Working with the (former) Kennedy Secret Serviceby: Penny Sansevieri
In recent days I’ve been seeing Clint Hill everywhere and have been reminded of my time marketing The Kennedy Detail as well as getting to know Clint. He’s a pretty remarkable human and it was incredible to meet him, spend time with him and hear his account of history first hand.
I ran this blog post three years ago, right after the campaign for The Kennedy Detail ended and I thought, given the 50 year anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination, that it might be interesting to post it again.
A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to help our clients, the authors of The Kennedy Detail, host a book signing here in San Diego. We had it at Warwick’s books, and it was fantastic. Author Jerry Blaine was accompanied by Clint Hill. He’s the guy you see jumping on the back of Kennedy’s car after the President was shot. He threw himself over JFK and Jackie as they sped to the hospital. Every time he retold that story, I felt like I was there. Hearing the gunshot, and reliving the moment that none of us will ever forget.
Clint Hill was, understandably, affected by this incident in such a way that for years, he never even spoke about it. In fact, after that infamous “60 Minutes” interview, in which he broke down, he wasn’t seen much again for 35 years – until The Kennedy Detail was released. Throughout the promotion, I wondered how this would affect him. Talking about “that day” over and over again, I couldn’t imagine how he was dealing with it.
Our San Diego event was towards the end of a fairly extensive book tour and I asked his co-author, “How’s Clint holding up…?” Clint later answered that question himself when he told the crowd, “Talking about this day over and over again has healed me in ways that time and years never could.”
Every once in a while, we are blessed to work on campaigns that remind us why we do what we do. Yes, the book was very successful and that’s great. But moreover, it touched people and it told a story. In the end, that’s what this is all about. At the Warwick’s event, a young girl walked up to Clint to tell him that she was writing a paper on the Kennedy assassination and wanted to know if she could quote him. She was 11 years old. She’d never know what the country went through on that fateful day in November, some 30-odd years before she was born. But through the stories, the book, and these brave Secret Service men, that snapshot in history can be shared again and again. In a way, they reminded us of a time when Camelot reigned and the country was still innocent. They reminded us of easier times and simpler days.
Was it ever that easy again? It’s hard to know. Maybe hindsight is 20/20, or maybe when that shot rang out, it really was the shot heard around the world. Nothing was ever the same. After a few years of a sliding economy, high unemployment, and a collapsing housing market, the country is yearning for the days of Camelot; and for a brief evening, these men told stories of working for the Kennedys. Playing touch football with John, Jr, watching out for Caroline, and revealing what a closet chain smoker Jackie was. The audience laughed, cried, and a few conspiracy theorists even shared their thoughts on “who really killed Kennedy.”
As I drove home after Warwick’s, I was reminded again why we’re in this industry: to tell stories. At the end of the day, that’s really all we can do. Help people tell stories. That’s really our job. Often we get wound up in success. What is success? Book sales? A bestseller? An interview on “Oprah?” Well, yes, it’s all those things. But in the absence of those trappings that we hope will accompany our book launches we must remember this: in the end, we are here to tell stories. And hopefully we can enlighten, entertain, help or, in Clint’s case, heal 47 years of pain. Because if we are lucky enough to touch a soul and share a smile, that’s bigger than any number a royalty check can offer.