Ladislav Špaček: The afterlife of an image-maker

Photo: David Holas

Until 1989 Ladislav Špaček (54), an expert on Czech history and literature, worked as a teacher. His knowledge of languages, his cultivated appearance and velvet voice helped him become a media personality. After 1990 he was in every household, on television – first as anchorman for the news program “Events, Commentary” on Czech TV, and he later became the president’s spokesman. What is he doing now? “I’m enjoying my new-found privacy,” he says.

WHEN IN 1992 Václav Havel offered him a job as his spokesman, he jumped right on it, betting the farm. Following his resignation that summer Havel was a private citizen, and there was no certainty that he would be re-elected. Špaček thus found himself in a whirlwind of a hectic decade, when his time was scheduled to the minute and his job description was unique. “I always had to look great and react perfectly. I couldn’t afford to be sick, and there was no such thing as a weekend for me,” he recalls. As a reward he associated with a man who fascinated him as a democrat and a politician. The role of image-maker for the head of state suited him to such a degree that journalists occasionally wondered how Špaček could possibly know beyond a doubt what the president was thinking. “I couldn’t ask the president for his opinion twenty times a day – I had to be ready to formulate it at any time,” Špaček explains. “I spend days on end with him; I knew the issues that he was working on, but I also knew about all his aches and pains,” he adds.
He sees his time with Havel as the apex of his life, which is why leaving Prague Castle in February of this year was so painful for him. “I was shattered. When on the next day I looked out the window at the castle I was mortified,” he acknowledges, adding that he had to go on a two-week vacation in Thailand to pull himself together. He refused many lucrative offers that he received after leaving the castle, but followed his television colleagues to TV Praha, a company that provides consultation on the principles of communicating with the media. He recently became one of the four co-owners, and the “castle” atmosphere has been enhanced with the arrival of Ivo Mathé, the president’s former chancellor. Because he is so busy with his work he doesn’t spend time with Václav Havel, and he has no intention of writing his memoires. “Abusing his trust would be a terrible indiscretion,” he notes in closing.






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