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People: Steve Hauptman's Closeup

Steve Hauptman. (Photo by Lauren Schenkman. Click for larger image.)

If Incident Investigation Program Manager Steve Hauptman's friendly face looks familiar, it might not just be from seeing him around SLAC. Over the past year, friends and co-workers have spotted Hauptman on the History Channel, Lifetime, AMC and CBS, in a minute-long commercial for a diabetes supply company.

"The experience was priceless," Hauptman said. "Seeing myself on TV was just the icing on the cake."

It all started a little over a year ago with a phone call from a market research company, asking whether Hauptman would be interested in answering a few questions in person about living with diabetes. He agreed, and when he arrived he was told the interview would be filmed.

"They had lights on, the camera rolling, makeup on me," Hauptman said. While he enjoyed the experience, he didn't expect it to lead anywhere. But within weeks the phone was ringing with a request to tape another conversation. Although Hauptman said he only did it for the laughs and the pocket money, it wasn't long before an advertising company was offering to fly him down to Los Angeles to shoot a national commercial. He was thrilled.

"It's great to get off the plane and have someone waiting there, holding a sign with your name on it," Hauptman recalled of his landing in Los Angeles. He was rushed to the studio for a costume fitting, and then chauffeured to his hotel. By coincidence, he was staying in the same room where classic rock legend Janis Joplin died in 1970. "I'm a big Janis fan," Hauptman said. "It was spooky."

In the morning, it was time for Hauptman's close-up. "The studio was a big open space, and they had a corner blocked off with a blue background," he said. With the cameras rolling, Hauptman was asked to talk about life with diabetes. "They really do put lights in your face. There was a camera in front of me and to the side, and the person questioning me was right next to one of the cameras."

The filming was over in a few hours, leaving the rest of the day free for Hauptman to explore Hollywood and even take a few steps on the red carpet. The Oscars were being filmed that evening at the Kodak theater, just around the corner from his hotel.

"I thought, 'I could get used to this,'" Hauptman said, laughing. "It's nice being in show business—or 'the biz,' as we call it."

When he first saw himself on TV, he was excited, but also surprised. "I didn't realize how much like a New Yorker I sound!" said Hauptman, who left the Big Apple in the 1970s. But the commercial's content is no surprise to those who know Hauptman personally.

"A lot of people when they hear that they have diabetes believe that life is over for them. But I'm here to say that in fact it's not," Hauptman says in the ad. It takes only a few minutes with the cheerful, wise-cracking New Yorker to realize it's not just a sound bite.

"Diabetes is not going to stop me from enjoying myself," Hauptman said. As a safety professional, he hopes his frank words in his small-screen debut will send a more important message—that people with diabetes shouldn't be afraid of talking about their condition with friends and co-workers. "It's nothing to be ashamed of. It's a fact of life," Hauptman said. "The people close to you should be made aware." At SLAC, he said, telling co-workers means making sure the medical department knows, too.

"Regardless of what it is, any medical condition shouldn't be kept a secret from the medical department," Hauptman said. "It's up to you to alert them."

Knowing he'll be given the right treatment in the case of an emergency means Hauptman can focus on more important things—like enjoying life. He was doing just that when the advertising studio called him again, asking him to film a second commercial.

"They wanted me to do it again, but I had to turn it down. I was with my wife on a rock-and-roll theme cruise, with twenty-seven bands," Hauptman said, his eyes lighting up with the recollection. He laughed. "You know, nothing stops me."

—Lauren Schenkman
SLAC Today, March 11, 2009