Congratulations to John Pepper. Just when you think one man has done it all — former Procter & Gamble CEO, Boston Scientific Corporation board member, Yale University vice president, Executive Committee member of the Cincinnati Youth Collaborative, National Underground Railroad Freedom Center CEO — Pepper assumes the mantle of non-executive chairman of the Walt Disney Company. Quite a resume topper.
Pepper will take over the reins Jan. 1, 2007, succeeding former Sen. George Mitchell, who replaced Michael Eisner in 2004. The line originated with Moses, I believe, but the Eisner dynasty was fraught with internal strife that threatened the stability of the Mouse House.
Whisper campaigns brewed for years, and Uncle Walt's nephew Roy was one of several outspoken board members who prayed for a savior to lead the stakeholders out of the fallow lands into the green garden paradise. When the politically-minded Mitchell stepped in, Eisner struggled to hold onto the singular role of CEO (he'd been both CEO and chairman) until Robert Iger wrestled that spot from him last October.
Mitchell was seen as a peacemaker, a conciliatory figure who'd unite the fractured shareholder interests. Not exactly Moses or even Aaron, but this isn't the Old Testament — although with Mickey and the dwarves looking for new worldwide profit margins, why not appoint a brand manager like Pepper to lead the team?
It was a smart move for both sides.
Honestly, the game isn't played on the field anymore. It's in the meetings and at the table where contracts are negotiated, where the commas and decimal points determine the final score on the bottom line. Thanks to the E! cable channel and escalating coverage of entertainment features as "news" in the media, we all know the scenario.
But — and isn't there always a but — I'm angling for a slice of the pie. Of course, I'm not speaking strictly for myself. This is "me" in the royal "we" mode.
I'm representing the Queen City in these proceedings. When one of ours finds himself on the receiving end of fortune, then a backwards glance and the upturned corner of his mouth should be in sight.
The day I heard the good news about Pepper, I had a little daydream sitting in front of my laptop. I was working on a film feature, probably about the latest and greatest Disney live-action gem, and my mind started playing tricks on me. Studio production messages started flashing across my screen. The stories were pouring in.
There was one about Betty Thomas (The Brady Bunch, I Spy) signing on to helm the big screen version of WKRP in Cincinnati with Taye Diggs as Venus Flytrap and Jessica Simpson as Jennifer Elizabeth Marlowe (you know, the Loni Anderson role). Filming would begin early next year — in Cincinnati, not Newport or Covington, mind you.
But wait, there's more. Steven Soderbergh is returning to town for a remake of The Cincinati Kid with local boy Joey Kern (Grind, Cabin Fever) starring opposite local Oscar-winning heartthrob George Clooney, who has decided to trade in his Italian villa for digs in Indian Hill, Hyde Park and a posh new development in Over-the-Rhine that would be known in celebrity circles as the Midwest Mousetrap.
There's buzz that Clooney is likely to make it into a franchise a la the Ocean's series, so there might actually be a Newport Kid and a Covington Kid down the road just to keep you regional folks happy. I'd worry about the Newport project, though, because it could easily be confused with Newport, R.I., and we don't want to go wasting the marketing opportunity on a misunderstanding like that.
From the producer who brought you Remember the Titans and Glory Road comes Stories from the Underground. This sepia-toned treatment of the Underground Railroad could become an awards season juggernaught and inspire tourists from around the globe to flock to the area for you-are-there theme tours into our nation's past. Jerry Bruckheimer has made a mint but lacks the critcial acclaim that comes only from rewriting a dark historic period and supplying it with a righteously contemporary kick.
I knew it was all in my head, this streaming Cincinnati pitch-making session, but that's what happens when people find out news like this. It gets crazy.
Then I realized that this is Hollywood branding and Dr. Pepper might not be as familiar with that low-end theory. Mickey won't be appearing at next year's Northside 4th of July Parade, and I don't expect see Beauty and the Beast rocking MidPoint anytime soon.
But I believe having a local guy working from the inside will certainly help Cincinnati get ready for its onscreen closeup, whether big or small. Cue the chili!
TT CLINKSCALES: His column appears here in the third issue of each month.