Client Development

Hawkers and Hookers

In 1971, Xaviera Hollander published her first book titled, “The Happy Hooker: My Own Story.” It sold twenty million copies.

In 1972, I was a student at Vanier College in Montreal, and Xaviera Hollander came to speak about her career. Xaviera’s attendance was the highlight of my school year. The auditorium was packed to the rafters. Students were ignoring all kinds of fire regulations. Every seat was taken and the aisles were packed. When the bell rang for a class to start, those students who wanted to leave had to walk over the stage and within a few feet of her to exit.

For the early seventies, Xaviera was absolutely outrageous. Long before Jerry Seinfeld proclaimed, “Not that there is anything wrong with that,” Xaviera would study the students (both men and women) crossing the stage near her to exit the auditorium, watching them longingly from the back once they had passed her and make comments about how appealing she found them.

At one point she spoke about oral sex and motioning toward the microphone in front of her, she said, “let me show you” and started dipping her head towards the mike before abandoning the effort, laughing, and saying that she probably would get in trouble for doing that.

All in all, Xaveria put on quite the show which I still remember over fifty years later.

I will not get into the substantive things that I learned from Xaviera’s seminar other than to say that I probably should have listened more carefully and taken some notes. It might have come in handy over the years.

But I would like to make a point about her presentation style. She was funny. She was outrageous. She was memorable. She made us laugh. She was authentic (or a reasonable facsimile thereof). She certainly made me want to buy her book.

Young lawyers often do not realize, or want to accept, that they are in sales. “I am no salesperson” they think. “I am a professional.”

Well, I have news for you. There are only two types of professionals. Those who cannot market themselves, and those who are successful.

Perhaps your presentations do not need to be remembered for fifty years as Xaviera’s was. But you do want your audience to think of you fondly for at least a few months so that you will be top of mind when it comes time to hire a lawyer.

Next time that you are planning to speak to a group to promote business, remember that you may be a sophisticated professional, but you are still a salesperson with something to hawk. Think about how you can make your presentation interesting for your audience. And remember to start with a good hook.

This article was originally published by Law360 Canada, part of LexisNexis Canada Inc.

5 replies on “Hawkers and Hookers”

well, as it happens this lovely text about a lecture I once gave 50 years ago has arrived at the person I was then and still am.. HAPPY THOUGH NO LONGER A HOOKER . xAVIERA HOLLANDER living in amsterdam or should I say Amsterdoooom!!! where I run together with my (obviously) younger husband a lovely artistic cozy HAPPY HOUSE BED AND BREAKFAST. to be seen at my website email
tel. amsterdam 00 1 20- 6733934 the rest is history just finished an interesting trilogy called Xaviera’s Happy House 1,2,3.

Hi Murray
Your insightful article reminded me of a time way back in the ’70s when I was facilitating “Job Search Workshops”. One of my favourite opening questions was “How many people here want to work in commission sales.” The response was always unanimous and negative. The reality was quite different as every one of these participants was selling something near and dear to themselves – their attitude, their reliability and their capabilities.

I have to chuckle. I Googled “xaviera hollander vanier college” and your article came up. I attended Vanier from ’72 to ’74 – I still remember “the green room”! I can most assuredly validate at least some of your observations about her “authentic” stage persona; I still recall (fondly) her “oooh” when an attractive female student crossed her path on-stage. And, yes, the house was packed.

Ironically, Hollander was not on my mind a couple of weeks ago – my wife and I just returned from … Amsterdam.

Yes, she was quite something and still is. After I contacted her I received several emails inviting me to stay at her Air B & B in Amsterdam, but I decided that perhaps it was best to keep those memories in the past. As for the green room, I do believe that it was possible to get high just walking past it in the corridor. Great times.

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