What Shall I Be When I Grow Up? Joey Skaggs!

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Today we bring you a guest post by Sal Cataldi, founder and president of New York’s surreal shop Cataldi PR.

What makes you want to be what you want to be when you grow up?

Like many a person with eclectic interests (writing, music, art, travel and, yes, cash) and the fuzzy liberal arts degree to prove it, I ventured off into the world of periadulthood with nary a clue as to what I would do to house and feed myself, much less the wonderful children I would be fortunate enough to have.

My professional calling didn’t arrive until my late mid-20s, after a few years spent bumming around the animation and video businesses, playing in rock bands and writing record reviews for freebie vinyl.  That’s when I stumbled into the broad world that goes by the narrow moniker of “public relations.” This shift came courtesy of a recommendation put forth for my varied interests by that bible for career changers and flounders, What Color Is Your Parachute?

So what kind of hype have I plied in my three decades in this business, with 26 of those years as head of my own boutique gang of guerillas?  It has been way more of the P.T. Barnum and John Waters spectacle variety than the barely-veiled liemanship of President George W. Bush’s smarmy spinmeister Ari Fleischer or his clueless acting successor, Dana Perino.

My often delightful daily grind has involved creating bagpipe festivals with metal and jazz bands and bus tours to rock and roll landmarks in the City of Angels.  Undertaking searches to find the greatest “guitar face” in America, as well as the craziest late night TV advertising stars and most outrageous pet bird.  I’ve overseen mass transformations of women into red heads in cities coast-to-coast and supervised the crafting of sand sculptures in the faces of America’s Most Wanted on our beautiful beaches and promoted Black Flag’s Roach Ender, the first “birth control spray for roaches.”

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To make a dollar, I’ve marshaled a Zombie invasion of Manhattan and even a very elaborate political campaign to run one of undead for U.S. President.  I’ve helped create faux organizations to prevent celebrity divorce and declare the music video an endangered species.  Also the world’s largest Christmas tree … made entirely out of cannolis.

And, yes, I’ve also had my stints as spinning media mouthpiece.  But this was not for some shady politico or corporate chieftain, but for beloved American eccentrics like Cheeta, Tarzan’s simian co-star and “Apestract” painter, and one of the globe’s most button-pushing fine artists, Andres “Piss Christ” Serrano.

So when it comes to what I chose to do with my life to fill my pockets and pass the years, I can say I’ve been blessed.  I’ve been lucky to have clients with a sense of adventure and the vision to run our outlandish but strategically spot-on ideas up the corporate ladder.  I’ve flourished for way more than a good long while in one of the so-called “creative professions.”

Naturally, it hasn’t all been of the fun and offbeat order above.  The majority of it has been what we call the basic blocking and tackling – rolling out new consumer products, TV shows and the like, or promoting events that serve the client’s needs without the sublime creative spark that light my fire, that power me and my team through sometimes insanely long days and nights of labor.

So what, or more accurately who, gave me the idea that I could actually make a career doing these kind of things?

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It was the sublimely subversive art of media prankster Joey Skaggs, which first tickled my brain sometime in the mid-Seventies, when I was in the sweet spot of my impressionable teens.