When I was a boy, growing up while my mom, Marion Ross was starring as “Mrs. C” on the ABC comedy Happy Days, there was a framed copy of an article about her on the wall of her bedroom that I saw on a daily basis.
The article was from TV Guide, a magazine of the day that had all the television listings– their showtimes, channels, and a “log line” of what each program was about. (These days you couldn’t fit all that information into a magazine smaller than the old Yellow Pages.)
The article had a nice photo of her, taken, I think, in our backyard, and the headline: “How Not to Attract Attention.”
I used to read that article and wonder who they thought they were writing about. How NOT to attract attention? My mom?
One of the great gifts, among many, that being raised by Marion bestowed to me was a penchant for the art of self promotion. (If you are reading this as a long-time member of my mailing list, you know that better than anyone.)
I sensed at an early age that my mother possessed something that others did not; a comfortableness with being the center of attention.
She never abused that comfort, but rather always found a way to locate the light illuminating a given moment, and place herself there, with grace, when it suited her. Whether the spotlight happened to land on her while she was being silly, dignified, or when she was being glamorous, it was all one to her. She didn’t shirk the attention, nor did she demand it.
It was a thing she handled always delicately, but with determination. (Hashtag: DepressionEraChild.)
But mom never wasted the attention she borrowed, and always gave back as good as she got, yielding the stage to others with uncharacteristic Hollywood generosity, but “scoring” whenever she could, with various effects that she pulled off with seeming ease.
I saw all that first hand, socially and professionally, and it had a profound impression on me.
These days of course, many of us who have been private people now find themselves doing a crash course in how to be comfortable with a flood of challenges to our privacy.
24/7 exposure and the need to “Brand” oneself just to barely keep up with the acceleration of business and social interplay, are forcing a lot of people to confront the fact that they need to stop withholding what they think and feel, and enter the conversation actively.
This at the same time as the emergence of a new “extreme political correctness” wherein any statement or image made at any period of one’s recorded life can be used as a weapon to puncture the delicate balloon of one’s reputation! Wow!
I’m grateful for the example that Marion set for me, growing up, of not being afraid to “toot one’s horn” in service of valuable contributions to the culture, and to learn how to cultivate a public persona that is polite, presentable and empathetic.
I have a long way to go to begin to match what she has done, but I’m grateful for the advanced level of tutoring she quietly, by example, passed along to me. I intend to make the most of it.
And of course, I’ll be letting the world know about it.