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Rush & Katherine, The Rocket Man & The Greek Goddess, Me & My CMP’s

I was honored, along with my brother, to hold one of the 200 invites for Rush Limbaugh’s wedding on June 5th in West Palm Beach at the Breakers. After I told people about it, I got a huge pile of questions about the wedding. It was a great event, attended by a very classy and diverse group of people. I thought I‘d give you a quick rundown of an amazing weekend and share some lessons I learned.

I did some 20-question CMP’s before I went to the event in case I met a few of the people I had seen on the guest list. I’m glad that I did my research before I went – it came in handy. There is nothing like knowing a little more about someone you’ve just met than simply seeing them on TV or hearing them on the radio.

I met my brother at the airport on Friday afternoon. That night, there was a special Hawaiian Luau reception for all the guests. Rush and his new wife Katherine love Hawaii (along with a couple other people I know like Nick Frost), therefore the luau theme.

During the course of the reception on Friday, someone reached out and called, “Hey Houston!” I was a bit startled and went over to the man who called out my home city. (Note: I was not wearing a cowboy hat or Elvis belt buckle or cowboy boots, and I think I was the only person from Houston there.) First lesson: Be prepared. You never know if someone is doing their homework on you!

The man’s name was Mark Cumins, who owns the TBonz restaurant group out of Charleston, West Virginia. He introduced me to many of the guests and also to his wife, Noula Cumins. Noula is Greek and resembles the Greek Goddess Aphrodite, so it didn’t hurt to have some Greeklish in my vocabulary.

After that, Noula hand-carried me to everyone who I wanted to meet that night who was in the room. We started with legendary broadcaster Al Michaels. Having done some CMP work on Al, I asked him to do his Howard Cosell impersonation, which, after some prompting, he did. He also remembered the only time he was in Provo, Utah to call a game, which I was impressed with. One of our owners, Keith Shipman, was in Provo over 25 years ago and was there with Al Michaels. What an amazing memory.

I then thought it would be cool to meet Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. After all, my Jeanie in a Bottle was willing to take me to anyone I wanted to meet. Again, I had done my CMP work on Justice Thomas, and I knew he was an avid University of Nebraska football fan. I met him and his wife Virginia, who is from Omaha, a close 45 minutes from where I was born in Lincoln. To say that Justice Thomas and his wife are two of the nicest people I have ever met does not do them (no pun intended) justice. I hope to go to a Nebraska football game with Justice Thomas in the future and, of course, with Rush as well, since he’s also a Nebraska fan.

On Friday night, the list of people I met goes on and on. Some of the people that really stuck out with me were:

* Fred Thompson, Tennessee Senator and famed Hollywood actor. (Law & Order, The Hunt For Red October, Die Hard 2, and on and on)
* James Carville. (I’ll save that story for another day.)
* Hall of Fame 3rd baseman George Brett. (I was a huge Kansas City Royals fan growing up.) I had a great time over the weekend with George and his wife Leslie.
* Vince Flynn, 11-time bestselling author and his wife Lisa. Vince writes fiction best sellers that focus around terrorism, and you might have seen him interviewed on TV.
* The whole Fox News crew was there, complete with Sean Hannity, Megan Kelly, and Bill Hemmer to name a few.
* I also met radio talk show host Mark Levin, who I thought was impressive.
* Former New York City Mayor Rudy Guiliani and his wife.

I could go on and on, and I’m leaving out many people who I met over that weekend. I will not forget them in my electronic Rolodex database, though, and in my 20-question customer profile.

Mark Cumins also mentioned to me that he knew Harvey McKay, who, when I first started my speaking career, was my mentor from a distance, having seen him at the RAB when I first got into broadcasting. I patterned my speaking style after my father and Harvey. I look forward to meeting Harvey in the future; his “Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive” is still my favorite business book of all time. Over the weekend, with help from Noula, everyone was within an arm’s reach. The big lesson I learned with Mark and Noula was this: Never be afraid to reach out to anyone, as they did to me.

On Saturday, we had the wedding at 5:00pm, and it was even better than you think it was. Everything was first class, as Rush and Katherine didn’t spare expenses. We went to the reception where two special toasts were made that night, one by Justice Thomas and one by Al Michaels.

After the reception, at 10:00pm, we were ushered into a special room with what was supposed to be a surprise performer. None other than Sir Elton John came out to perform. If you know anything about politics, Elton and Rush don’t exactly have the same political views, so it was quite interesting to see Elton performing there.

He was more than amazing. I saw Sir Elton John at the Woods Pavilion in Houston about 15 years ago with a full symphony orchestra and backup singers. He was good then, and on June 5th, he was simply great. It didn’t hurt that we were close enough to smell the varnish on the piano. After one song, he stood up and asked the audience (about 350 of us or so) if we wondered why he was performing that night. Of course, we all wanted to know. He then told us of being at his favorite hotel in Honolulu, where Rush and Katherine were staying. Rush had heart problems during that stay, and he was taken back home. Katherine remained in Hawaii with her family and knew Elton John was there. Rush wanted Elton to perform at the wedding, though Rush’s agent, upon asking Elton John’s, told him, “I know you’re not going to want to do this.”

As Elton said, “Never challenge me as I will find a way to do it every time.” He accepted. Elton told the story that night and finished the story with this: “I want to be known as a builder of bridges, not a builder of divisions.” That was very classy. His performance of Rocket Man and Bennie and the Jets is something I won’t soon forget. That bridge was built with a cool million for one hour. Not a bad fee.

I had a flight to Washington, D.C. on Sunday morning at 6am from WPB, so the rest of the night and early morning was quite a blur. It was quite the weekend. Thank you to my brother Terry for making it all happen. Now I know why you live in L.A., or as the nickname Mark gave Terry says it, ”Lower Alabama”. Here’s another lesson: Never take yourself too seriously.

Congratulations Rush and Katherine. Thank you for exceeding this guest’s expectations. In person, Rush is a bit different than you might realize if you’ve only been exposed to him on the radio or TV or appearances. His wife Katherine is quite the lady. I’m sure you’ll be hearing more from her in the future.

Finally, here’s one huge lesson: Don’t forget to do your research and your CMP’s. Know something about the people you might meet. You never know…you just might meet them.

I’ll be making a trip to Charleston, South Carolina soon to hopefully return the many favors that weekend from Mark and Noula.

My ears are still ringing…

And I think it’s gonna be a long long time
Till touch down brings me round again to find
I’m not the man they think I am at home
Oh no no no I’m a rocket man
Rocket man burning out his fuse up here alone

Sean Luce

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