUSHING UP AGAINST FAME

A brush with Buddy Guy at his club in Chicago

A brush with Buddy Guy at his club in Chicago

Fame is fairly easy to achieve these days with the advent of social media. Criminals post their whereabouts on Facebook and even post video of the criminal act on YouTube The fame that might ensue entices and lures them to stupidity.

I’ll admit I’ve yearned for fame as a writer, but these days I’ll settle for adding “bestseller” to my author moniker. I’ve also brushed up against the famous, sometimes without even knowing it. In 2007, as my friend and our daughters began our Route 66 adventure in Chicago, we met the famous blues musician Buddy Guy. Yes, we took the obligatory photo, but he was gracious and precious to two giggling middle-aged women on an adventure.

As I wrote this post, I sat in the library. Two women were at computers next to me reading about the stars. “She’s beautiful, but wears too much makeup.” “He’s going to have his ninth child. I love him, but he’s going to be working the rest of his life.” “I can’t believe someone said that about her. She’s such a nice person.” They mentioned the names of the stars, but if they hadn’t, I would have thought they were taking about family. No, they were brushing up against fame as if the famous were a part of their lives.

In 2004, I visited a friend in Casablanca where she worked at the U.S. Consulate. Among her duties was the handling of Visas for U.S. citizens working and living in Morocco. One day, I visited her office to check my emails. She had gone to another office to work on some papers for an actor filming a movie in the desert. Before I went into her office, I chatted with a beautiful young woman in the lobby who was waiting for her boyfriend to get his Visa extended. She was enjoying Morocco, but she missed some things from home, such as her dog. We chatted for a few minutes before I headed to my friend’s computer. As I read missives from home, a young man with scraggly dark hair and a blue bandanna on his head came into the office and asked for my friend. He smiled sweetly when I pointed to another office nearby. Then I went back to work. A few minutes later, several young women ran into the office.

“Did you see him? Did he come in here?” They were giggling and bombarding me with questions.

“A young guy was here, and I sent him over there.” I pointed. “Why?”

OrlandoBloom“That was Orlando Bloom,” one of them said. “And his girlfriend, Kate Bosworth, is sitting in the lobby.”kate-bosworth-80284

Seems Mr. Bloom was in Morocco filming Kingdom of Heaven and his Visa has almost expired. He was an average looking dude with a nice smile. I felt nothing more for having encountered him and his then girlfriend. Nice folks, but I’d met many of them on this trip. They just joined the long list.

Why do we get so excited and flustered in the face of someone famous? They bleed and use the bathroom the same as the rest of us. I’ve never quite understood it, but I’ve felt the flush of nervousness when encountering it.

Several years ago when Charlie Crist was governor of Florida, I needed to get a quote from him on an article I was writing for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. I’d been assigned to write a piece on the agency’s Commission Chairman, who was friends with and appointed by Gov. Crist. The protocol for getting such a quote involves calling the press office, which I did, and then waiting for the press secretary to respond with a statement, supposedly from the governor. I waited patiently for the statement when late one afternoon my blackberry rang.Gov_charlie_crist

“Hello, Pat, this is Charlie Crist, and I understand you’re writing an article about my friend.”

I was certain one of my friends was pranking me because I had just started the job, and this was my first assignment. But then I recognized the voice I’d often heard on the news. Of course, I couldn’t find my notes for the piece, along with my questions.

“I’m a little nervous,” I admitted.

“Don’t be nervous, Pat. Let’s just chat.”

And so I chatted with the governor. Then when I’d finished asking him everything I could think of without my notes in front of me, I attempted to thank him.

“I’m sure you have plenty of other things to deal with besides helping me with this article,” I began. “Like, like. . .” My mind went blank. “Like water,” I finally blurted.

Really? Water? That’s all I had. Florida is a peninsula surrounded by sea water and dotted with rivers and lakes everywhere. He deals with water.

president_jimmy_carter_nobelPrior to my Charlie and Orlando encounters, I almost met another famous person. A friend and I were in Georgia and decided to visit Plains, the home of President Jimmy Carter. We went into the general store and the clerk told us if we stuck around, we might get a chance to meet the President and Mrs. Carter who were in the back room attending a luncheon. My friend and I wandered around the store set up as both a tourist attraction and museum to anything Carter. We stood in the aisle on the far side of the store, laughing at an unopened six-pack of Billy Beer on the shelf, named after the President’s brother. A couple of people brushed by us. We moved a little closer to the shelves to let them pass, then we went to the counter to pay for our purchases because we’d decided we had waited long enough.

“Did you get to say hello?” the clerk asked.

We stared at her blankly. “Hello?”

“Yes, the President and Mrs. Carter just left the store. They must have walked right by you on the way out.”

We’d been too busy laughing about Billy Beer to notice that fame had literally brushed right by us.

The air hadn’t rarefied, and we were unchanged, except now I had another story to tell.

A brush with fame brings me great stories to tell on dark nights around a campfire, which makes me famous to my friends. I make a great guest around that old campfire because even as slight a thing as President Carter passing behind my back, with secret service agents in tow, becomes the fodder for flames and fiction.

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And in my ever-present quest for my own piece of fame, I’m happy to announce the completion of my first series, the Behind the Love Trilogy. Download the first two books in the series November 6 and 7 for FREE! The third book releases on November 10, but is available for pre-order now. Enjoy!

Behind the Altar, Book 1 – Click here to download FREE Nov. 6 and 7

Behind the Bar, Book 2 – Click here to download FREE Nov. 6 and 7

Behind the Curtain, Book 3 – Click here for New Release

One Wild and Wacky Job

Alligator on a lake near Tallahassee

Alligator on a lake near Tallahassee

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

I hesitated to fill out an application for days after I saw the advertisement for a public relations director with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). The ideal candidate’s qualifications could have been pilfered from my resume. Yet still I hesitated before I applied.

Did I really want to move from St. Augustine to Tallahassee? I wondered as I read the job description repeatedly. Yes, I did, I decided and hit the send button on the website for the state job. Only I messed up and tried again. When I went to bed that night, I wasn’t certain if the application had gone through or not.

When my phone rang the next morning and the voice on the other end said he worked for the FWC, I was certain it was to tell me my application needed to be sent again. I started to explain, until he interrupted.

“We’d like you to come up to Tallahassee for an interview,” he said.

“When?”

“Can you make it tomorrow?”

I tried not to make any assumptions about what it all meant. I’d been asked for an interview before the deadline for accepting applications. I drove the three hours from my home to the Community Relations office in Tallahassee for my interview. I was nervous, but as it turned out, the interview was the easiest one I’d done. I knew how to answer all the questions about media, writing, publishing, and news releases. I’d been on the other side for a decade, and I’d interviewed my share of state employees as an environmental writer. They hired me as soon as I passed a test to write a phony news release in thirty minutes.

wildlife biologist

FWC biologist measuring lake levels

I started in September 2007 and worked there for the next four years. I left when I moved to Pennsylvania.

During the first few months on the job, I read about wildlife, which included fact sheets on managing them and laws on regulating them. I listened to phone calls between my supervisor and journalists from state and national media sources. I observed during meetings with the agency’s director, biologists, and media personnel as  they made decisions on sensitive issues. I began writing news releases of lesser importance about openings, closings, and campaigns for wildlife license plates. I took a few calls here and there from the media. I watched and mentally took notes during crises situations as those around me scrambled to write talking points and news releases in a few minutes time.

After a few months, I was assigned to write an article for Florida wildlife magazine featuring Rodney Barreto, the chairman of the commission. He received his appointment from Gov. Charlie Crist.

After I interviewed him, I searched for quotes from others about Barreto. My boss directed me to contact the governor’s press office and ask for a written quote. Two days after I sent the email request, my phone rang in my office.

“Hello, Pat? This is Charlie Crist,” the voice on the line said.

At first, I thought some friend was playing a trick on me, but I’d met Crist at a luncheon a few months before so I recognized the voice.

“I hear you’re writing about my buddy Rodney,” he said. “I wanted to talk to you about him.”

I was scrambling on my desk for my notes for the article. Of course, the folder was nowhere to be found.

“I’m just a little nervous, Governor, so excuse me while I find my notes,” I said.

“No need to be nervous, Pat. Let’s just chat.”

So we did. He gave me my quotes, and I took notes on the back of an old news release.

“Thank you, Governor. I know you have more important things to do, such as . . . ”

My mind went blank. What issues did he have on his mind? I started again.

“I know you’re dealing with big issues with . . . water,” I finally blurted.

Water? Really? That’s the best I could muster? Florida’s surrounded on three sides by water so of course he deals with water issues, but really that’s all I could say?

Charlie Crist dealing with water

Charlie Crist dealing with water
(from PhotoBucket)

I kept my job despite my ineptitude in handling a simple call from the governor. I learned to talk to media from CNN, Time magazine, the Associated Press, Fox News, and even a representative from a Japanese reality show who wondered if manatees farted under water, and if so, could they possibly film one farting.

It became my new normal and lasted for the next four years. Stay tuned for a few of my stories to learn how some freshwater turtles made a new law and how I became known as the “python princess.”

Working in an agency that manages wildlife in a state filled with human wildlife has given me a library full of stories to tell around campfires and novels to write until my fingers cramp. My hesitation in applying was simply the quiet moment I needed before heading into one wild and wacky job.

FWC law enforcement officer assists the "human" wildlife to pull a truck out of the water

FWC law enforcement officer assists the “human” wildlife to pull a truck out of the water

New Release from P.C. Zick

New Release
from P.C. Zick

Trails in the Sand (2013) follows environmental writer, Caroline Carlisle, on a quest to save sea turtles from the BP oil spill and to save her family after she marries her dead sister’s husband.

The idea from the story came while I was working with the FWC during the oil spill crisis. I was the media director for the sea turtle nest relocation project that occurred during the summer of 2010. During the project, thousands of sea turtle eggs were moved from Panhandle beaches to the Atlantic Coast. Thousands of sea turtle hatchlings were saved from eminent death as a result of the move.