Maverick ad-man, inspirational talk-show hostand possible future New York mayoral candidate? Donny Deutsch on the ups and … well, mostly just the ups … of being Donny Deutsch. By Jordana Horn
I am sitting in Donny Deutsch W’79’s office at CNBC’s studios in Ridgewood, New Jersey, discussing whether or not he is going to run for mayor of New York Cityand that’s when he decides to get undressed.
“In reality, I could be mayor,” he says, leaning forward in his seat with all the unbridled enthusiasm he’s known for on the CNBC show he hosts, The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch. “You know, if I really wanted to do it, I would meet with a top advisor. I’d find some great political operatives, and hire the head of my campaign.
“I’d meet with all the top people I know on Wall Street, and start a fundraising campaign,” he continues, pausing for dramatic effect. His voice gets a touch higher, the vocal equivalent of raising his hands in the air. “I’m a candidate! It’s not that crazy!”
It is at this point that I notice, looking up from my notepad, that Deutsch is unbuttoning his shirt.
“You’re gonna have to watch me take my shirt off, because I have to change, all right?” he says. He stands up and finishes unbuttoning his shirt, facing me and sliding it off to reveal a bare chest and a not-bad set of abs for a 50-year-old guy. It’s clear that he’s aware that it’s a not-bad set of absperhaps more than a little aware.
“This isn’t part of the story,” he says perfunctorily, but immediately follows up by saying, “Oh, you can mention it. I did it in advertising onceI ripped my shirt off in front of a reporter and told her I had the best body in advertising.” He grins sardonically. “I can no longer make that statement.”
I want to tell him, I know you did. I’ve read your book, Often Wrong, Never In Doubt: Unleash the Business Rebel Within (2005). I recall one chapter devoted entirely to the incident when he took off his shirt in front of an Ad Age reporter in 2002 (noting “It didn’t hurt that the reporter was a woman”), and she reported it straight, rather than as the tongue-in-cheek move he’d intended. The title of that chapterand I reconfirm it when I get homeis “The Big-Shadow Principle: Why taking your shirt off for the press is a really bad idea.”
In that chapter (on page 234), he had written, “I should have known there’s a difference between taking my shirt off among friends and colleagues and doing it in front of a reporter. Sometimes candidness, a certain goofball lunacy, a willingness to let people into your world and have some fun, just backfires. It certainly did this time.” The chapter concludes, “Sometimes, you’re a wise guy and it backfires on you. Sometimes you just do schmucky things.”
As Deutsch stands bare-chested, his publicist looks up from her desk across the room and rolls her eyes: She’s seen this all before. “This is off the record,” she says to me.
“No, she can put it in, I don’t care,” Deutsch tells the publicist. “I’m on my way to my next meeting, and it is what it is: The interview’s over, or you have to watch me change.”
Okay, back to business. He runs for mayor. He wins. So, congratulations, Mr. Mayor, what are you going to do? He smiles archly and walks behind my chair. “I’m going to stand over here so you don’t have to watch me take my pants off.” I hear the sound of a zipper.
Welcome to the in-your-face, candid, self-referential, unapologetic and (arguably) occasionally schmucky world of Donny Deutsch.
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©2008 The Pennsylvania Gazette
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©2008 The Pennsylvania Gazette
Last modified 04/28/08