Monday I [Ken Leslie] flew to New York City to record a PSA with Susan Sarandon. Mike McVay and Randy Bloomquist, our guardian angels at Cumulus Media, had arranged to lend us the use of the WABC studios to produce the PSA. WABC’s Program Director, Chris Schawlb, welcomed us with open arms. He is one of the titans of the talk radio industry as well a gracious and funny man.
Celebrities have “brand equity” and these “brands” are used to generate revenue for the celebrity through the selling products like movies, advertisements, commercial endorsements, etc. Many celebrities use some of their brand equity to lend their name to bring attention to good causes. They say it is the least they can do for their heroes and it helps us immensely.
Then there are the fighters. Susan Sarandon is one of those fighters I have always admired. Like John Mellencamp, or Harry Chapin before him, she too is a lifelong fighter for the downtrodden going back to a trip to Nicaragua in 1983. Like John, she uses her brand equity to fearlessly stand up to be a voice for those who are hurting or unheard.
She is a hero to people who often have none.
Homelessness and veterans’ issues have always been personal to her so she quickly said yes to our project. The time and place were cemented last Thursday, so Monday morning I was on a plane to meet her at the WABC studios in NYC.
When Susan arrived in the studio she had a brilliant radiance of heart. We had much to chat about, from the people we had in common from her many causes to the new documentary she and Tom Morgan produced, and her son Jack Henry Robbins directed, “Storied Streets.”
This is a powerful project that will premiere nationally on November 16th via live stream as part of the National Coalition for the Homeless “Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week.” We will work to get a screening of “Storied Streets” here in Toledo. You can “like” Storied Street’s Facebook page linked right here and stay on top of the latest: https://www.facebook.com/
As we chatted, in walks Geraldo Rivera. He and Susan go way back in the way back machine, and as they we chatting he asked what she was doing there. After we told him, he so kindly invited me to be on his show the next day. As I had a previous commitment the next morning in Toledo, I had to decline, but he offered to have me on as soon as possible. Stay tuned.
After Mr. Rivera left, our brilliant WABC engineer Matt Dahl was ready and after a quick mic check Susan got to work. Talk about flawless; her voice is so smooth. She did the 30 second spot three times, perfect each time. And we are done.
Total work time: two minutes. Return on equity for those two minutes: hundreds more homeless veterans and veteran families with children will be able to replace concrete with a pillow under their head.
Susan then expressed a desire to give us even more of her equity and help us any way she can, so we then spent some time talking about a few different areas of future engagement. We exchanged contact for follow up and, as we were leaving to go to our respective cars, hers for the ride home, mine back to the airport, she kept stopping at every point to give me more names of people she wanted me to call on her behalf.
Most of the time people just look at celebrities and buy the brand without ever even looking at the brand owner – that is the very real human being who created this brand and works very hard like everyone else to be good at their craft, find the right work, and then enjoy the fruits of that labor. We all have this brand, like commerce; some are just larger than others.
And what truly defines us as humans is not what we have, but what we do with our brand and our fruits. In 25 years of advocacy, I have so often seen those who have the least give most, and those who have the most give nothing.
I also see many people today who reject the notion that we have an obligation to take care of those in need; that is until THEY become the one in need and then they get angry that more resources are not available to them. This is the selfish hypocrisy of our society today.
Then you have people like Susan Sarandon whose life work provides a balance to humanity, gives a voice to the voiceless, and who gives hope to those who feel hopeless.
Thank you Susan Sarandon, not only for helping Veterans Matter house more of our heroes, but for your lifetime of compassion, your lifetime of standing up and shouting for those with no voice.