Joe the Plumber hires PR firm as celebrity grows

LIKE all good celebrities, Joe the Plumber has hired a publicity team.

The Press Office in Nashville, where clients include The Beach Boys and rockers Grand Funk Railroad, will help him handle the flood of interview appearance requests that have poured in since he was mentioned during a presidential debate and became a household name.

“It’s like any other celebrity who is in the public eye,” said Jim Della Croce, who owns the agency. “There needs to be someone acting as a clearinghouse and interpreting the opportunities and coordinating the media requests, and he truly is being inundated.”

Despite rumours to the contrary, Joe the Plumber is not planning to release an album, though a book is in the works.

“He’s not doing a country record,” Della Croce said on Thursday. “I think that was an angle that was presumptuous.”

Joe the Plumber, whose real name is Samuel J “Joe” Wurzelbacher, aged 34, of Ohio, gained attention when Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama told him during a campaign stop that he wanted to “spread the wealth around”.

Their exchange about Obama’s tax plan aired countless times on news programmes. Republican nominee John McCain repeatedly cited Joe the Plumber in a debate, saying Obama’s plan would hurt people who want to own their own businesses.

Wurzelbacher campaigned for the Republican ticket on his own bus tour around Ohio this week and appeared with Sarah Palin on Wednesday. His name comes up at almost every rally.

But with the election next week, what’s next?

“Certainly Joe will go down in history and will be a celebrity regardless of which way the election turns,” Della Croce said. “He is a curiosity. He’s touched a nerve with the common man, and people are curious as to what’s on his mind. I think he speaks for a lot of people.”

So many, apparently, that he needs three managers at the agency, among them country singer Aaron Tippin. Wurzelbacher met Tippin, also a McCain supporter, when they appeared on former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee’s Fox News show.

The scrutiny hasn’t always been kind to Wurzelbacher, who turned out to be an unlicensed plumber with unpaid back taxes.

At first, he insisted he wanted no part of the spotlight and predicted he’d be a small footnote in the campaign.

“I’m a flash in the pan, a novelty. It’s going to be a fun couple of days.” It has lasted much longer than that.

Della Croce has managed rock stars, but Joe the Plumber is a special case.

“Never in 25 years have I seen this level of interest in a celebrity,” Della Croce said.

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