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EST. May 2000 (AD)




Speaker of Your House

By Julie Ward

Many of the luxuries that we associate with celebrity or great wealth have become available to all of us. Investing in the stock market is as common in 2006 as buying savings bonds was in 1976. You don't have to go to Hollywood these days to find someone who has had plastic surgery and botox injections--just look at the women and men in your local supermarket. And, thanks to countless how-to books and articles, if you can read you can throw a sophisticated cocktail party--whether you live in Manhattan, New York, or Manhattan, Kansas.

But there's one celebrity amenity that, although very useful, has not trickled down to the rest of us. It's the spokesperson. You know--someone who issues statements on your behalf after you do something unusual, rude, embarrassing, scientological, catastrophic or illegal. Take our short quiz to determine whether your family needs one.

1. The ideal way to alert the school when your children will be absent is:

a. Leave a message on the school answering machine.

b. Speak to the school nurse.

c. Read a short statement to the local newspaper, being sure to substitute "exhaustion" for the less exotic and/or more embarrassing childhood illnesses.

2. The best way to handle irate neighbors is:

a. Deliver a lovely plant or pie to them.

b. Invite them over for a friendly barbecue.

c. Read a short statement to the local newspaper that clarifies your position on using "sloppy" and "tacky" as synonyms for "casual" and "rustic" whenever you describe the home improvements next door.

3. When you want to end an argument with your husband, you:

a. Grill steaks for dinner.

b. Wear a sexy black dress.

c. Issue a short statement about how those unflattering pictures of his mother, which you distributed widely in an email entitled "Nagzilla," were taken out of context.

4. A note in the PTA newsletter should be:

a. Short, as in "Friday is the deadline for Unicef collections."

b. Friendly, as in "We'd like to issue a special invitation to the meeting to all the new kindergarten parents."

c. Insanely upbeat, as in, "The Smith family has developed a new passion--eradicating head lice from their own heads! 'We are thankful for the opportunity to spread our enthusiasm to other families in the school, even faster than we spread the head lice,' Jane Smith said."

5. The best reason for hiring a public relations professional to act as your spokesperson, rather than, say, your cousin Dwayne, is:

a. Dwayne doesn't have contacts in the media.

b. Dwayne thinks "contacts in the media" is a euphemism for something dirty.

c. You don't want a spokesperson who goes to rehab more often than you do.

How did you score? Give yourself one point for each "a" answer, two points for each "b" answer, and three points for each of your "c" answers. The higher your score, the greater is your need for a family spokesperson.

But need alone should not drive your decision to hire your own spokesperson. According to Candy Tanglewood, spokesperson industry spokesperson, the main reason is to add panache to your communication with the outside world. She points to the statement Liz Rosenberg gave on Madonna's behalf, after Elton John accused her of lip synching a few years ago: "Elton John remains on her Christmas card list whether he is nice ... or naughty."

"The dot dot dot, along with the use of 'naughty,' which is a very stylish word right now, take that statement to a whole new level," says Candy.

Libby Best agrees. "Check out the statement my spokesperson made to my book club," says the married mother of three. "'Libby will not be attending book club tonight...unless you promise to ditch the green for martinis.'"

Says Libby, "I pay her per dot. It's totally worth it."

Next week: Does Your Family Need an Agent? Jane Smith reveals how her family's agent landed them a six figure sum to endorse head lice shampoo.

© 2007 Julie Ward


Julie Ward is a special ed. teacher and writer. She lives with her husband and two sons in Austin, Texas.



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