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Although he has had numerous modeling assignments in the Chicago area, Theus' place in the Beefcake Hall of Fame was assured last summer when he made an appearance on Donahue. Phil Donahue was joined by Theus and the underwear poster child of the Baltimore Orioles, Jim Palmer. The freewheeling discussion ranged from sex to the two men's careers to the Bulls' recent selection of Quintin Dailey on the first round of the NBA college draft.
Throughout the show, Theus more than held his" own with the worldly Palmer. So much so that, in Chicago, Reggie became known as the black Jim Palmer, just as actor Billy Dee Williams is sometimes referred to as the black Clark Gable. "I thought Palmer was a nice guy and a very interesting person," Theus says. "It's pretty funny that you mention that now, though, because the underwear I'm wearing has holes in it."
Just kidding, folks. But it makes for good copy and Theus knows it. A social services major before leaving UNLV after his junior year to play in the NBA, Theus has "always wanted to be involved in public relations or the media somehow. It's something that comes naturally to me." In an era when more and more athletes are talking less and less, Theus is eminently quotable.
"Sometimes you think you're a press agent when you deal with him," says Fred Mitchell, who covers the Bulls for the Chicago Tribune. "It's not really negative, though. He just understands the athlete-media relationship better than most."
"I guess most athletes get nervous when a pad and pencil are around, but I don't feel threatened by crowds or reporters," Theus says. "I remember when I was a rookie, other players told me to be careful with the press. I'm just being myself. I'd rather tell you something and elaborate the answer so it's clear than have you go away and try to guess what I was thinking when I said it.
"I just don't understand that adversarial relationship between the two. Sure, there's an amount of mutual trust involved—you know me, I know you and things will go easier. When that's established, if you want to know something, ask me, call me, here's my number. But I've also told people that if I'm misquoted or taken out of context, I'll cut them off and never speak to them again. And I've done it."
But when asked who in the media has burned him, Theus, ever the politician, demurs. "I would never tell," he says with a grin.
The key to Theus' relationship with the media is what he calls "manipulating my environment. I'm comfortable with myself because I understand me. Without that you really can't deal with others. If you haven't built that rapport with yourself, then you often have problems that you can't handle."
Theus is also comfortable with his three-bedroom town house in Highland Park. Tastefully decorated in rusts and earth tones, each of the rooms gives evidence of the good life. The house contains everything from the latest in stereo and video equipment to a 350-pound blue marlin he caught off Hawaii on a trip he took two summers ago with Norm Nixon of the Lakers.
"The shell could be anywhere, but the inside of this house is mine," Theus says. "I want it to reflect a first-class environment because that's how I feel I am. These are things that are conducive to the way I want to live my life.