Scott Lazerson: From High School Wallflower to Celebrity Super Power
If you asked Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan or Larry King, "Who is Scott Lazerson?" They'd probably tell you he is a charity fund-raising genius and one of the nicest guys on the planet. If you asked anyone in his Virginia high school senior class about him, they'd probably scratch their heads and say, "Scott who?" His story just goes to show that your reputation in high school does not have to dictate the rest of your life.
"It's not that I had a bad reputation, or that I was a nerd or anything like that," he explains. "It's just that I wasn't around much. I was on a club swim team -- we didn't have a swim team at my high school, so no one knew or understood what I was doing four to five hours a day and on weekends." Swimming taught him discipline and determination, but it didn't win him any popularity contests.
Once he got to college, however, he decided he was done with the green hair, dry skin and chlorine smell that characterize a competitive swimmer. Instead he started focusing on academics, community service and socializing, which eventually got him to where he is today -- one of the country's best known networkers. He introduces people so they can achieve common goals. Mostly, he matches celebrities and corporations with charities.
It's all about who you know
"I don't consider myself a publicist," he explains. "I'm all about philanthropic strategy." That strategy involves using those with big voices (celebrities, executives) to help those with no voice at all -- the poor, the sick, the impoverished. Scott's Interface Foundation, for example, got Paris Hilton down to a maternal health care clinic in Guatemala, Lindsay Lohan to India to make a documentary about child trafficking, and Jeremy Piven and Lance Bass working on the Stop Hunger Now program, which provides nutritional meals for school lunch programs across the globe. He also worked with Eva Longoria on a reality pilot called 'The Philanthropist.
"Scott's like a charity wizard," says Lindsay Lohan's mother Dina. "He always knows the right places to put the right people to make real results happen."
So how did he go from swimming geek to celebrity chic? Well, when he wasn't studying, he was involved in charitable activities with organizations like Martha's Table, which drives food trucks around Washington, D.C., to feed the homeless. He also served a two-year community service mission for his church. Eventually, his congenial nature led him to make friends with a tall, attractive blonde named Shawn Southwick, who would soon go on to become Larry King's wife. He danced at their wedding reception.
The Kings knew that Scott was into charity, so they asked him to be the executive director of the Larry King Cardiac Foundation. At the age of 27, Scott found himself rubbing elbows with the likes of Donald Trump, Celine Dion and Tommy Mottola. Wasn't that a bit intimidating?
"It's not a question of being shy or intimidated, it's a question of being committed," Scott says. "There are people who cannot afford cardiac care, and I could be their voice. The bottom line is that when you're committed to the mission of the charity, you can make magic happen."
Not commitment phobic
All that commitment hasn't come at the expense of being committed. Scott's wife, Heidi, is an award-winning children's clothing designer, and they have five children, ages 16, 13, 10, 8 and 3. Heidi happily holds down the fort while he's traveling to third world countries; but at times, the family gets to come along for some eye-opening experiences -- like when they all moved to Spain to organize a philanthropic summit that raised millions for charities all over the world.
So how, you may ask, does one actually make a living at this? Much of what he does involves introducing the right people to the right people -- he's sort of a matchmaker between media outlets, celebrities, executives and charities. That's a little hard to quantify. Scott's personal services, via his company Mediathropic, can be had for a retainer fee starting at $5,000 per month.
Every now and then Scott catches a bit of flack for capitalizing on his friendships with the rich and famous and "charging for introductions." "I don't charge for introductions," he says. "I work with companies that employ media specialists. I'm a strategist who can open doors, and I become part of their team."
Recently, for example, Scott took Martha O'Gorman, CMO of the $300-million Liberty Tax company, to New York, where they met with media friends at 'The View,' NBC's 'Today' show, Forbes, Fox News' 'Hannity' and 'On the Record with Greta Van Susteren.' Within the week, Liberty Tax CEO John Hewitt appeared on Fox Business News' 'Varney & Co.' Liberty Tax is involved with Stop Hunger Now and the March of Dimes, among other charities.
Coming to Lindsay Lohan's reputation rescue
Scott's most pressing project at the moment is organizing a trip to South America with Dina, Ali and Michael Lohan, Lindsay's mother and siblings, to set up a sustainable health clinic for those who live in or near city dumps. Lindsay is otherwise engaged, of course, but her family has caught the charity bug, and is doing projects on their own.
"They are such good people," says Scott of the Lohans, "in spite of everything you hear. The Lindsay I know is more like the little girl in 'The Parent Trap.' Hollywood is a hard town -- everyone, famous or not-so-famous, is addicted to something. Lindsay is vulnerable, loving and kind, and I just want to protect her. She's fun, funny and intelligent, and she knows what's up."
There goes Scott again, speaking up for those in need. He's had the remarkable savvy to create a job for himself being friends with major celebrities, and bringing comfort to the afflicted. Wouldn't it be nice?
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