In the performing arts, as in politics, there are “handlers.” They occupy a role just a fraction of a degree from the center of attention but buried in shadow. The purpose of a handler is to bring out the extraordinary qualities of the person they serve. They are many things — counselors, coaches, flack-catchers, confidants – but there is one thing they do better than anyone else and it is what makes them indispensable: they understand, as no one else does, the ambitions and dreams of the person they “handle.”
And understanding that dream (because, of course, they share it as if it were their very own) they tap the extraordinary abilities of the person beside them. Without them, those qualities may be squandered or simply evaporate because often extraordinary ability is paired with extraordinary failings. (More proof – if we needed any — that our creator has a wry sense of humor.)
Being a “handler” requires an unusual skill set: patience, cleverness, humility born of arrogance, an ability to read your master’s moods, to sway with them, to know when to push and when to cede, when to berate and when to laud.
As a job, it is a strange one, since often a handler who is so adept at managing their quarry, their client, their object of desire, is at the same time, a disaster at managing their own life or chasing their own dreams.
A handler lives through the one they handle. Part coach, part shrink, part taskmaster, a handler knows his client’s every weakness as well as his strengths. A good handler knows just when to exploit an insecurity for the cause, just when to upbraid and cajole the Godhead, but also to never push so far as to destroy the source of the magic.
The rude truth is that without the handler to gather the fragments and put them together, the magic would not happen, the crowd would not jump to their feet in adoring applause, the eyes would not fill with moist tears. Their efforts and absolute sacrifice to the dream make the dream come true.
Because of the handlers, magic happens. But like any good magician, no one sees their sleight of hand.