RING, RING. Hello, I'm sorry. I can't come to the phone right now, and I hope you'll forgive me for the inconvenience. But if you'd like to leave a message, please do so at the tone. I'll be sure and get back to you as quickly as possible. Remember, at the tone. Thank you."
The tenor is sugar and spice and everything nice, and, no, Reggie Theus can't come to the phone right now because he's very, very busy. Almost two hours before a game with the New York Knicks, the Chicago Bulls' 6'6½" guard is taping a television interview.
"Yes, the seven-game losing streak is tough but...."
After he gets dressed and shoots warmups, there's another interview.
"Well, we had a team meeting yesterday and I think...." Then yet another station collars Theus. "Tonight's game is important and I have a good feeling...."
It's easy to understand why Theus (rhymes with FREE-us) is in such demand. Since joining the Bulls four years ago out of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, he has been the only glamorous member of what has been for the most part a drab Chicago team. In fact, Theus is so handsome, witty and urbane that he has come to be regarded by many women as a kind of matinee idol.
In the NBA, matinee idols perform mostly at night, which is why, after a 26-point game in a 91-85 Chicago win, Theus' work still isn't done. Outside the players' exit half an hour later there's Theus happily bussing the mother of a friend and here's Theus drawing a shy autograph seeker into conversation. And there's Theus making postgame plans with some friends.
"I find all the attention rather flattering," Theus says. "It's cold out there, and if someone wants to wait for me the least I can do is be cordial and stop and speak for a moment. Besides, if I don't, they may wreck my car."
Just kidding, folks. Theus believes in going beyond what he calls the "fairytale existence" of a pro athlete. Partly for that reason, he will be the subject of a documentary on Chicago's WBBM-TV scheduled to be shown on Jan. 22.
"He's so marketable on a mass-appeal basis," says Cindy Walker, the station's program director. "There's something about him that's very attractive to women but yet isn't too threatening to men. Whenever he walks through the station, people—not just women—fall out."