From the moment of his arrest, Mr. Blagojevich struggled to cope with the sudden crush of demand from news bookers and reality-show producers. Who were these people? Eventually, Mr. Blagojevich hooked up with a publicist specializing in crisis management named Glenn Selig. “Just as I was marching into the abyss, Glenn came into my life and helped me navigate,” said Mr. Blagojevich.
A few minutes later, Mr. Selig, a former investigative reporter whose PR firm is based in Florida, returned from a phone call and took a seat at the deli table alongside Mr. Blagojevich and Mr. Breslin. “Early on, there was a method to the madness, but I don’t think a lot of people understood what was going on,” said Mr. Selig. “People thought he was crazy. People thought I was crazy. But there really was a method.”
Mr. Selig said that from the start, the strategy was to push Mr. Blagojevich back into the public eye. “To fight this, people have to understand who he is and what makes him tick,” said Mr. Selig. “You don’t do that by hiding in the corner.”
At the same time, Mr. Blagojevich was facing mounting legal bills and needed money. TV could help with that, too. Mr. Selig vetted a handful of potentially lucrative offers. Most were too outrageous to consider. For example, at one point, Dennis Hof, the Nevada bordello operator and good-natured pimp-about-town, approached Mr. Blagojevich about joining the long-running HBO series Cathouse, set in Mr. Hof’s Moonlite BunnyRanch. Mr. Selig didn’t think that working as an understudy pimp at a TV whorehouse was the right positioning for his client. Ditto the offer to endorse a Blago-shampoo marketed in a phallic-shaped bottle.
“It actually smelled pretty good,” Mr. Blagojevich chimed in. “Like peaches.”
More tempting was a production company interested in an all-access reality show about the Blagojevich family. “Me buttering my daughter’s toast, and all that stuff,” said Mr. Blagojevich. “They offered good compensation. But it didn’t feel right to us.”
Shortly thereafter, Mr. Blagojevich warmed to another idea. The producers of the ABC reality show I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here!, in which a handful of famous people square off in a series of wilderness competitions, wanted Mr. Blagojevich for its second U.S. season. One of his many heroes is Teddy Roosevelt. Mr. Blagojevich had once read a book called My Last Chance to Be a Boy, about Roosevelt’s expedition to South America in 1913. “I thought this could be my modern day way of being Teddy Roosevelt going on safari,” said Mr. Blagojevich.
As part of the criminal investigation, Mr. Blagojevich, however, had been forced to surrender his passport. He filed an appeal, but the judge turned him down. So the producers came up with an alternative plan. Send your wife! So Patti Blagojevich disappeared to Costa Rica while Mr. Blagojevich stayed home with his daughters, who are 6 and 12 years old. “Talk about a reality show,” said Mr. Blagojevich. “Somebody should have told me you’re not supposed to feed them Coca-Cola late at night. They bounce off the walls.” When Mr. Blagojevich snuggled up with his daughters and watched his wife eat a tarantula on national TV, the 6-year-old cried. “Boy, watching that, I felt like it should have been me,” he said. “I felt terrible for Patti.”
Follow Felix Gillette via RSS.