I was channel-surfing late last night when I came across a story on Keith Olbermann's "Countdown" show. It was about the new Apple iPhone, and a guy who is currently the first person in line in front of the 5th Avenue Apple Store wanting to be the first person in New York to get Apple's new iPhone on Friday (as if that's such a big deal). He's been there since Monday, camped out. And as soon as I saw him, he instantly struck a chord with me, and not a good one at all.
This guy's name is Greg Packer, and he's been called "The Most Popular Man on the Street," as he's been quoted dozens of times in newspapers, and has met people as diverse as President Bush, Mariah Carey and Ringo Starr. He's a professional publicity seeker, a highway worker from Long Island, one of those guys who turns up everywhere, in the great need to get his mug all over the media. He turns up at media events like book signings and other personal appearances by famous people.
He's even got his own page at Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greg_Packer
I found it interesting last night when Olbermann said that the Associated Press told their reporters to avoid quoting this guy, because he was turning up everywhere, like the character of Zelig in that famous Woody Allen film. (He's got his publicity from this little stunt, as he's been shown in the NY papers waiting for the iPhone to go on sale.)
And people call me a media whore.
I have seen this Greg Packer before. I never knew his name, but I had seen him at a number of World Trade Center remembrance gatherings I've been to. One of my friends, who runs the WTC support group I belong to, would see him and get angry, as he would see him wearing a certain shirt that he had no business wearing, as he probably knew that this Packer was nothing more than a publicity hound just looking to get on TV or in the papers. I saw him at the Ground Zero remembrance on September 11th two years ago in the actual site, and I haven't got the slightest idea how he got in, as you need a special pin number to get into the services. (My friend saw him that day, and got angry he was present yet again.) He probably found some way to weasel his way past security, which isn't an easy thing to do.
And I also saw him nearly three years ago, and this one has a Red Sox connection to it.
On October 27, 2004, I was at the Riviera Cafe for Game 4 of the World Series, the game the Red Sox were up 3-0 and going for the title. The bar was of course swamped with Sox fans, wanting to be together there to see the Red Sox win it all. I got there nearly three hours in advance, as I knew it would be a mob scene. And it surely was, as there was a line around the block, and the bar was closed about an hour before the game began, so no one else could get in.
The people from Fox Sports were at the bar, to do a live remote as the pregame show began, and at select times during Game 4. (They were at the Riv because the mayor of Boston asked them not to film in any Boston bars due to the tragic death of Victoria Snelgrove after the Red Sox won the pennant.) Kenny Albert was there, and they did the first remote not far from the table I was sitting at. A few minutes later, who do I see in the bar, but Zelig himself, Greg Packer. (How he got in, I'll never know, as I didn't see him in the bar until the pregame show began.) I did a double-take, and instantly remembered he was the guy who my friend despises, and turns up at those 9/11 remembrances. I was really tempted to walk over and say something to him, but I was too involved in the game to really say anything.
Another couple of innings passed, and Packer seemed to have disappeared. But when the cameras set up for the next remote from the Riviera, who pops out of nowhere: Packer. As the remote begins, there he is right behind Kenny Albert, waving and mugging for the camera and wearing a Red Sox shirt. (I don't remember if Albert talked to him or not, but I bet he did.)
As soon as the remote ended, I recall him asking another person in the bar for their cell phone, and he was practically yelling into the phone that he had been on TV or something. As the game got going again, Packer was gone. And I did not see him again that night, not when the game ended, or when all the wild celebrations at the Riv began. In fact, I never saw Packer at the Riviera once before that night, not once after that night, or at any other establishment the Red Sox fans go to in New York. In fact, if you read his page at Wikipedia, he's not a Red Sox fan at all, he's a Yankee fan.
Talk about selling your soul for publicity.
And if all that wasn't enough, Packer is actually asking people on his web site he created for this occasion to make donations to him via PayPal to help him while he waits on line to get all the way to Friday's iPhone debut. Talk about colossal gall. He's actually asking people to donate money to him so he can be the first person to buy an iPhone in New York for $600. I guess he really believes he's some kind of real celebrity. And he must really believe he has fans out there, people he must think are stupid enough to cheer him on and pay him for the "privilege." Talk about balls.
My thanks to Keith Olbermann last night for the report on this guy. Some people will do anything to get their names or faces on TV or in the papers, but calling yourself a Red Sox fan when you're not, or worse, using September 11 remembrances to further an unyielding desire for publicity, is simply beyond low.
But what are you going to do. Some people have to have their 15 minutes, and will do anything to get it.