Miss Cellophane died this week. Almost no one knew because she performed a rare but indispensable role -- one requiring her to be ego-free and always knowing that her greatest successes were when no one was ever aware that she had "pulled it off"... again.
Her name was Linda Dozoretz and she was the Queen of Damage Control. She turned bad press nightmares into explainable, controllable spin. She put words into the mouths of self-destructive superstars for their own good and "quoted" them with artful introspective contrition before they were fully sober, and she told people when to keep their mouths shut and just say nothing. This strange world was her forte. She was masterful, indeed, more like a virtuoso. She did this for Mark McCormack and his roster of athletes and performers. She did it for Rogers and Cowan and their remarkable constellation of megastars of the show biz firmament of movies, television and music and for the corporate empires who invested in their careers. And she did it unobtrusively, compassionately and quickly.
In the real world, she was Clark Kent -- just simple Linda Dozoretz, press agent and publicist, helping people in the traditional world of press, music, film and careers. The usual visibility, print stories, 'fame'... that's what they wanted. But athletes, authors and musicians have one thing in common: They are human. And human beings have human frailties and human frailties have a way of coming back to haunt!
Show biz successes become human chattels -- money-making machines -- big corporate sponsors, agents, managers, family members and others all have vested interests in seeing to it that nothing rocks the boat.
Most of these money-making chattels desire press, want visibility, soundbites, TV/Google Alerts/Twitter-ability and the star leverage to get to wear free jewelry, clothing and drive free cars and have "clipping services" and be offered "book deals." They want it all until they don't want to be seen or recognized or known and seek privacy or to let loose. But once you are notorious, famous or infamous, well -- that's just about impossible. They are already by then in the cruel sights of deadly telephoto lenses that follow everywhere with accompanying satellite devices that track their every movement and their sexual indiscretions and proclivities.
Linda was on mission impossible. She knew how to navigate the rarified world of sophisticated secret weapons to maintain and retain the ongoing "good image" and keep the shiny stars untarnished or their "boo boos" as events easily forgotten "let's give them a pass this time, folks" based on her relationship with friends in the press through the years. She was an expert in diplomacy and in reciprocity, in the skill and craft of navigating unforgiving, cruel insensitive, traditional gossip worlds of a ubiquitous press, scandal-mongering, yellow-journalistic world that feeds off of scandal frenzy.
Whether you ran the gamut of suspiciously naughty behavior to downright revolting, kinky, demented, out of control, out of your mind lunacy... Linda did not pass judgment. She just did her best to "fix it"... And from the little you've seen and read and mostly for what you've never read, or knew she has "been the one who fixed it." All accomplished seamlessly. So how do the powers keep those money machines producing money? They turned to Miss Cellophane: "G E T M E L I N D A !"
Henry Rogers and Warren Cowan introduced me to Linda to promote a novel I wrote in the 80's called Sweetie Baby Cookie Honey. I knew nothing about her world.
She read the book before we met. I was impressed. She said:
Leave it to me, trust me, show up where I point you, become fluent with the areas covered by the novel, memorize facts, dates and speak irrefutably with authenticity and speak with sincerity. Don't look at the camera, look at the interviewer and don't ever refer to 'my book,' 'the book'... but only by its memorable name, and do it as many times as you can. It sells books. Have a good time, be delighted to be in Des Moines at 7:00 a.m.
I followed Linda's instructions... I sold half-a-million books. I did Oprah, the Tonight Show, the Today Show, Dr. Ruth, Larry King and I did 28 cities in five weeks and 180 interviews and Linda and Freddie became close friends. She never told me she was a double agent... with a secret. She never explained why she tried to keep her name out of the press. But now, now that she's died, I can tell you something about Miss Cellophane that you won't read in her short obits, or from any of the extraordinarily famous names whose asses she saved, whose millions she secured, whose careers were preserved because Linda understood that they would never "out" themselves, even in her death.
The reason Linda was so remarkably suited to deal with all of these people with so many defects is because she was born with so many physical defects. Indeed, the medical community is still trying to determine how and why and what happened and for how many generations will it continue for mommies who took a medication (until 1971) called DES (about six million women) so that they could avoid miscarriage and carry to term and have a baby. But babies were born with abnormalities -- some visible, some invisible, some not visible until they matured, some seen by X-rays, some through examination and some born with secret time bombs.
Linda was one of the latter.
She was born with time bombs spread out over the minefield of her life. She tread her path carefully and artfully and she tried to avoid getting them to explode and she maneuvered life's path like a videogame avoiding getting blown up.
And she always managed to reach the next level of the game.
It wasn't easy. It required great strength of character and vigilance. Because of her dexterity and her willingness to play the game of life and death, she built up fortitude, resilience and an attitude that she could survive anything because the only thing she had to worry about wasn't worth the worrying.
What did survival entail? It meant at least two separate bouts with two cancers. From birth, parts of her body were permanently numb and neurologically scrambled. It meant heart valve transplants, pulmonary disorders, living with oxygen and sometimes out of sight, sleeping with oxygen, the use of medical devices, Coumadin injections, endless amounts of self-injections, nurses, hospitalizations, radiation, chemotherapy, crutches, meditation, hydro-therapy and never, ever, ever losing a sense of humor, a sense of the irascible fun and charm of being willing to face life and knowing that she was facing it vicariously through her successful clients -- whom she loved (and I hope loved her in return).
How can you not love someone who has no ego, wants nothing from you other than for you to succeed? She had no stake in the outcome of her counseling; no ulterior motives. She was a great woman and friend and never gave up her clients and never ever used her health as a business excuse. Linda could deal with crisis control when a crisis came, which sometimes meant handling it from her hospital bed, in oxygen and never, ever letting the client know.
She was a pro, all the way.
She managed to outmaneuver and out-do DES for 62 years.
In the course of the 25 years I knew her, she taught me a lot about how to live a life, how to savor it, how to wallow in short moments.
A few months ago, when she revealed to me that she had seven tumors -- all stage 4 -- in her chest, that she was failing, that her heart was infected and was untreatable, that in all likelihood she would be dead before Christmas 2010, she continued to demonstrate grace, courage, laughs, fun, style, organization and putting her business affairs in meticulous order.
She did not tell her clients.
Good bye Linda. You made my life richer, you taught me how to live it and then how to die in style and on your own personal terms.
You remained in character.
Good night Miss Cellophane, you'll always be my invisible superhero.