By Donna Thornton/News Editor
The stars of “Duck Dynasty,” the hit A&E reality TV show, get about 200 request for speaking engagements every day, said Phil Robertson.
If there’s an emperor in the “Duck Dynasty,” it would be Phil – creator of the Duck Commander duck call that forged the family fortune and the led to the television show that features three generations of the Louisiana family.
While Phil and his oldest son Alan Robertson were signing autographs and merchandise at Martin’s in Rainbow City (and their wives, Miss Kay and Lisa, were at the Gadsden Mall), son Jase had another appearance in Alabama, and even the family grandchildren do speaking engagements. Robertson said a company in California takes the requests and sorts through them to determine if they are right for the family and which family member might be best suited to the event.
“You have to keep it organized or it can get out of hand,” Robertson said. “Then we go forth with our wives in tow, and our Bibles,” he added.
Many of their appearances are fundraisers, like the two sold-out speaking engagements at Gadsden State’s Wallace Hall July 13.
Chris Mickle of Rainbow Church of Christ was involved in organizing the speaking engagements and worked with Martin’s on the autograph event as well.
He said the church wanted to stage a large event and decided Rainbow of Hope, a transitional home for women coming out of jail or recovering from substance abuse, would be a worthy beneficiary.
The success of the event was evident from the time tickets went on sale. Within hours, both engagements sold-out. The price – very affordable for an event of this kind – were $20. Filling Wallace Hall’s 1,200 seats twice is expected to bring in around $40,000 for Rainbow of Hope.
In the early hours of the signing event at Martin’s the crowd was huge, circling the aisle that circles inside the store.
Later in the day, the lines were shorter and less hectic, as the Robertsons signed photos, shirts, and even a cell phone cover or two.
Heather Tierce of Centre said she and eight-year-old daughter Raegan had been there earlier in the long line and came back for a second visit when they heard it was much less hectic. Raegan said she’s a big fan of the show.
“You don’t have to worry about what’s going to be on there while your kids are watching,” Tierce said of the show.
Mickle said the decency of the show, and the background of the Robertsons is part of what made them ideal for the event.
“Everything you see on reality tv is shock and awe,” Mickle said. “Duck Dynasty” offers something different: a quirky but functional family, that ends each show sitting down to dinner, with Phil offering the blessing for the meal.
Robertson said he’s not sure that’s what A&E had in mind.
He recalled a speaking engagement at the Super Bowl, when he was supposed to – and did – talk about duck calls. But Robertson said he told the crowd, “I think I’m going to preach you a little sermon now.
“It got real quiet,” Robertson said. “People started trying to hide their beers.”
The next day, he said, his phone was ringing non-stop.
That was 30 years ago, he said, and people continue to call and to come to hear a message that Robertson said will always have “spiritual overtones.”
“I never thought I’d get that kind of reaction from one gospel sermon,” Robertson said.
“I don’t see the downside of loving God and loving your neighbor, for the life of me,” he continued. If you have car trouble in a dark alley at 3 a.m. and see 10 guys coming toward you with something in their hands, Robertson asked, wouldn’t you prefer they be holding Bibles?
Robertson mentioned that some people have told him he should run for president, but “I don’t think America is ready for that.”
He said his foreign policy would move foreign aid from countries now receiving it and send it to Canada, with goal of getting more ducks to come south.
As for the future, when season four of “Duck Dynasty” airs, it will feature oldest son Alan, a 47-year-old minister and a rarity – a clean-shaven Robertson.