I met Stephen Henry Fuller (or Steve Fuller, aka ZodiacWarrior) early 2012 in Bangkok. He was a pudgy, amiable chap who liked a laugh and had not a care in the world. We became close for our love of the motor car, swapping automotive stories over good times and icy beers. I learned over the following weeks that he was a car importer, breaking vehicles in the UK to get around tough Thai import laws.
Some weeks later, he called to say his partner was refusing to deal with him on account of some money owed, and this meant he was unable to pay his rent. He explained he was renting a cheap bedsit and if he could get some money to tide him over for a week, it would get him through, as he had some sort of BMW on the next boat coming over. A little perplexed why a man importing a sixty thousand pound car would be living in a 100-quid hovel, I nevertheless agree to help him out.
Months passed, and messages promising payment dates went by, but I did not mind; I was happy to help my friend. It was after one year that Stephen Henry Fuller had seemingly vanished, lost to a sea of missed calls, changed phone numbers, deleted emails and a blocked facebook. I finally caught up with Fuller in January 2013 after receiving an oddly worded email from him, who now is in hiding from the “Bangkok mafia” after ripping them off on one-too-many car deals.
The message told me that I had been too aggressive in chasing him, and that I was to never contact him again. I took this to mean, “Screw you. I’m stealing your money and I feel no shame.”
That was the last I heard of Stephen Henry Fuller, freelance car importer, tax dodger, work permit-bereft and professional con artist.
On the day he collected 20,000 Baht from me, not 15 minutes had passed between my agreeing to lend to him and him running to meet me at the local mall to collect the money. Yet in a year, he had not found 15 minutes to repay it. I understand that in financial difficulty it can be hard to meet obligations; I do not accept that in one year it is impossible for a human being with a sense of self-worth and decency to not to repay a single cent – but Steve Fuller has neither self-worth of decency. His family would be so proud.
This is a man who gladly steals from his friends to continue to be able to sit at home drinking thirty-baht tins of high alcohol Chang in bed, in preference to getting up and working. We’ve all been down on our luck from time to time, but here is a man who has adopted the concept as a lifestyle choice. This is a man who has openly used the good grace of a kind other to set up further money deals to steal from more people. Given the desperate nature of the last email received, there are dozens of people in Bangkok from whom this man has brazenly stolen from.
A strong believer in Karma, I feel that no further interaction or comment is required on my part. What tends to happen to people like this is that their mark on the world passes as brief fissures of interest in the grand scale of our society; small columns in newspaper articles, with titles such as “Western man dies of unknown causes in sex district.” Life tends to sort itself out and sacrifice those who it deems unnecessary to its advancement.
Still, I’ve embarked on an effort in 2013 to be positive and continue to see good in all people and in all situations. I may have lost four hundred pounds, equal to the cost of a rare flight home to see my family, but I have received two things in return. One is that learning the value of another human being is priceless, and that a man who values his own reputation at less than the price of a Kohler toilet is not to be afforded further thought. The other, paradoxically, is that even a thieving dog needs to be handed slivers of fat if it is to survive and go on picking fleas from its ear. I am sure Stephen Fuller will go on to achieve great things, even if right now he is confined to hiding in a stinking Ratchada bedsit.
The final point, and positive note upon which to close, is that in telling this story there is a chance that others who know Steve Fuller will not fall into the same trap. This creates reassuring sustainability, because if Steven Fuller is no longer able to steal from his friendship group, we are empowering his own personal growth and enabling to pick himself out of the gutter.
I welcome emails from anyone else who has tried to help this unscrupulous bastard and has had no joy in getting their gesture repaid: email@example.com
25th August, 2014: UPDATE: “Thank you to everyone who took the time to respond to this post. I have received at least five responses, so if you’ve incurred a personal loss in trying to help this pathological scumbag, you are definitely not alone. Thanks all. DS”
Case Study – “The Cook”
Imagine you have been working as a chef in a small Italian restaurant in your home city for seven years. You wake up one day and decide you need a change of pace and a risky new approach to grabbing life by the balls and making something of yourself; you can’t make pollo carbonara forever.
So you move from Europe to a modern Asian city and decide that you want to put your cooking skills to good use making money by offering a 5-star catering-at-home service. There is a strong appetite (pun intended) for fine Italian cuisine and foreign chefs of distinction in your new city, but so far nobody knows who you are.
If you had money to burn, this is where your PR partner would step in and launch you. However, since we’re new in town and fairly broke, we’re going to “guerrilla” it.
In putting together some sort of PR plan to help us, we need to develop at least a little situational awareness about the market we are operating in – not just for companies, but for would-be celebrities too. Our chef example here is a great case study, as he is both a business and a would-be celebrity.
One approach would be to have a nice photo portfolio made, to write your own one-page biography and short story and start sending it to magazines (a press release).
This will fail for a number of reasons.
Firstly, you are not known to your market, so you have little media magnetism or star power; secondly, you are not known to the media, and so you do not have the personal relationship necessary to even call on a favour.
Now imagine that instead of sending your bio and photos to magazines and newspapers, you send them to some mid-range hotels which you notice are advertising heavily in the very magazines you would love to be featured in.
You offer to provide a free one-hour cooking demonstration in the hotel’s restaurant as part of one of their weekly Sunday brunch offerings; a display in which you will unveil specially crafted rustic dishes in honour of your late grandmother, who created gastronomic treats from locally sourced Mediterranean ingredients, and now you will introduce this incredibly authentic Italian cooking style to your new city.
The hotel loves this because you’re working for free; they will assume you’re famous in Europe because they don’t want to offend you by asking, and they love it also because they now have something to feature in their next (usually boring) Sunday Buffet press release. The magazines are interested in running it because the hotel buys advertising every month and this will keep them from going elsewhere.
And you’re happy, because after sending a couple for emails and spending an hour cooking your favourite dishes in front of a small audience, you’ve walked out of the hotel with everyone taking your picture and uploading the images to Facebook – not to mention your free editorial in a luxury lifestyle magazine next month. You will probably be asked for business cards too, at which point you can introduce your 5-star home dining concept, so you’re pretty much up and running.
Total cost? Zero.
© 2014 D. Swinfen/Phetpraguy Publishing
Zen of PR Thai language pocketbook is available throughout Thailand from B2S and Se-Ed book stores.
Who it’s for
Entrepreneurs, models, MCs, TV presenters, musicians, singers, small business owners, sportspersons, philanthropists, fashion designers, photographers, social media users, DJs, sole traders, artists, chefs, interior designers, politicians, counsellors, club chairpersons, media, PRs, writers, editors, consultants, salespersons, marketers, directors, club members … everyone.
What you’ll learn
Zen of PR brings raw knowledge for anyone looking to grow their public profile or their business. Zen provides top level public relations counselling, explained in beautifully simple language that’s accessible to anyone.
This book contains essential PR skills which enable YOU to get into your first-choice university, get the right job, grow your modelling career, get your art exhibited at the right gallery, encourage newspapers to come to your shop launch, support your committee application or generate a buzz about your invention or new product. It provides ways to save a fortune on advertising and marketing mistakes, and will contribute to making your business or personal journey a successful one.
About the Author
David Swinfen is a public relations editor, magazine contributor and journalist. His writing has been featured on the covers of magazines globally, with over 200 published articles and countless successfully concluded media communication projects.
His work in public relations over the last half a decade has seen him consult with some of the world’s most loved brands, his writing coursing through the PR campaigns of Jaguar Land Rover, TNT Express, Dell, Ford Motor Company, Fujitsu, Remy Cointreau, Reader’s Digest, Accor Hotels, Sheraton, Glenfiddich, Regent Hotels and Guinot Skincare.
Swinfen’s articles have featured on the covers of some of Asia’s finest magazines, such as Prestige, Glamor, Thailand Tatler, Tropical Living, In Residence, Global Coffee Review and Robb Report.
He is dedicated to offering his experience on public relations in a brutally honest, charming, edgy and fun way, for the enjoyment of people not just in business but from all walks of life.
Website (currently under development): www.zen-of-pr.com
“I saw this poem in a dream last night, and present it here unedited, as closely as possible. I found it haunting and yet at the same time it had quite a tranquil nonchalance about it. I look forward to working on one of several interpretations of it.” – D. Swinfen
Cursed good fortune cast to winds entice
Only to bear poison and misgive what taste
Shall it be recompense for its own un’othed deed,
Black as then is now and thrice removed?
What more-say sorry all with hope and promise
Echoing to the sound of its own truculence
Those for whom light countenance dependant for such joy
And trails shall ne’er grace the bright shadows
And polar waypoints until tomorrow be met
Lost to one’s own accursed hand
Waiting in the itchy black outlanding
For all, and to be woken further
Hello, good fortune, waken
And be adieu
©2014 D.Swinfen, via Catalina Publishing. All rights reserved.
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 8,700 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.
Fresh off the back of a two-year personal transformation, Xanny Disjad explains how her journey evolved and what’s next for the ever-popular Brand Xanny and its 50,000+ fans.
I first met Xanny Disjad on a charity trip to Petchabhun. I’d joined a group of people in taking Christmas presents from Bangkok to two schools in the province. Xanny joined later by taxi, chartered at her own considerable expense from Bangkok to Petchabhun – a metered journey of around five hours. It was a remarkable demonstration of care that made me immediately interested in her story, and so upon our return to the capital I decided to arrange an interview with her. The resulting feature was modestly popular, attracting positive comments from Xanny’s followers and fans long before her Facebook flock had swelled in number to beyond 50k.
For some time, a catch-up was due, but between her work and my work, my PR stuff (drinking) and her entrepreneurial activities (actual work), it didn’t come to pass.
Now however, Xanny’s non-modelling initiatives have become promisingly diverse, and so I got a phone call; she invited me to interview her as she wanted to publicise her new ventures, and suggesting the piece would be good for my portfolio. I replied politely that this was not necessary, and that my last interview was with Dita Von Tesse. “Awesome. Let’s do next week,” she replied.
Xanny’s home is in Ploenchit, so we met at Novotel Bangkok Ploenchit Sukhumvit; A) because Dee Lounge is cool, airy, quiet, and right next to the BTS, and B) because it’s very easy to get a hotel to pick up your tab when you rock up with a glamour model.
At the time of our last interview, Xanny’s schedule was so hectic that all we spoke of was modelling assignments, her focus at that time. Now we encounter a broader and more magnificent approach to life and business, and as a result, a more compelling study.
“I am not rich yet, so I cannot use my money to help others,” she begins, in suitably warm rhetoric, “But I can change people’s opinion and visions, help them become more positive, and change them for the better. My words make people calm and happy; I believe that I can make people smile.”
For a long time now, Xanny has wanted to publish a philosophical book based on her experiences, but as someone whose life is “still running, in the middle of my success,” she opts to wait. It doesn’t preclude her from publishing regular philosophical musings on Facebook though, which are a hit with fans and very popular with female followers.
“Sometimes I post philosophical messages, and on one occasion I had almost a hundred girls comment or write me and tell me I inspire them. I’ve always wanted to write about philosophy which is my passion. It is my intention to write a book, or at least a collective of my philosophical musings in some sort of illustrated form, but at 26 I’m still gathering experiences and building perspective. When I’m confident my thoughts will stir others, then I will publish them.”
It is this interest in life, and the lives of others, which brings Xanny to her diversification strategy; Brand Xanny now encompasses lifestyle coaching, travel services, personal concierge and even a forthcoming fashion line.
“I try many entrepreneurial ways to make money,” she says. “Unless you’re in the top echelon of the modelling world, then it’s difficult to receive significant payments from it, so I need to adapt and use the weight of the Xanny brand to power new projects. I don’t do any kind of kinky or rude service, just quality concierge; I do not want people to get the wrong impression and think that they can have a chance with me.”
The type of people that use the service are what Xanny describes as normal, professional people – they have to be respectful and have no unreasonable expectations. They must keep to a distance, but also “look good and speak nicely” – it’s very much event-based, and aims to bring out the guest’s entire colour, allowing them to send a strong message to their clients and important connections.
“I meet my fans and connections from time to time as some of them book my tour services, of which my customers usually comment are really good value – especially for having supermodel Xanny next to you!” she smiles. “I speak very good English and I’m a joyful entertainer, so it’s become a popular service.”
Her life coaching and concierge offerings are built upon the success of her popular web site, www.xannydisjad.com. Xanny has owned this domain from the early days of her modelling career, and the site keeps evolving. She’s concerned with the overall aesthetic, and so personally hand-selects each image. Her fear is that the site is perceived as being overly sexy, and that’s the challenge she is dealing with right now.
“My vision for Xannydisjad.com is evocative and beautiful, focused on art; it’s not hard-core but it definitely is hot; I want it to reflect the fact that I’m a businesswoman and entertainer, not just a model now. The modelling market, especially in Bangkok, is subject to many new low-end entrants. Being a model doesn’t make you look smart, but being a businessperson is respectable and modelling gives you an effective route to that, so I’m looking at how I can build a smart future.”
Presumably for a successful pro working in beauty and fashion, a possible outlet would be cosmetics advertising, but Xanny has a strong view on some of the products she has had thrown at her by would-be beauty suitors. She explains, “The big cosmetic brands only use white skin models. Why? I think this is so stupid; my skin is very dark, and my complexion has always been very good, so why would I want to artificially whiten it? I have friends who have beautiful dark skin and are very proud of their appearance. Why should we use whitening products, which, largely, do not work? My focus is on anti-aging products, and that is something I would look at if I represented anything. I use top quality anti-aging products, and look at my skin; why would I need to wait until the wrinkles appear? I’m almost 27 and I need to consider ways in which I can protect my appearance, my investment in my own future.”
Future cosmetic work? “I probably need stem cell treatment in the next 10 years,” she says with a wry smile, and a look of earnest consideration – the mark of a professional in a true state of self-awareness.
At this point our interview pauses as we both note something burning. We turn to find an American tourist whose newspaper has begun smouldering over the open candle as he reads in the lobby. Staff assist with the incendiary moment, but not with his embarrassment; a smile from Xanny is enough to stultify him post-predicament. Her calming energy is palpable, and something I noticed first time around.
It’s a self-confidence which she conveys with no hint of self-obsession; a difficult trick to master. It explains why she is able to use her own magnetism to grow her brand. “I get a lot of people come up to me and say, ‘Hey Xanny, I’m on your Facebook! Can I get a picture with you?’ I say, ‘Of course you can!’ They’re so appreciative, I love it so much. It reminds me of simple courtesy, of appreciation and respect. I try to treat my fans and people I work with this level of the same.”
Xanny’s warmness and straightforward logic continue to provide new avenues for growth; she looks upon networking and socialising as a form of work, a necessity in reaching out to a broader audience. She would love to do something in real estate, uniting her business brain with people who have this kind of capital but few connections in Bangkok.
There’s also her desire to empower the success of others, based on her experience in modelling. “I want to bring a new model into my web site so I can be manager and be behind the scenes, build the brand, get them to know you, and then get them to like and respect you – so you have to make them luuurve you and cultivate over a period of time! That’s why guys love Brand Xanny! Haha! I want to empower the success of others wherever I can.”
So what of a personal life? Boyfriend? Dating?
“I am single, and have been for a little while now. It’s not fun for me – I don’t like being single. I don’t know why, but having a boyfriend is kind of like my protection from guys that I choose NOT to be with. Any boyfriend I am with has to accept the social pressure because he will have met me because of who I am and where my life takes me, so it’s part of the deal. I am totally dedicated when I am with a boyfriend though.”
Bizarrely, at this point she asks me the same question. “No, dating, but not looking. I wouldn’t date another model!” I lied, over a long-dead cappuccino. Xanny picks up the MP3 recorder from the table and extends it to me, reporter-style. “You’re interviewing me, now?” I joke, as she playfully gets into the role of TV presenter – definitely another possible avenue for her in the future.
“What happened to your leg?” I ask in return, suddenly aware that at least 15 people in the lobby are looking at us. “Oh, mosquito,” she replies, “I’m always busy at home, cooking, running around, and managing my space. I haven’t watched TV for seven years.” It runs in the family too I note, having already enjoyed the privilege of meeting Xanny’s Mum, and seeing her awesomely limitless energy.
We jointly nail what’s left of her balsamic salmon salad, realising that we’ve been chatting for over 90 minutes. I can’t believe tangible friendly intimacy can so immediately mask two years of non-contact.
“I’m always connected to other people, involved in their lives and helping in any way I can,” she says. “My friends are sometimes heartbroken or have a problem – I have good problem-solving skills and I’m strong at lifting people up, raising the mood of others. They talk to me; I cheer them up, make them positive. One day I would love to be a motivational speaker. Let me know if there is anything I can do for you; we should meet again soon.”
Some weeks later, I’m going through the MP3 recording, wondering how to begin transcribing almost two hours of idle chit-chat; I didn’t even prep any questions as I knew it would be unnecessary. I smile every few minutes, thinking back to the conversation and its countless diversions and sub-plots, eventually yielding something that resembles an interview transcription.
I’m struck by how much I talk and how little space I gave her to answer, but then it’s difficult to stop talking when you’re sharing a moment with someone who shows such strong interest in your own life – and in its ambling diversions, of which another indelibly memorable one has been recorded and saved for posterity.