Lulu’s husband Lorne Whitney was also a piece of work. I privately called him Cage Boy as he used to be a UFC fighter years before. It was also a reference to his in-your-face management style I had the misfortunate to experience my last couple of years at Lulu’s firm. The worst thing of all is that Lorne was another obnoxious fool who knew nothing about public relations but he would still try to manage me on campaigns even though he wasn’t my boss.
Lorne was a tall, bald Caucasian man in his early forties with a muscular physique that he had maintained since his fighting days. He still looked the part of a fighter. Lorne seemed strangely distant when I first met him. I remember Lulu telling me that he hated to socialize, and not to take his cold attitude personally.
My first troubling encounter with Lorne occurred shortly after I joined the Yilmaz Agency. My small business magazine contact was looking for a cover story of their Orange County edition and asked me if I had any candidates. This was the same publication that featured our airline client in a cover story I detailed in my earlier blog about her photoshoot meltdown.
I ran the editor’s request past Lulu and she suggested Lorne would be a good candidate for the article. I arranged for Lorne to be interviewed for the story, and when the cover story came out Cage Boy was blown away. He sent me several emails praising me and he eventually had the article framed at his office and home.
“He’s never had anything like that,” Lulu said. “He wants to do something for you.”
I told her that it wasn’t necessary as I was just doing my job and trying to help her and him out. I didn’t think it was a big deal, but Lorne did.
I soon discovered the dark side of Lorne after he invited me as his guest to watch a UFC fight event that his company was putting on a Saturday night. I thanked him but I told him I already had plans and couldn’t attend. I actually didn’t have plans, but there was no way I was going to spend Saturday night with Lorne and Lulu after another horrible and stressful week at her agency. Fuck that. And on top of that, I am not a UFC fan.
Lulu assured me that I didn’t have to go and it was OK if I had other plans, but I guess it was important to Lorne that I was there. He apparently was insulted that I had refused his invitation. After he sent me a short email saying that he understood and it was no problem, I never heard from him again for a couple of years. I didn’t care as dealing with his wife was bad enough.
As I soon discovered, no good deed went unpunished when it came to Lulu and even her family.
Fortunately, Cage Boy didn’t work with Lulu’s agency in my first couple of years there, as he had started a TV UFC company. Through years of public relations help and advice from Lulu, before I joined the firm, (not to mention free PR help from the agency staff), his UFC company was acquired by a large corporation for hundreds of millions of dollars. So now Cage Boy was rich, and he bought a huge home for him and Lulu in a gated community. No doubt the money made him even a bigger asshole. Not surprisingly, he was forced out shortly after the corporation bought his company. Then he started hanging out around our agency, pretending to be a cool entrepreneur.
Lulu told me she wanted Lorne to help us out to find clients and he started to join me and Lulu on new business meetings. Lorne would try to leverage his UFC business success to our potential new clients, who seemed impressed at first. Several clients that we secured from Cage Boy’s business leads soon realized he was clueless and it was all a front.
Lulu, unfortunately, started including Lorne in our agency’s client work. Lorne would say that “he knew nothing and that we were the experts” and then he would proceed to tell us how to do our jobs, specifically how to write pitch letters and press releases and new business proposals. He would put on the act that he was knowledgeable in business and PR but it was all an aggressive lie.
Lorne was right – he knew next to nothing when it came to public relations writing, media and client relations — and he should have listened to our expertise. I wondered what he was doing there as he was only making a horrible situation worse.
The trouble began when Cage Boy edited and drastically revised our press release and pitch letter for a VPN client he helped us land. Cage Boy turned our creative but solidly written copy into slick bullshit writing full of hyperbole and claims. It resembled bombastic advertising copy, and he even included exclamation points, which I hate as you know from my previous blog.
He would tell me that my original version was great and that we were the experts of PR writing and then he would foist his lousy, hyped up copy on us. I didn’t know what to do as Lulu seemed to think it was OK.
Then things got even more stressful when Cage Boy demanded we write five different pitch letters for our VPN client which was just fucking overkill. My team members in the Chicago office flipped out and I had to reassure them it would be OK, but I had to wonder.
Two days into the campaign, things took a turn for the worse when Cage Boy started pressuring us about securing media results.
“We got get them results right away or we could lose the client,” Lorne said in a panicked phone call.
“Lorne, we just launched the campaign. We have some promising responses, but securing media results takes time.”
“I know…but we have to be three steps ahead of the client,” Lorne responded. “You guys have to be more aggressive. I want a report every day on how we are making progress.”
“OK. The team is following up with the media and doing our diligence to uncover opportunities,” I said, thinking this guy was a fucking idiot. “We’ll keep you posted.”
I mean, come on. Cage Boy fucked up our PR materials and now he’s hounding us for instant results. It doesn’t work that way. Media relations and PR were not like fighting in a fucking cage. You can’t finesse the media with a takedown move.
Two weeks into their media campaign, our VPN client became unreasonable expecting instant coverage from top media such as the New York Times, L.A. Times, etc. They did this even though we had already received interest and coverage from several top tech publications including Mashable and TechCrunch.
Lorne didn’t defend our team’s work to our client and doubled down on his aggressive efforts to pressure us into securing media coverage. And, of course, Lulu didn’t support us either.
Soon after, we lost the client over an email pitch fuck up by Chicago account executive Marissa Aslan (that I will describe in a later blog) and was relieved as I thought I wouldn’t have to work with Lorne again.
Unfortunately, one of Lorne’s business leads was the online video company that I mentioned previously had hired us to launch a PR campaign. Lulu wanted Lorne to take a hands-on role on the account, which led to more of his noxious micromanagement and pressure tactics. At times, working with Cage Boy felt like I was trapped in some horrible chokehold move. It was a deflating and suffocating experience as my long-time PR expertise was ignored and my creativity was stifled.
Then Lorne took it a step further as he tried to tell me how to speak to our online video client about a Wall Street Journal interview I secured for them.
I told our client that it took some convincing from me to get the reporter to sit down with an unknown startup company in a crowded tech space – online video – that was dominated by YouTube. I felt our client needed to know the work that went into securing a meeting for them with a writer at one of the top financial publications in the world. Our client’s CEO grimaced when I told them the writer was busy and almost canceled the meeting, but I persuaded her to sit down with them anyway at the paper’s New York offices. It was no surprise that our client was typical of many startups I have worked with where they think they have the greatest product or service ever invented and the media should just fall over themselves to cover them. Such delusional business attitudes run rampant in the tech world as I have discovered during the years. I’ve come to believe it is part of the DNA of those entrepreneurs that launch tech startups. Apparently, this understanding eluded Cage Boy.
“You never tell a client something like that,” Cage Boy snapped when we got the elevator after the meeting.
“Lorne, I believe in being honest with our clients letting them know what the media thinks about their companies. I am not going to lie to them,” I responded.
Who the fuck was this idiot? I thought bitterly as I struggled to control my anger. How would he know? Had he ever handled public relations at an agency? It was bad enough I have to deal with Lulu’s ignorant bullshit about PR and now I had to endure her husband’s moronic crap, too? I had been working closely with PR clients for decades and I knew what I was doing.
Lulu agreed with Cage Boy.
“You have to be more careful in speaking with clients,” she said.
Because of that incident, I was not allowed to attend any more in-person meetings with this client.
It also explained Dane Flynn’s hostility toward me concerning this client when he joined our agency a few months later. Cage Boy and Lulu no doubt told him about this incident with our client.
After a while, there were rumblings of discontent from my colleagues the Chicago and New York offices about how difficult Lorne was to work with. I also mentioned to Lulu that I felt Cage Boy was in over his head when it came to public relations work and I would prefer not to have to work with him directly.
Lulu actually listened to us this time, and she decided that Cage Boy wouldn’t be involved in the day to day client work anymore and would only help us in new business meetings and searches.
I was more than a little relieved I wouldn’t have to work with Cage Boy anymore. After Lulu sold her agency the following year, Cage Boy wasn’t part of the deal. Last I heard Cage Boy was trying to put together a union for UFC fighters and he was getting pilloried by the sport’s leaders for being an untrustworthy scumbag who knows nothing about the fight business.
Cage Boy even put on a big showy press conference in the L.A. area to announce his lame UFC union.
Even though I was actually based in L.A., Lorne preferred to work with people in our agency’s Chicago office and I was not involved in helping promote Cage Boy’s press conference. I knew by then Cage Boy was not too happy with my criticism about his work and attitude that I had shared with Lulu.
I didn’t care, though. It was just as well. From what I could tell nothing ever came from Cage Boy’s efforts. No surprise there. Cage Boy was like so many other clueless buffoons I had encountered during my PR career – so full of themselves and lacking in any real talent.
Cage Boy seems a fitting moniker for him in more ways than one.