Thursday, November 01, 2007

Horror Story #6: Train Wreck avec Poisson

From an independent publicist:
Can eating too much fish ruin your brain? You be the judge after this story.

I just finished working with a health book author who sold about 20,000 copies over the course of the 6 months or so we worked with him. Since he had never been in the public eye and had been out of the health business for more than 10 years, we did what any normal firm would do: we media trained him, we coached him, we did mock interviews and we made him feel comfortable speaking in front of a camera.

Now "Train Wreck," as we jokingly referred to him, maintained that the key to healthy eating was enjoying a diet rich in salmon (2x a day, 7 days a week), dark leafy greens and fiber, and as many fruits as you desire. When I asked him about all that salmon and the mercury associated with it, he just laughed and told me that his studies showed there was no effect from mercury.

However, when after being media trained five weeks in a row, we began to suspect that maybe, just maybe, all that salmon was giving him Alzheimer’s. During the first round of media radio interviews, he started to "forget" the studies he researched, the foods in the book, the diet he was on, what he ate for breakfast. In fact, by the time we got through the second round of TV satellite tour interviews, he couldn't seem to remember the name for the vegetable he was holding in his hand during the interview.

I know you must be thinking, "Wow, he is having bad stage fright. The poor guy! How could his publicist call him Train Wreck?"

So we go back to the drawing board. We retrain him. He seems coherent. We start to feel better.

The third round of media includes feature interviews with national magazines. After a wonderful email interview with a high-circulation health publication, we start to feel like things are falling into place.

"He's getting more secure. He's gonna be fine," we assure ourselves.

Two months later, the editor calls me in a panic: Train Wreck hasn't returned calls from their fact checker and the story is slated to run in the next issue. I email him and ask if there was a problem, and why he didn't call the fact checker back. Train Wreck responds that he doesn't remember talking to anyone from that health magazine, and accuses me of doing the interview without him, behind his back, giving them wrong information and making him look stupid.

I respond by sending him the email interview that he completed and cc'd me on. He still has no recollection. Beyond the fact that he doesn't remember, he maintains that all the research quoted in the interview answers given to the writer was incorrect, AND that he never wrote that email.

After that situation, we called his agent and suggested that Train Wreck see a neurologist to determine whether all that mercury-laden fish could have possibly caused early senility. A sad but very true fishy saga.

Inquiring minds want to know: What happened next? The publicist responds,
After that situation, we called it quits with him. We were very concerned about his health. From my conversation with his agent, "Train Wreck" never went to the doctor. Instead, TW is in Europe traveling. We just hope he remembers how to get back home.


Siren Cristy said...

So maybe this makes me a mushy dork, but I'd like to know if the neurologist found anything!

onefishtwofish said...

People should be aware of both the risks and benefits of seafood. The decision of what fish to eat can be a challenge and often contradictory. At the very least, people should know that FDA and EPA have issued advisories about mercury contamination in commonly-sold fish. The problem is, this information is hard to find and is not usually available where it is most necessary: your supermarket.

Oceana, a conservation group, is trying to get major grocery companies to post this government advice at their seafood counters. Thanks, in part to their work, Whole Foods, Safeway stores, and Wild Oats voluntarily agreed to post the FDA’s recommendations and they have had positive responses from customers and no loss in seafood sales. But other companies like Costco and Giant Eagle have refused to do so. Oceana has a list of which companies care about their customers’ health enough to post this advice, as well as a list of companies that don’t. You can get the Green List and Red List at their website.