I Dodge A Big Bullet

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Crown Prince

All of the Chevy Account Men settled in to help keep Chevrolet #1. The Chevette was setting sales records, Chevy trucks were outselling the anti-Christ Ford trucks. Peace and love and harmony swept over all of us. Until late in 1975. A Chevrolet Merchandising account supervisor lost his mind and quit to move to LA and work at some place called Needham Harper & Sears (sic) on the Honda account. It was actually Steers, but nobody in Detroit knew that. Then, several key creatives bolted to LA to work at Clinton E. Frank on Toyota. They were dead to us.  What a waste of a career…to leave the bosom of Campbell-Ewald to go try and sell cars that were ruining America. The agency decided that they needed to stop the hemorrhaging of talent. One day we learned that a bright young Account Man on Chevy Truck was leaving to go to BBD&O and be the #2 guy on the Dodge account. We were all very happy for him because we knew that he was getting a boatload of money, a huge title, AND a free car to move over to Dodge. His office was immediately emptied…when you go to a competitor, you have to leave right away lest the client think you are going to steal state secrets. Possible replacements for him were being interviewed. Several days later, in a moment of way too much candor while we were on our way to the airport, the Chevy Truck Management Supervisor gave me what he thought was wonderful news. “Tom, the negotiations lasted past midnight last night, but we’ve talked him into staying with Campbell-Ewald.” Hmmm. This young Account Man was giving up a boatload of money, huge responsibilities, AND a free car to stay in his old job? The memo came out the next day.  It announced his promotion to VP-Account Supervisor on Chevy Truck.  The current VP-AS was being “reassigned.” The Account Men who had been leap-frogged were more than a little upset. What was going on? We found out about two weeks later. In a phenomenal case of bad timing, Advertising Age ran an article titled, “When Tom Adams Retires, He’ll Be Replaced By Tom Adams.” The article explained that the agency loved smooth executive transitions. The new Campbell-Ewald HR Director was quoted, “We have what we like Resumeto think of as the ‘Crown Prince’ program working here.  We’ve already identified the young man who will replace our chairman, Tom Adams, when he retires. We almost lost him to another agency recently, but we made sure he stayed with us.” Great!!! Every non-royal Account Man dusted off his resume…at home, since none of us knew how to type. After the article ran, executive recruiters witnessed Account Men running like grunion. I was somewhat tentative. We’d only been in our house for a little over a year. We knew that housing in LA was very expensive. I engaged my passive sonar, I didn’t want management to hear me actively pinging. In the Spring of 1976, I received a call from a gentleman from Parker Advertising in Palos Verdes, California. He was the Senior VP-Management Supervisor on the Datsun account. “Tom, your name was given to me by a friend.  I understand that you used to work on the Chevy California Marketing Project, and that you now handle Small Cars nationally for Chevy.” The mating dance had begun.  I did the pro-forma “I’m not looking to move, but wouldn’t mind talking” lie. He was in Detroit interviewing people. “How about we getBig Boy together for breakfast tomorrow?” he asked. He was staying in Birmingham, so I mentioned an Elias Brothers Big Boy that was roughly halfway between us. Known as Bob’s Big Boy in the West, the three Elias Brothers knew a good thing when they saw it and became the first official franchisee in 1952. Breakfast went very well. I told him about the media friends I had made in LA, about how I knew that housing was expensive, and about where I thought the small car segment was going. We adjourned with him saying, “We’ll be in touch.” Chevette sales continued to grow as more and more people were being driven happy. AlbumCovers-Chicago-ChicagoIX-ChicagoGreatestHits(1975)The creative department had been using a photographer named Reid Miles to shoot a lot of the Chevette magazine work. He had become famous by designing LP album covers.  Perhaps his most famous was the cover done for the group Chicago. Reid shot “idealized reality.” A little like photography’s answer to Norman Rockwell. There was a home-spun feel to his work. 1977-chevy-chevette (1)It was very present in the work he did for Chevette. If people were going to be driven happy, we wanted the people in the ads to look as though they had been delivered to this happy place. Reid often used an ensemble group of actors who had a “hometown” look to them. The Chevette print work exuded happy people. Chevy ChevetteThe decision was made to carry over the “Reid Miles” look into the TV commercials. We came up with a really big idea. What if everyone drove a Chevy Chevette? Everyone would be happy! There would be Chevette police cars, fire engines, convertibles,SanDimas-Downtown-467x348 delivery vehicles, and ambulances. We chose the small town of San Dimas, CA., to be the location for our dystopian view of America. Located about 25 miles east of LA, the town had a “small town America” look to it. The city would gain more fame a few years later as the location for Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Four days before I was set to leave for the shoot, two things happened. BBD&O came back to the “Crown Prince” and threw even more money at him. He accepted and was barely able to safely exit the GM Building as shotgun blasts tore the molding off of the elevator doors as he stepped inside.  The second thing was a call from Parker Advertising. They liked me and wanted to fly me out to “meet the team.” I told them that if they could wait four days, I could save them the airfare as I was coming out anyway. Because I had learned that Account Men were not supposed to touch or say anything, I knew I could slip away from the set for a few hours. Telling everyone that I was going to visit some old friends, I sped to my clandestine rendezvous for lunch. The meeting went better than I could hope. As lunch was winding down, I excused myself to go to the restroom. When I returned to the table, a phone had been placed there.  Both Parker guys had big smiles. “Tom. we candlestickphone2want you to come work on the Datsun Account at Parker. You’ll handle the cars. We have another fellow named Bill Hagelstein handling trucks and the Z car. Here’s a boatload of money and you get a FREE CAR! We have this phone here so you can call Detroit and quit on the spot. We need you out here for a big meeting in four days.” I accepted, but told them that, since I’d been with Campbell-Ewald for almost six years, the decent thing to do would be to resign in person. I would still be able to make the meeting as I would most likely be hurled out of a window when they found out I would be working on Datsun. They agreed, and asked if I had time to go to the office and meet everyone. The offices were gorgeous.  I met “the team.” We then went down to meet John Parker, the agency founder.  His office was dark. the Management Supervisor asked where he was.  “Oh, he got called over to Datsun for a meeting. he should be back soon.” Instead of waiting, they asked me to come back first thing the next morning to fill out my medical paperwork and order my free car!! That evening, at the hotel, I called my wife, my parents, my close friends in Detroit and in LA, to give them the good news. My wife was going to call the realtor and get the “For Sale” sign up ASAP. I got a call from the woman who did the Datsun budgets at Parker.  She was also a real estate agent and offered to set up some home visits the next day.  She told me how happy everyone was that I had decided to join Parker. Wonderful!! I pulled into the Parker parking lot the next morning and ran into the Account Supervisor on my way into the building.  I didn’t notice the puzzled look on his face. Dodging BulletAs we got on the elevator, he said, “Uhhh, Tom, did you get a phone call last night?” I told him that I had. “Well, what do you think?” I told him that the budget manager had called and we were going to look at houses today. “Uhhhh, Tom, we lost the Datsun account yesterday afternoon.  That’s where John Parker was…getting fired. In fact, there’s no job, we’ve all been fired.” Well, golly! I’m sure glad I didn’t quit over the phone yesterday. I had dodged a huge bullet. With trembling hands and a convulsing stomach, I drove back out to San Dimas just in time for the big finale. It was a huge parade scene that was going to be done in one shot. Marching bands, all of the customized Chevettes, beauty queens, local officials, and ParadeCub Scouts would, on cue, turn the corner and march down the street toward the camera. We had talked San Dimas High School into letting the students off for the afternoon to cheer the parade. They each received $1 to give us the rights to their likeness. Reid was at the top of a huge cherry picker with the cameraman. He barked directions through a powerful megaphone that could be heard throughout the downtown area. “Action!” The marching band started playing the jingle as they came into view.  There was the Chevette fire truck with a terrified Dalmatian on the roof. Sirens blaring, lights flashing, beauty queens waving, city officials in their Chevette limos giving the “thumbs up to the crowd. A Norman Rockwell painting come to life. The parade passed underneath the camera and began to move away, when Reid shrieked, “Cut!!” One of the students had taped his dollar to his forehead and was in the shot. The take was ruined. With the megaphone at full throttle he started,”You %$#&*% idiot kid. I’m coming down there to #$^% you in your @$#. As a matter of fact, this whole &*^$$ town can go and ^#$%& itself. What did you all do, marry your cousins? This is total &%$#@*!!!” I knew that, as an Account Man, I wasn’t supposed to touch anything on a shoot. I did notice the San Dimas police running down the street toward us. I nodded at the agency producer.  He would go up on the cherry picker and subdue Reid.

Good Lord, I love this business.

Next:  Onion Soup

I Am Driven Happy

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Screen Shot 2013-09-09 at 4.35.51 PM

After surviving MPG-gate, life rolled on as I toiled in the Sales Promotion and Merchandising vineyards. The Chevrolet Merchandising and Sales Promotion Department was a Byzantine organization of small fiefdoms. My client for the Chevy Small Car Guide was a high-energy young fellow who would soon leave SoapBoxDerbyChevrolet and become a successful car dealer. Others, like Mason Bell, handled projects for years because there was nobody at GM who could do it better. Chevrolet sponsored the Soap Box Derby from 1934 to 1972, Mason was in charge for most of those years. He was also my client for Chevy’s sponsorship of the AAU’s Junior Olympics.  Then there were those who supervised a dog’s breakfast of projects. One of these clients decided to make the best of this situation. The Normandie was a great bar and restaurant across 2nd Ave. from the NormandieGM building. My client would call one of the Campbell-Ewald account men up around 11:30 and tell him that he was going to buy lunch “for the client” at the Normandie at noon. I learned not to answer my phone between 11:30 and noon. He usually held court in a corner booth with his girlfriend, who lived a few blocks away, near another GM watering hole called Bonaparte’s. One day, the Director of Merchandising and Sales Promotion had seen enough.  It was now 2:00 and he knew that his employee was probably having a high time at the Normandie. “I’m going over there to fire him right now,” he said as he left for the Normandie. That’s when my client’s Early Warning System went into effect. As soon as the Director had left the area, a secretary speed-dialed the Normandie to a phone behind the bar. “Code Red, Code Red!” the bartender yelled across the room to my client. My client bolted up, kissed his mistress, and ran to the back of the restaurant, where a small door exited onto 2nd Ave. He could look up to the second floor of the GM Bldg. Running Manand see his office window and his secretary looking down on the street. As soon as she saw the Director charge through the front door, she gave him the signal to bolt across the street and into the 2nd Ave. entrance to the GM Bldg. The Director stopped in the middle of the restaurant and scanned the room.  “Where is he?” he demanded. “Nobody’s seen him since last week,” the bartender said…not realizing that the Director had not mentioned a specific name. The Director ran back to his office, and found my client at his desk, talking on the phone with a Chevy dealer. This round went to my client.

Not all of the rounds went to him, however. I can deal with a great amount of crude behavior, but when it impacts my career, it’s time to act. This client lived with his wife and family in Farmington, MI. I don’t know if the wife knew about the “friend” he saw every day at work. On several occasions, when we were going out of town together, the client would ask me to drive him to the airport.  I would drive from Royal Oak, out to Farmington, and back down to Detroit Metro.  The trip would be repeated when we returned to Detroit. I thought this was client service. Due to my naiveté, I didn’t know that he was turning in his own expenses for mileage and airport parking to Chevy. We went to Florida to show some layouts to a sports marketing partner.  The client had approved the layouts.  The sports marketing partner went nuts when he saw them, saying, “This isn’t what we wanted!  Where are the finished posters?” My client, climbing behind the wheel of the bus that was about to run me over, said, “Tom, I told you that this stuff wasn’t right.” I went back to Detroit alone to “fix” things. My client stayed Lady_Justice_Sky.262223325_stdbehind to play a few more days of golf. That evening a call from one of the other Account Men.  I was being taken off of the project, and he was being put on it. This client’s Waterloo came when he forced me to buy him lunch, then forced another Account Man to buy dinner for him. When both of our expense accounts hit management desks for approval, a flag went up. We were called into a meeting with my boss’s boss, and the Director of Merchandising and Sales Promotion. Apparently, Chevy had been building a case against this guy for a while. Still smarting from the bus tire tracks on my back, I turned state’s evidence. My client was transferred to Chevy’s Vladivostok Zone.

In spite of my turbulent times in Merchandising, management felt that my California time had deluded me enough to think that big cars weren’t coming back, and promoted me to National Small Car Advertising Account Executive. “Small Cars” included any vehicle with a 100″ wheelbase or less.  This included the Vega, Chevette, Monza, and, surprisingly, the Corvette which had a wheelbase of 98″. Perhaps because they felt pity for me, I was also assigned the Camaro (108″) and the Nova (111″). The Big Car account executive handled Chevelle (Malibu and Laguna), Chevy Caprice, and Chevy Impala. Chevy trucks were handled by the strange guys down the hall.

Campbell-Ewald’s slogan at the time was “Advertising Well-Directed.” The logo featured a writing quill hitting the bull’s-eye of a target. Pretty succinct. Shortly after I assumed my new duties, I was given the chance to to do some well-directed advertising.  I was being sent to New York City to supervise a Chevy Chevette commercial. I had no idea what an AE was supposed to do at a shoot, other than to look after the client’s interests. The Chevette’s new theme was “Chevy Chevette. It Will Drive You Happy.” Building on the popularity of David Naughton’sdr-pepper-ad-1970s performance in the classic “I’m A Pepper  Wouldn’t You Like To Be A Pepper Too?” Dr. Pepper spot, we developed a commercial for Naughton with him singing the Chevy Chevette theme (complete with singers and dancers) as he skipped around a Chevette while a giant matrix lightbox behind him flashed pictures of standard features. It was going to be done in one complete take. I arrived in NYC the day before the shoot and met with the agency creative people attending the shoot. The call was for 6 AM the next morning. The creative folk told me that I didn’t have to be there until 9 AM. The next morning, dressed in my best suit and carrying my new briefcase, I hailed a cab in front of the hotel. I read him the address of the sound stage. It was on 125th St. and 2nd Ave. “Nope,” the cabbie said. I ain’t going there.” This was my first trip to NYC,and unaccustomed to local folkways and mores, I got out and hailed another cab. This time the cabbie said, “Why do you want to go to Harlem?” I told him what I was doing.  He said, “Whatevvuh, but I don’t think there’s any movie studios up there.” He dropped me at the corner and sped away. I found the address over a very heavy iron door. I knocked and was let in. Singers and dancers were practicing, David Naughton was going over the staging with our art director. A lot of people were just standing around, drinking coffee and Film-Directorand eating doughnuts. After an hour, the decision was made to start shooting. Surely they didn’t send me out here to do nothing. I wanted to make some type of contribution.  The director shouted, “Action!” David and the chorus came out singing and dancing. The giant matrix was flashing.  David approached the car.  The camera began to back up. I realized that the camera was going to back up over a wayward cable on the floor. It would ruin the whole take!! I finally could be of some worth.  I picked up the cable and moved it about three feet out of the way. The director got the take and said, “Cut!” I had been able to do something for the commercial and was feeling quite proud…until a very large hand grabbed my shoulder and turned me around. “Who are you and what the hell are you doing?” the hand asked. “Sir, I’m Tom Cavanagh, Campbell-Ewald’s National Account Executive and I’m here to represent Chevrolet’s interests.” The hand said, “Big whoop!” and walked over to our agency producer. After a brief conversation, he came back with a director’s chair. “Mr. Cavanagh, this chair is just for you.  Why don’t you sit here, and if you see something that needs to be done, you tell me or Sal over there.” Then it hit me. Unions!!!!! I had broken a cardinal rule by doing something that someone else was getting paid to do…even though they hadn’t done it. I learned that on a shoot, the AE’s place was next to the Craft Services table.

Next: Adventures In Creativity  

What Do You Mean We Printed The Wrong MPG Numbers?

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Beginning with the oil crisis of 1972-1973, America woke up to the fact that their cars needed better gas mileage. Unfortunately, imported cars (mainly Japanese) offered better gas mileage than domestic cars. One of the quickest ways to get better gas mileage was to make the cars smaller.  This made them lighter.  The engine had to carry less weight, and, viola’, the mileage was better.  Domestic car companies began churning out small cars and trumpeting their gas mileage. There was one small problem.  The manufacturers were putting out their own mileage figures. Ford offered California buyers a specially equipped vehicle they called the Pinto MPG, inferring high gas mileage. They also did a commercial featuring a Ford LTD driving from Phoenix to LA and getting great gas mileage numbers. The problem? The drive from Phoenix (1100 ft elevation) to Los Angeles (233 ft elevation) was done by a professional driver who was  basically driving downhill. vintage_rabbit_mpgThe EPA stepped in and ordered that all MPG figures be submitted to them for certification. Testing was done on a dynamometer. There was a strict protocol to be followed as far as the testing went.  It provided mileage numbers that were created in a laboratory. It was a flawedDatsun system, but at least all the manufacturers had to adhere to “testing” results for their MPG figures.  “Your actual mileage may vary.” Two numbers were figured; a “City” number which took stop and go driving into account, and a “Highway” number which almost always was higher. Manufacturers with higher numbers now had a new, powerful unique selling proposition. MPG as a USP!! Some companies even used gasoline efficiency as their theme line.

Chevrolet entered the MPG Madness with the Vega and the Chevette. Built on GM’s T-platform, the Chevette was already a “world car.” GM had been selling it under several different names around the world since 1973. My next assignment at Campbell-Ewald was as Small Car Merchandising Account Executive. We created, for Chevrolet, most of the dealer showroom display and sales materials.  I figured I was put on small cars because i had been “tainted” with California counter-culture thinking, and was better able to understand this silly rush to small cars…a phenomenon that most people in Detroit fervently hoped was a passing fancy.

Now that Chevy was selling small cars, they uncovered something that could derail their efforts to make the imports go away.  Chevy sales personnel Businessmanhad no idea what Vega and Chevette competitors offered, or even how they were priced. They didn’t know the competing models’ trim levels or standard features. There was a lot of confusion out there. It made converting an “import intender” somewhat problematic. We convinced Chevrolet to let us produce the “Chevy Small Car Guide.” This was to become my own personal Summa Contra Vehicula Importa.

The Small Car Guide, as it came to be called, was a monumental undertaking. It had to be comprehensive, meaning that we had to touch on ALL now-competitive imports, not just the Cerberus of Toyota, Datsun, and Honda. It also meant that we had to give details on EACH model from the ALL the competitors. It had to be durable. We wrapped the binder cover in thick Kellsvinyl to protect against coffee spills, spittle, and blood. The binder rings had to open and close easily, as we would be updating it every year. The dividers had to be sturdy to withstand constant section flipping. There was a rumor that these dividers were made of Kevlar, allowing the Small Car Guide to be used as a bullet-proof shield. The poor salesman would now be able to tell the difference between a Triumph Vitesse Sports 6, and a Simca 1204, and how the Chevy Chevette was the right car for the customer. When finished, the Small Car Guide was over two inches thick and weighed in at almost six pounds. The world had not seen such a concentration of knowledge since the Julius Caesar set fire to the Great Library of Alexandria. I still have my copy of the Small Car Guide. It makes a great door stop.

We received some great news late in 1975. The Chevette with the 1.4L engine and 4-speed manual transmission, was certified with a very impressive City figure of 28 MPG, and phenomenal 40 Hwy MPG!!!!!  Shove those numbers up your Blubird all you imports. Finally, good news on the MPG front. We realized that we had to flood the nearly 6,000 Chevrolet dealerships with displays, posters, and banners heralding these game-changing MPG numbers. Meeting with our Chevy client, we settled on a “package.” Each of the 6,000 packages would contain:

  • Six car toppers…three sides,  24 ” tall, with the MPG numbers 18″ tall
  • Four 36″ x 48″ window posters featuring the MPG numbers
  • Fifty 6″ x 12″ vinyl press-on window stickers with the MPG numbers
  • Four 12″ x 18″ stand-up counter cards with the MPG numbers
  • Twenty 3″ in diameter lapel buttons with the MPG numbers
  • Five suggested local newspaper ads with the MPG numbers

Crowd at dealershipThat should do it.  Festive and straight to the point.  We were on a tight production schedule to get the packages to dealers ASAP. They went out on time.  We knew that this kit would “drive showroom traffic.” Soon, thousands of import intenders would be driven into a Chevette buying frenzy by this beautifully designed showroom trim kit. The materials had been up for about a week when I got the call from our legal folks. Those weren’t the right MPG numbers!! “What do  you mean we printed the wrong MPG numbers?”

My first thought was to flee to Canada.  I still had relatives there. The trim kit had cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to produce and ship. Would GM also want to execute my family as well as me? I had visions of being strapped in, next to a crash test dummy, as our test pointing-fingersvehicle hurtled toward the impact wall at the GM Proving Grounds. Then I remembered the prime directive of all good account men: “Don’t take the blame if you can deflect it elsewhere.” But where? I started with the original numbers.  They had been published in an EPA Guide. Our legal department had a copy of the latest guide which showed the MPG numbers to be lower. The latest guide had come out while the kit was on press. Ahhh, wiggle room! But where did we stand legally? More importantly, where did I now stand in the food chain? This had to be resolved with a “plausible deniability” answer before Chevy got wind of it.  I decided to go to the source.  I called the EPA.  After being bounced around from functionary to functionary like a steel ball bearing in a pachinko game, I finally found the person responsible for “Automotive Advertising Certification Compliance.” I pled my case.  Help me Obi-wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope. There was a chuckle on the other end of the line.  “You ad guys sure get worked up over these numbers,” he said. “The numbers you used were what we call ‘interim’ numbers. We use those until the final ones come out.”  “But what’s a young account man to do when we have deadlines to meet?” I asked. “Oh, you’re OK,” he said. “We can’t expect commerce to halt while we finish ourepa_logo testing. The interim numbers are legit because that’s all you had to go on at the time. You’re OK.” After a few moments my breath came back to me. “Can you send me a letter on EPA stationary explaining that, just to be on the safe side?” He did.  I showed it to our legal department.  We all agreed that nobody else needed to be notified about our kit with the higher numbers…especially not Chevrolet.

Next: I Am Driven Happy

Behind The Green Curtain

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the-great-and-powerful-oz-revealed-4 pay no attention to that man behind the curtain

Nothing takes the chill of a cold Memphis night out of your bones quicker than a glass or two of sour mash bourbon. I found a large booth in the hotel bar and started my de-icing process. Moose Krause and Steve Niehaus soon joined me. We discussed the game. I also informed them that as a staunch MSU Spartan, I shouldn’t be seen in public fraternizing with any Fighting Irish, let alone their Athletic Director and All-American Defenseman. But as a goodwill gesture, drinks would be on me. Well, on Chevrolet. Screen Shot 2013-09-12 at 12.10.16 PMMoose had driven from South Bend to Cincinnati to pick Steve up at the Niehaus home, and then drove the two of them to Memphis. This was a trip of over 700 miles, and it took almost twelve hours to drive! Moose explained that he drove down to Cincinnati on 12/21, spent the night in a motel, then picked Steve up for the long drive to Memphis. I asked him why drive when we would have flown both of them. His response was, “I wanted to stop in and say ‘Hi’ to the Niehaus family. They’re really wonderful people.”

A few minutes later, we were joined by Miss America. Except now, she was Tawny Godin from Portland, Maine. “Where is Frau Blücher this evening?” I asked. Tawny said, “She went to bed. I’m free and clear for a while, but can’t stay out too late as we have adjoining rooms and she can tell when I get in.” The three guys in the booth then began to pepper her with Miss America questions that she’d probably been asked thousands of times before. I decided to change the subject. “Tawny, what do you think of this new comedy show on NBC called jimlampleySaturday Night Live?  Do you think it has a chance?” Before she had a chance to answer,we were joined by Jim Lampley.  Jim had been hired by ABC the previous year to become one of the first “sideline reporters.” ABC wanted to attract a younger demographic for the NCAA games.  They felt that having a young, attractive person giving quick reports from the sideline would perk things up a bit.  Jim’s youth and director Andy Sidaris’ “honey shots” of cheerleaders and women in the stands, had turned the football games into a ratings powerhouse. Little did I know at the time that 40% of the people sitting at the table with me that night would go on to become news anchors for TV stations in LA.  Tawny, as Tawny Little, for KABC and others, and Jim, on KCBS. He is now doing boxing on HBO. Moose Krause, who played football at Notre Dame under Knute Rockne, would be elected to the College Basketball Hall of Fame. Steve Niehaus was a consensus first string All-American pick in 1975. He would be the first person ever drafted by the Seattle Seahawks a few weeks later. Ironically, they chose him over Chuck Muncie. He was the 1976 NFL Rookie Defenseman of the Year, and holds the Seahawks record for most sacks in a single season.

Me? I was still trying to figure out how to get my free car back.

As the evening wore on, our ranks began to thin. Moose Krause was the first to fold. As he got up, he asked if he could speak to me for a moment. The two of us moved to a nearby empty booth. “Tom,” he said, ‘this is rather embarrassing. As you know, Steve and I drove down here. On the night of 12/21, I stayed in a motel outside of Cincinnati before picking Steve up at his parent’s house the next day.” Where was he going with this, I thought? Moose reached inside his suit coat pocket, pulled out a crumpled piece of paper, and handed it to me. “It’s the motel bill for the night I stayed in Cincinnati, he said. “Do you think I could get reimbursed for this? I paid for it out of my own pocket.” The bill was from a Motel 6 for $38.00. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that we’d spent $7800 flying the Cal Berkeley guys in.  “Of course we’ll reimburse you,” I said. Just send me an invoice Motel 6and I’ll be sure that it’s billed through on the job.” His eyes fell.  “How long do you thing that will take?” he asked. I knew where this was going. “Here, Moose, let me pay you now for it, and I’ll turn it in with my expenses.” I handed him $40. He bade me goodnight and told me to look him up on my next trip to Notre Dame.

Shortly after I got back to our booth, Miss America said that she’d better get back to her room before the clock struck twelve. We all stood and waved her off. A few minutes later, Jim Lampley excused himself. Steve Niehaus and I ordered more distilled corn by-product. Steve kept looking around furtively. “Did Coach Krause really go back to his room?” I assured him that he had. “Whew!” Steve said, as he pulled a rumpled pack of Winstons out of his hip pocket. “I thought he’d never leave.” The mangled cigarette was quickly lit, half of it disappearing as Steve inhaled. “You smoke?” I asked. “Like a chimney,” Steve said. “I was worried that my hands shaking would give it away. Coach Krause would kill me if he knew I smoked.” Interesting comment from a man whose Notre Dame playing days were over, and who was about to become a millionaire in the NFL. We talked for a while about our backgrounds and hobbies.  John BoehnerHe mentioned that he’d attended Archbishop Moeller High School in Cincinnati. Moeller was a perennial football powerhouse, providing the NFL with a lot of players. One of their notable alums who didn’t go into the NFL is former football center John Boehner. Moeller was also a fertile recruiting field for…Notre Dame! A small light began to flicker on in my head. I asked Steve how he got the news about his Chevy scholarship award. He told me that Moose Krause called him with the news. “Did he tell you that we were willing to fly you to Memphis?” I asked.  Steve said that he had, but Moose told him that he espnhs_st_ignatius_football_576x324was “going to be in Cincinnati anyway” and that it would be easy for them to drive to Memphis together. That crafty old codger! He was going to Cincinnati anyway to recruit talent for Notre Dame, and I had helped him by subsidizing his trip!!  It’s as though I had made a direct contribution to their football fund. It has taken me almost 38 years to deal with this guilt and publicly admit it for the first time today.

Next: “What Do You Mean We Printed The Wrong MPG Numbers?”

Miss America Shows Me Her Undies

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1976_TawnyGodin-x365

My reign as “Sports Promotions Guy” was soon to end. I was being given responsibility for “Dealer Materials.” These were all the showroom trim deally bobbers and car toppers that made every dealership that much more festive. My defining moment as the sports promotions guy was going to be the Liberty Bowl between USC and Texas A&M, in Memphis, on December 22, 1975. Before the explosion of bowls that now allow any college team with a winning season to appear in a lucrative post-season game, the Liberty Bowl was quite a deal. America’s Bi-centennial was coming up, and the Liberty Bowl was going to beLiberty75b college football’s salute to it. America’s car, Chevrolet, was going to be all over it. In addition to being the major TV sponsor, Chevrolet was going to present checks to the Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year in a live ceremony on the field at halftime. Tawny Godin, the newly crowned Miss America for 1976, was going to make a special halftime appearance while the combined USC and Texas A&M marching bands played patriotic songs. The game was held at Memphis Memorial Stadium, a record crowd of 52,129 was expected. Because the game was being played three days before Christmas, there were no other bowl games competing for TV viewers.

The producers of ABC Sports had finally chosen the scholarship winners. I received the call from New York.  The Offensive Player of the Year was Chuck Muncie from Cal Berkeley. The Defensive Player of the Year was Steve Niehaus from Notre Dame. I had the privilege of Cal Bearcontacting their Athletic Directors to give them the good news. I called the legendary Edward Walter “Moose” Krause, the Athletic Director of Notre Dame. He served as AD there for thirty-two years. He was ecstatic upon hearing the news.  I told him that Chevy was going to fly them to Memphis and put them up at the headquarters hotel. He was going to call Steve with the news and get back to me about travel. I called Dave Maggard, the AD at Cal Berkeley. He too was quite excited about the honor. I told him that we would fly them out to Memphis the morning of 12/22, and fly them back on 12/23. Dave’s excitement waned. “Tom, Chuck is in the middle of exams.  He has a test on the morning of ND12/22, and one on the morning of 12/23.  He won’t be able to make it.” If there was one thing I had learned from working on the Chevy account, it was the operational standing order to “Make It Happen!” This was a time to make it happen. After doing a CYA memo to my boss, I made a few phone calls. I called Dave Maggard back.  “Dave,” I said, “a chartered Gulfstream jet is going to pick you both up at the local airport right after Chuck’s exam. It will fly you to Memphis where a limo will drive you two to the game in time for the presentation. Immediately after the award ceremony, the limo will take you back to the jet, which will get you into Berkeley by midnight, your time.” “That’s fantastic, we’ll be there,” he said.  Whew! It’s amazing what you can do with $7800 of someone else’s money. 

I arrived in Memphis the morning of 12/21.  We had a pre-pro meeting at the hotel and then went to the stadium for the award ceremony walk-through. Liberty Bowl officials took us up to the press box memphis-fans-fill-liberty-bowl-memorial-stadium-joe-murphyarea that had been converted into an executive skybox for the game. We all received our Liberty Bowl credentials. I had five different badges that would hang around my neck. They allowed me to go anywhere in the stadium. I made sure that at least one of them allowed me into the skybox suite. Plans were finalized for the scholarship award winners. Moose Krause called me and said that he would drive down from South Bend, pick up Steve Niehaus in Cincinnati, and then drive to Memphis. I told him that Chevy would fly him, but he was determined to make the twelve-hour drive.

TexasAggieCorps3The big day had arrived. The temperature at kick-off was expected to be 40 degrees. The game went on the air at 8:00 PM, the kick-off was scheduled for 8:15. Dave Maggard and Chuck Muncie were on their way to the stadium. The Texas A&M cadets marched in. The song_girls_02Southern Cal cheerleaders (aka Song Girls) posed for the cameras. Excitement ran high in the packed stadium. Even Reveille IV, the Aggie collie mascot, was amped. Not so much by the event, but by the loud noise the cannon she was stationed next to made when it was fired. This was legendary USC coach John McKay’s final game. Fortunately, this was a night game, so I didn’t have to worry about the sun-visor silliness. LET THE GAME BEGIN!!!!

1975 Liberty Bowl

The Aggies, favored by seven, had their cadet hats handed to them in the first half. The half ended with USC ahead 20-0. I had ushered the award winners onto the sideline just prior to the end of the half. As the teams left for the locker rooms, we sprang into action.  Cameras and a podium were wheeled out to the center of the field.  The dignitaries were positioned.  The big, fake checks were propped up behind the speakers.  The award winners gave great speeches.  The Chevy exec gave a great speech. The red light on the camera went out.  It’s a wrap! Dave Maggard and Chuck Muncie raced for their limo back to their jet. Moose Krause and Steve Niehaus looked around, not knowing what was next. It was now about 37 degrees. I was done for the day, and setting my sights on the party skybox.  I invited Moose and Steve to join me.  They were genuinely grateful.  As we left the field, the two schools’ marching bands came out.  Hundreds of local school children appeared on the field waving American flags and red, white, and blue banners.  Miss America was wheeled out on a float, giving the famous “pageant wave.” She was wearing a sleeveless ball gown and her crown.  She had to be freezing. 

I made my way to the press box elevator, flashed my credentials at the guard, and sent Moose and Steve up to the party. I wanted to take one more look to see if Miss America had turned into a pillar of ice yet. When I got back to the elevator, the guard was having a heated discussion with the USC coaching staff.  They had left their credentials in the press box when they went down to the ABC production truck to look at video from the first half. No credential, no admittance. I heard one of the coaches scream one of my favorite phrases, “”Do you know who I am?”  I flashed my credential at the guard on got on the elevator.  I figured that since the Aggies were getting whipped, they could use all the help they could get. I waited until about 8 minutes had passed in the third quarter before I told the one remaining USC press box spotter (who was quite frantic by this time) that his compadres couldn’t come up because they had left their credentials on their chairs.

In the middle of the third quarter, Miss America and her chaperone arrived in the skybox. The game was pretty much over. Texas A&M almost scored, but fumbled the ball away. I saw Miss America standing, somewhat forlornly, by herself watching the game.  I saw my chance to ask my burning question. “Uh, excuse Ms. Godin, I almost froze to death out there, even with my overcoat.  How did you endure the cold?” She gave me a sly smile as she put her drink down and grabbed the hem of her gown, pulling it up to her armpits. “A little trade CHP_CKWM2_BerryPinkHeathersecret,” she said. “Specially made thermal long johns.  They’re also foam padded.  Feel them.”  I was in mid-squeeze when the Miss America chaperone appeared out of nowhere to pull Tawny’s gown back down, and admonish her, “That is NOT permissible behavior.” Miss America rolled her eyes as the chaperone marched away.  “Is she with you 24/7?” I asked. “No,” she said.  “Just when I’m out in public.” “Is having drinks with us at the hotel after the game being out in public?” I asked. “Nope,” she replied.  “We’ll be in the Atrium Bar,” I said.

The final score was USC 20 – Texas A&M 0.  The only Aggie happy that night was Reveille IV, who didn’t have to go nuts when the canon went off.  I extended the bar invitation to Moose Krause and Steve Niehaus. They gratefully accepted.

Next: Behind The Green Curtain