HUG LAUNCHES SEARCH
FOR POP CULTURE'S HEROES
By Jeff Zaslow
It was a hot day many years ago., You were thirsty, so you
bought a Pepsi, took a swig, and then you said "You've
got the right one, baby." After you swallowed, you issued
a burp that sounded like “Uh huh!”
This was years before Ray Charles cashed in with the same
sentiment. Now you're kicking yourself, knowing that you coined
a phrase that many Americans can't get out of their heads
Think back. There may be other omnipresent slogans, trends
or cultural fads that you thought of first and aren't getting
proper credit for.
Just days ago, a fellow named Jeffrey Sussman was like you
- too bashful to take credit for something that he brought
to the world. But now Sussman has stepped forward to accept
our applause. You can, too.
Sussman is a New York public relations marketing man who
sometimes calls me seeking publicity for his clients. But
now, he is publicizing himself. He has issued a press release:
"THE CLINTON HUG STARTED BY N.Y. PR MAN."
"Remember all the hugging by President Clinton at the
inauguration?" the release asks. "Who planted the
idea? Who started the chain reaction of all those televised
It turns out that last year, he was in a line of everyday
New Yorkers waiting to meet candidate Clinton. Everyone else
shook Clinton's hand politely. But Sussman gave him a warm
"He hugged me back," Sussman recalls. "He
gave me a little perfunctory hug.” But Sussman could
tell Clinton was moved. "It must have impressed him,"
says Sussman, "because he started hugging all those other
people in Washington."
Isn't it possible that Clinton's propensity for hugging began
long before Sussman came into his life? “Of course,
it is,” Sussman allows. "But I'm claiming I gave
him the idea. Why? Because I'm a PR man."
Sussman says he's tired of living in the background, pushing
other people's achievements. "I want to come into the
foreground," he says.
And what does he want for giving Clinton the hug idea? "A
presidential award would be nice," says Sussman. "A
Medal of Freedom. Whatever. Clinton really does know how to
feel people's pain." Sussman says, "He may even
be able to hug away their pain. I think he should forget about
making promises he may not be able to keep. Instead, he should
devote every Wednesday to hugging whoever feels sad or depressed.
They could come to Washington, stand around in the Rose Garden
for a while, get a really good hug, then go home feeling terrific.
"A weekly presidential hug could go a long way to alleviating
the nation's problems, giving people a sense of being loved,
valued, appreciated and all that other good psychological