I fell in love with words while confined to a hospital bed for eight eternally long weeks after I foolishly broke my neck one summer day lifeguarding in Atlantic City, NJ–everyone but myself!
It was a silly, almost slapstick diving accident while I was a young lifeguard in the popular resort where my dad played the violin at the Traymore Hotel and my mom ran our talent business, the Convention Entertainment Bureau, booking musicians and acts for parties and events.
That fateful day after work, I took my lifeboat out into the surf for a muscle-building row and to cool off afterward I dove from it into the ocean onto what, unbeknownst to me, was a sneaky sandbar that had been hiding ominously below, lying in wait—for my neck!
Wonderful! I broke and dislocated my 5th and 6th cervical vertebra. Goodbye that summer!
I would spend it suspended from hooks in my skull, lying flat on my back in the hospital in a striker-frame bed, whereupon I took up reading the complete works of witty Irish playwright, George Bernard Shaw: Pygmalion, Major Barbara, Saint Joan, The Devil’s Disciple, etc.
Ironically, I had cut high school one year, thumbed a ride down to Miami and got a small part playing a very young General Burgoyne in The Devil’s Disciple at the Coconut Grove Playhouse. The director told me as an actor I had a great sense of timing, but I guess it wasn’t working that day when I dove into the ocean.
Lying there in hospital I read all Shaw’s books and plays cover to cover upside down through prism glasses. The glasses enabled me to read his books while resting them on my chest as I could only look straight up at the ceiling. In the aftermath of that death-defying dive has come a torrent of words shooting out of me in five books, a slew of speeches and so many news releases, published articles and blogs, I can’t even count.
I told this neck-breaking story the other day to the actor Andres Perez-Molina, known for Last Call at Murray’s (2016) and No Ordinary Family (2010). During his illustrious Hollywood career, Molina has played supporting roles in such major motion pictures as The Dark Night Rises, La La Land, and the 2009 Star Trek, also recurring roles in such television show as Netflix’s Disjointed, CBS’s Code Black and The Mentalist, and co-starring in such Amazon Prime series as The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Goliath.
He was enthralled with my cervical story as not too long ago he injured his C2 in a fall and like me was nearly paralyzed from the neck down, spending weeks in a wheelchair. Thankfully, like me, he too fully recovered.
My daughter Adrienne and I invited him to join our talent agency, Madden Talent and do some PR for him while he’s taking care of his mother in nearby Parkland. When selling our PR services, I always try to find something in common with the person whom I’m pitching.
So, Andres and I had what you might call a spinal connection.
Besides an inveterate blogger, Tom Madden is an author of countless published articles and five books, including his latest, WORDSHINE MAN, available this December on Amazon. He is the founder and CEO of TransMedia Group, an award-winning public relations firm serving clients worldwide since 1981.