Michael J. Fox: 'Could they laugh at somebody they knew was sick?'

“Back to the Future” star gives wide-ranging interview on ASI Radio

TREVOSE, PA – October 12, 2010 – Michael J. Fox discussed overcoming the challenge of his Parkinson’s diagnosis by recognizing opportunities and becoming an activist on ASI Radio on Tuesday.

He appeared on the b-to-b radio program the “voice” of the promotional products industry to promote an upcoming speech entitled “Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist” he’s giving January 25 at an ASI trade show in Orlando. To listen to the interview, click here or go to www.asicentral.com/radio.

“Fox was exactly what I’d expect: Frank, funny and fast,” said Timothy M. Andrews, president and chief executive officer of the Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI). “He didn’t dodge a single question and barreled through the interview in his unmistakable voice. He talked about everything from overcoming challenges to the way to his wife calls him ‘Mr. Mayor’ when they stroll the streets of New York because of all the people who recognize him.”

Here are some edited excerpts from the interview:

Q: How did you react when first diagnosed?
A: Obviously, it was a shock. I was 29-30, and not thinking about Parkinson’s. I thought it was something elderly people got. I originally thought I had a physiological injury and it turned out to be neurological. It took a while to sink in. Then, it was just a matter of dealing with it. But accepting it is not the same as being resigned to it. Second, it was becoming an activist.

Q: What does it take to battle the disease while becoming a force for change?
A: When you face struggle, you face the truth of it. You go moment to moment. When you do that, you don’t recognize loss, you recognize opportunity.

Q: When you were acting full-time while balance Parkinson’s, what was your most challenging day?
A: It was a series of days, while doing “Spin City,” before I’d disclosed I had Parkinson’s, when I was performing in front of a live studio audience. I was twisting, grinding and shaking, waiting for my pills to take effect, thinking “Could they laugh at somebody they knew was sick?” I had to go moment to moment and concentrate on the goal. The audience always laughed, thank god.

Q: Do you need to find your own personal happiness in order to succeed in business?
A: When you find happiness in life, you find it in business. When I was first diagnosed, I worked non-stop. A doctor said I had 10 good years left to work and I wanted to fill that up. But then I started to realize how crazy that plan was. I was in New Zealand for five months working while my family was back in New York. And I’m thinking “This is nuts.” You’ve got to try and find balance in your life to be able to bring more to your work. Nothing I accomplished would be possible without my family.

Q: You’ve enjoyed a very successful career. What achievement are you most proud of?
A: Being able to raise a family outside the business while living in New York. We get to deal with people from all walks of life, which gives my family a wider experience.

Q: My favorite role was in “The American President” when you played the assistant to the president, Michael Douglas. What’s your favorite?
A: From a pure acting challenge, playing in “Rescue Me” with Denis Leary. It was so cool. I played a bitter, paraplegic guy in a wheelchair. When Denis first called me about it I said, “You do realize with my condition I can’t stop moving? And you want me to play someone in a wheelchair?” I’ve also recently been in episodes of “The Good Wife” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” Usually, the last thing I’ve done is the most fun. Now, I’m involved in fundraising for Parkinson’s and moving the dial a little bit in this mission.

About ASI
The Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI) is the largest media and marketing organization serving the advertising specialty industry, with a membership of over 26,000 distributor firms (sellers) and supplier firms (manufacturers) of advertising specialties.  Supplier firms use ASI print and electronic resources to market products to over 22,000 ASI distributor firms.  Distributor firms use ASI print and electronic resources, which contain nearly every product in the industry from more than 3,500 reputable suppliers, to locate supplier firms and to market services to buyers.  ASI provides catalogs, information directories, newsletters, magazines, websites and databases, and offers e-commerce, marketing and selling tools.  Visit ASI online at asicentral.com and on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, the CEO’s blog and the ASI Social Network.