THE PUBLICIST: Truly bright stars know never to get too high on themselves

It's 4:30 am, and about 20 extras are still in the stands, even though we've wrapped and everyone else has gone. I'm only there because I think I left my notepad somewhere along the first-base line (for the umpteenth time) and have returned to look for it. Out of the corner of my eye I see the extras lingering in the upper deck, and notice they're all gathered around a man in a baseball uniform. The man is Bernie Mac.

It's 4:30 am, and about 20 extras are still in the stands, even though we've wrapped and everyone else has gone. I'm only there because I think I left my notepad somewhere along the first-base line (for the umpteenth time) and have returned to look for it. Out of the corner of my eye I see the extras lingering in the upper deck, and notice they're all gathered around a man in a baseball uniform. The man is Bernie Mac.

I can't believe it. Bernie wrapped over an hour ago, yet stuck around to greet the folks who came to watch him film a baseball scene for his movie, Mr. 3000. When the shooting day began, some 12 hours earlier, Bernie announced he would make his way up to see everyone, but surely he didn't mean the upper deck too? I mean, c'mon...there must be 5,000 spectators! He did, indeed, mean everyone. Which is why he is still in the stands at the break of dawn, signing autographs, shaking hands, posing for pictures, and extending his trademark greeting, "What's up, baby?" Cool, thy name is Bernie Mac. I watched him do this for 10 weeks, pouring out affection and energy to anyone who cared enough to show up. Bernie has that rare and remarkable ability, possessed by the brightest stars in Hollywood and Washington, to make people feel special. He is both a dazzling and yet familiar presence to his fans, who seem to feel a kinship with him the likes of which I have only seen with one other actor before, Jackie Chan. "I'm not a star," Mac insists. "Stars fall. I'm an entertainer. I get as much as I give." When I arranged for a group of children's hospital outpatients and their families to visit the set, Bernie spent nearly an hour with them, and had to be pulled away when it was time to shoot. "This is what it's all about," he told me as we were walking away. He also told me not to make some big deal out of it with the press, but I mentioned it anyway because I think it makes people feel good to hear about that sort of thing. A publicist's experience during the making of a film can be a dream or a nightmare, it all depends on the star. Bernie made this one a joy for me and everyone else on the crew. When it's over, we all counted our blessings, and hoped the next movie will be just as nice. But it won't be. There is, after all, only one Bernie Mac.
  • Lawrence Mitchell Garrison is an LA-based freelance publicist and writer

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