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Handle the Heat Like Clooney (Theatrical version: shorter article)

With a little prodding, I can get my friend John Hicks to talk about the time he got a small part in the Coen brothers’ classic movie, “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”

One of John’s principle memories of the experience was the heat. The political rally scene in which John had his part was shot at the beautiful Southern Heritage Foundation Museum in Vicksburg, Mississippi. At the time, the building didn’t have air conditioning, which wouldn’t have mattered much except that they were shooting in the Deep South in the middle of July. All of the actors and extras were dressed in period costume made chiefly of wool, and the room was packed with people and hot lights.

At one point, Charles Durning (playing Pappy O’Daniel) sat in a chair mid-stage, facing the audience while getting his hair restyled between takes. Unbeknownst to Durning, George Clooney tip-toed up behind him, motioning for the audience not to laugh and give him away. Clooney stealthily took the comb and scissors from the stylist and proceeded to pantomime styling Durning’s hair. The entire audience and crew erupted in laughter while Clooney pretended to be Durning’s stylist. Eventually, Clooney let Durning in on the gag and Durning joined in the laughter.

John said that behavior was typical of Clooney during the three-day shoot. He showed up for the gig without an entourage, posed for pictures and signed autographs when asked, and otherwise acted like a regular guy. He always had a cheerful word for cast and crew alike and did his part in keeping everyone’s spirits elevated during the hot, grueling shoot.

You always find out what you’re made of when the heat is turned up, don’t you? All of us can play nice when the weather is fair and there are cool breezes blowing. But how do you act when things get hard? When everyone is working in less-than-ideal circumstances? When you’re being asked to do things differently than normal?  When the people you deal with are rude? When everyone around you is melting in a wave of fear, distrust, and anger, how do you respond?

The past several months dealing with COVID-19 haven’t been pleasant for anyone, and nobody knows what the rest of the year looks like. But I can tell you this. People are watching you to see how you behave when the heat is on.

The stage is set. The actors are in place. Will you set the tone for your team, or will you lose your cool?

© 2020 Charles Marshall. Charles Marshall is a nationally known humorous motivational speaker and author. Visit his Web site or contact him via e-mail at

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