It was the late 90s-early 2000s, right before the dot-com bubble burst.
This period of time was when every company, brand, and entrepreneur was finding a way to leverage online branding to expand and grow their audience.
There was such an aggressive movement to start up new dot-coms that is was like a shark feeding frenzy, and blood was in the water.
The global PR agency I worked for (Hill and Knowlton) landed an internationally renowned client who wanted to leverage the dot-com fever by taking his brand online.
Throughout the next couple of years, we worked many high profile events together to garner press and position his already well-known brand in front of millions.
The brand and client I’m talking about is Stan Lee.
(Yes, THAT Stan Lee.)
We worked together with his team to deliver his new IPO—Stan Lee Media—to the world. (If you Google this part of his journey, you’ll quickly discover that the entity no longer exists. There is a reason why, which you can read about online, but that is another story.)
Here’s what I know to be true.
Stan was a most gracious, creative, and kind man.
Of all the stories I have to tell about working with him, this one comes to mind first...
Stan Lee, The Backstreet Boys, & a High Speed Car Chase in Downtown Atlanta
We were in Atlanta getting ready for our press conference at the Georgia Dome with the Backstreet Boys.
We had all the media lined up to come as we were going to announce Stan’s limited time comic book series with the Backstreet Boys called "The Backstreet Project."
As things would turn out, the press conference was delayed due to the media’s attention being diverted to cover a high-speed chase through downtown Atlanta.
Many executives I’ve worked with over time would have had a meltdown over the delay, but not Stan.
He took it in stride. In fact, I can still remember Stan sitting on top of a trash can swinging his legs just chatting about anything like there wasn’t a care in the world.
A Red Carpet Event with Stan & Dick Clark
Flash forward to the time that I found myself leading the initiative for Stan’s Hollywood Gala at Raleigh Studios.
The goal was to have a point-to-point broadcast with other venues around the globe to elevate the convergence of comic book heroes and technology luminaries.
Complete with red carpet and klieg lights, the “who’s who” on both sides of the aisle came out to see and be seen.
Several hours before the event, my GM called me to share that my managing director had been terminated and I was now point on everything. (Yeah, no pressure.)
Stan was so kind and gentle. He said, "I know you can do this, kid." And... I did.
It was an incredible experience to garner press coverage for this event, as Dick Clark played emcee for the night.
Trumped by Another Icon Who Passed
Then there was the time that Stan’s feature interview was to appear on CBS Morning News.
I’ll never forget that Sunday morning when I received the call from CBS to let me know that they would have to air the story another time because Charles Schultz had just passed away and they would be covering that story instead.
Stan took the delay in stride and was glad they could pivot to feature Charles Schultz instead.
A lot was always riding on each high profile event and interview, but Stan took it all with ease.
Lessons from Stan
Each time—no matter how things played out—Stan was relaxed, calm, and cool under pressure.
I learned a lot by working with Stan. He taught me how to:
I will always cherish them.
May your creativity and presence live on with us all for generations to come.
(PS. I have many pictures to post with this somewhere. I'm on the hunt for them now. Stay tuned.)