Burning Question: How could Jennifer Lopez, or someone on her team, not know that she was booked to entertain the leader of the repressive Turkmenistan regime? Doesn't she have dozens of people working for her? — O. Homer, Minnesota
Well, yeah. J.Lo's got at least three agents; probably a separate commercial agent; a manager and whoever works for said manager; a publicist, and ... you get the idea. When you’re a star at J.Lo's level, even your people’s people have people.
Having such a huge entourage may sound like a plus to you. But more likely, it actually played a part in Lopez's latest PR nightmare. According to top talent managers, some of whom know and respect Lopez's own point man, Benny Medina, even the best-prepared talent teams can get hornswoggled, or, at least, caught off guard.
A publicist for Lopez has insisted that the singer herself knew nothing about the country.
In fact, the most likely explanation for what happened is this: A lower-level person on J.Lo's prep team, probably someone with too much to do and not enough time to do it, simply "dropped the ball," says talent manager Marrissa O'Leary.
"It's conceivable that there was a favor for someone involved," she notes. "When you're a big talent, you're often doing a favor for someone owed a favor for someone doing a favor, and it's like a game of telephone."
Another likely problem: Noobs.
"Oftentimes you rely on an underling who may or may not have the level of maturity of research or experience to be able to make a good decision," says veteran talent manager Jo-Ann Geffen, who currently manages David Cassidy.
Geffen knows what she’s talking about, because, like J.Lo, she's lived a similar nightmare. Worse, even.
During the apartheid days, Geffen booked a tour for funk legends the Commodores — a trip that included a leg in South Africa. Geffen’s team had gotten solid intelligence that apartheid was close to crumbling and would likely be kaput by the time the band touched down in that country.
But, to Geffen's surprise, that didn't matter to the legions of Commodores fans. All they knew was that the band was set to play in the middle of what was then a racist regime. And outrage ensued.
"Mandela was already in talks while we were contracting the shows, but the rest of the world hadn't been told yet," Geffen remembers. "In the end, we had to change the tour and leave out South Africa because the backlash was just so dramatic. Every rights organization here and in Africa was after us. I got death threats."
Cut to today, and let's just say Geffen isn't terribly shocked to read about what's happening with J.Lo.
"It's happened to me, where people [under me] have sworn to me, 'It's OK, it's OK, it's OK,' right up until the backlash."
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