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?”

They Take My Free Car!!!

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Corvette 3 copy

The bomb had been dropped. I was being pulled back to Detroit. It was certainly the right thing to do as a career move. I was now “mainstream.” Close to the beating heart of GM. But, as a twenty-eight year old advertising naif, it was still hard to give up:

  • Pretty much being your own boss
  • Having a very generous expense account
  • Being the “go to” person for all of the local media reps
  • Travelling to exotic locations in your region
  • Working with a large number of Chevy clients
  • Not having to pay to go to Dodgers, Angels, or Rams games
  • Having a free car

When I returned from the Field Meeting, Bob Albright and I started “Tom’s Farewell Tour.”  We visited the San Diego and LA Zone offices as well as the key dealers throughout the region. Most of the people we met asked, “Are you crazy?  Why are you leaving Southern California to go back to Detroit and work in the GM Building?” They all laughed when I said, “I had no choice.”  They thought I was kidding.  I wasn’t.  I felt like the condemned KGB prisoner.  Not only is he going to take one in the back of the head, his family is forced to buy the bullets. The packers packed, the movers moved, we were on our way back to Detroit.  As our neighbors tearfully waved goodbye, I announced, “I shall return.” We’d decided Mapthat we’d drive back, figuring that we didn’t want to sit waiting for our furniture to arrive at our new house in Detroit. The new 55 MPH speed limit had been enacted for travel on U.S. Interstates. Being a law-abiding citizen, I told my new boss that I couldn’t drive over 55 MPH. So driving for eight hours would bring us 400+ miles a day closer to the GM Building. It’s 2,281.4 miles from LA to Detroit. The math dictated that I take 5.5 days to make the drive. The irony was not lost on me, I was going to be able to see the U.S.A. in my Chevrolet! I had made reservations for lodging along our way. We would drive to Las Vegas, then a short jump to St. George, Utah,  then to Grand Junction, Colorado, then Kansas City,  MO., on to Indianapolis, then into Detroit. Some stops were more than a day’s drive, but we were also sightseeing. I had everything planned down to the nth degree.  Except for one, teeny, tiny problem.  I would be driving across the country in La Bestia, my Chevy Monza with the 5.7 liter V-8 monster engine that was cooled by a tiny Vega-sized radiator. We left LA on a Monday morning, headed for Las Vegas. By the time we got Victorville, in the Mojave Desert, I noticed that the temperature gauge was going up. Determined to press on regardless through the blistering nothingness of the Mojave, I was only marginally concerned when the needle was firmly planted in the red zone of the temperature gauge. I was moved to somewhat concerned status when I saw steam coming out from under the hood. I arrived at critically concerned when the car stalled and OverheatSignwe coasted on to the shoulder of I-15. When it was safe, I opened the radiator cap and saw a bone-dry radiator. It was 109 in the desert that day, and the temperature in the passenger seat was rising even past that. After thirty minutes or so, a California Highway Patrol car pulled up behind us. After explaining my problem, he looked under the hood and laughed. “Buddy, when you dropped this monster engine into this car, you forgot to put in a radiator that can cool it. I’m surprised you got this far. Where are you headed?” When I told him, he slowly shook his head. He informed me that my car wouldn’t make it through the heat.  I said that I had to be in Detroit in five and a Red-Rock-Canyon-Las-Vegashalf days to become part of the Chevy Account Team. Surprisingly, he was unimpressed. We worked out a plan. He would fill my radiator with water.  I was to top the radiator off every sixty miles. I was only to drive at night to avoid the blistering heat of the day.  I was to drive with the a/c off! Already, my passenger was making plans to take a bus back to LA. We limped into Las Vegas at 10:45 PM. The heat wave in the Western U.S. was expected to last for another four days.

We decided to leave Las Vegas for St. George at 4:00 AM. The temperature had plummeted to 80 degrees.  Cool enough to drive without the a/c. There’s not much to see in the Nevada desert, there’s even less at night. We arrived in St. George in time for breakfast. Not quite ready to go to bed at 9 in the morning, we visited the Brigham Young Winter Home  and the Daughters of Utah Pioneer Museum.  Neither place appreciated my request for a cold beer.

We continued our nocturnal journey through Utah and Colorado.  Sleeping by day, enjoying the beautiful countryside by night. The only hitch came at the Loveland Pass.  This is where I-70 crosses the Continental Divide.  Gerald Ford had decided that he liked to vacation in Vail, about 38 miles west of the pass. In anticipation of the added traffic, I-70 was being widened on a stretch near the Eisenhower Tunnel, which cut through the pass. The elevation is about 12,000 feet. You can fool a tiny radiator into thinking it’s cool outside, but you can’t convince it that there’s air when there is none.  Traffic on I-70 was squeezed into one lane, and backed up for miles. Excavation equipment roared by our open windows. Steam began to wisp out from under the hood. A time and space warp enveloped the interior of my stalwart Chevy Monza. Hallucinations, screaming, flashes of lightning, curses shrieked in anger, talons ripping at flesh, and cries of banshees. We did, however, finally make it to Denver.

It was all downhill from Denver. In a good way, as we were on the downside of the Rockies. Kansas City and Indianapolis flew by.  We were now driving in daylight as we had the good fortune of being able to follow severe thunderstorms all the way to Michigan. We rolled into a Ramada Inn in Southfield, MI. This was just Arrowa few miles from the house we’d purchased in the Beverly Hills area of Royal Oak. I needed some remembrance of California.Our furniture arrived two days later.  We were fortunate.  Only about 20% of our stuff was destroyed. Our schnauzer particularly loved the house as he could easily squeeze under the under the redwood fence in the back yard and run away, I was able to quickly meet a lot of my neighbors by picking up schnauzer dootie in their yards. Monday morning arrived.  I showered, shaved, and put on my best grey flannel suit. I grabbed my empty briefcase and drove down my street to Woodward Avenue…the femoral artery of Detroit. Turn right on Woodward. Turn right on Grand Blvd. Turn right into parking lot behind Fisher Bldg. Go into Fisher Bldg. Take the underground concourse to the GM Bldg. Go to the 4th Floor. I was now in the belly of the beast.

detroit Map

Next:  I Am Shown To My New Office

More Tales From the Darkside

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woman-screaming1

I wasn’t the only one who witnessed the terror of a visit from a high ranking Chevrolet executive. Our Campbell-Ewald guy in Chicago saw his own psycho-drama played out, all because of an innocent, last second decision. When a Regional Manager would visit a Zone Office city, cars and drivers met him at the airport, his luggage whisked away to his hotel and neatly put away in dressers and closets. His schedule was handled down to the nth degree. The angst was ramped up when the National Car or Truck Sales Manager would visit. Bottles of his favorite booze and lots of ice were in the room, as well as shrimp and crab claws on ice. When the General Sales Manger came…well, hooweeeee!  Police barriers were set up, children were taken out of school to line the motorcade where they would dress up like Dinah Shore and sing the “Baseball, Hot dogs, Apple Pie and Chevrolet” theme. Imagine, if you will, what sphincter tightening and pants dampening fear gripped the Zone when the capo di tutti capi, the General Manger of the Chevrolet Motor Division came to town. It happened on a sunny Saturday in October.  Bob Lund, GM VP and General Manager was flying to Chicago to attend the Northwestern FootballWildcats vs Edna Ferber Writers’ College Flying Scribes football game.  It was being broadcast as the ABC NCAA Game of the Week.  Chevy pretty much owned the broadcasts.  Opening and closing title billboards, lots of spots, and the presentation of the Chevrolet Offensive and Defensive Player of the Game Scholarships. Bob enjoyed being down on the sideline after the game for the televised presentation of the checks. Not since D-Day had America seen this massive mobilization of men, machines, and eggs Benedict. The plan was coordinated down to the most minute detail.

Mr. Lund would be driven from his home in Bloomfield Hills to Willow Run Airport outside of Detroit.  He would board the GM plane for the flight to Chicago’s Midway Airport. There, he would be greeted by the Assistant Zone Manager. Two District Managers were assigned to carry any bags Bob had, and then the four people would drive to The Palmer House Hotel, where police had cordoned off the street and parking was reserved in front of the building. Another District Manager would escort the party to a waiting Grand Ballroom Dinnerelevator where they would be whisked to the 4th Floor Grand Ballroom. He would be greeted by the Zone Manger, the Regional Manager, Chicago-area Chevy dealers, and a photographer from GM PR. An incredible buffet brunch had been laid out. Champagne, juices, eggs Benedict, lox and bagels, breakfast meats, an omelet station, baskets of seasonal fruits, assorted crepes, lobster thermidor, and two full bars filled with premium liquor. To add to what would Mariachi-band-460x300undoubtedly be a festive occasion, the Zone had hired a mariachi band…Los Musicos Ambulantes de La Calle. At 12:15, the motorcade would leave the Palmer House and head to the stadium in Evanston. As a failsafe, each point of travel in Chicago was being covered by a District Manager who was near a pay phone to give any updates to a direct line in the ballroom. The planning was perfect. Nothing, absolutely nothing, could go wrong.

The October Saturday broke sunny in Chicago, and several hundred miles away in Bloomfield Hills. The GM air crew had filed their flight plan into Midway airport. Bob Lund was brushing his teeth, awaiting the arrival of the driver. Everything was on schedule…until the phone rang.  Bob’s wife answered. “Bob, it’s for you,” she said.  “It’s Bill Fleming.” Bill Fleming was an ABC football announcer,  He also lived in Bloomfield Hills, very close to Bob Lund.  They were good friends. Bill Fleming was also a pilot, and owned his own airplane. “Bob,” Fleming said,”are you going to the Northwestern game?” Bob answered that he was. “So am I,” Bill said.  “I’m flying over there out of Pontiac airport.  This was only a few miles from Bloomfield Hills, not the long drive to Willow Run to take the GM corporate plane. “And, I’m flying directly into the airport in Evanston, so we can avoid all that Chicago traffic.”  “Great!” BobDSC_0057 said. I’ll be right over. Bob called Willow Run, telling him he wouldn’t be flying today.  As he was their only flight, they all packed up and went home.  Bob told his driver to take the day off. Bob Lund and Bill Fleming took off from the Pontiac airport, and effectively severed the Achilles tendon of the Chicago Zone Extravaganza.

Meanwhile, back at the Palmer House, the party had started. The steam trays had been fired up, the screwdrivers and bloody marys were flowing, and the Zone Manager was passing out tickets for the game. A suite had been set up in the stadium’s press box for the Chevy brass. Bob Lund was supposed to be landing at 10:30 AM. It was now 10:45 and the District Manger had not called from Midway. No problem, maybe there was bad weather over Muskegon. It was 11:00 when the Assistant Zone Manager called in from the airport.  “He’s still not here”, he said. A look of worry appeared on the Zone Manager’s face. When it was 11:10, the news that the plane wasn’t in yet began to spread through the room. Someone decided to call the GM Air office at Willow Run. With the sunken_cessnacrew long gone, the only person there was a dispatcher who had just arrived.  He checked the paperwork and told the Zone Manager that the plane “probably” left about two hours ago…more than enough time to get to Chicago.  Oh no!!! To already terrified minds, this could mean only one thing: Mr. Lund and the GM Corporate plane had gone down over Lake Michigan! “Alert the FAA.” “Have the Civil Air Patrol look for oil slicks on Lake Michigan.” Because this had happened on his “watch,” the Zone Manager knew that his career was over. A command center was quickly set up in the ballroom.  The GM PR guys said, “Don’t talk to the press until we have more facts.” The two District Managers  would stay at Midway to act as liaison with the FAA. Pockets of quiet crying broke out in the ballroom.   The Chicago Police had to be notified because the officers out in front of the hotel had only been paid until 11:30. A shroud of dismay settled over  the Grand Ballroom. The mariachi band playing Mi Rosa Salvaje Irlandes didn’t lift any spirits. It was now 12:45 and everyone at Chevrolet was trying to resign themselves to the tragedy. Then, the phone rang.  The Zone Manager grabbed it. “Any news?” he said.  “Uh, sir, this is Mike Swenson. I’m the District Manager stationed at the Northwestern stadium. Uh, sir, I just ran into Mr. Lund.  He’s really upset and wants to know where the hell all the Chevy people are.”

“Everybody to their cars!” he yelled.  “He’s not dead, he’s at the stadium.”  There was a mad rush toward the door.  Our Campbell-Ewald guy, who didn’t receive a ticket to the game, asked the Zone Manager, “Sir, what do we do with all the food and liquor?” “Send it back,” the Zone Manager yelled back over his shoulder as everyone raced for the elevators.  Our guy looked at the hotel’s banquet manager who was personally surprising the extravaganza. He slowly shook his head. “You guys own it and this room until 2:00.” With that, he ordered his staff to clear the tables.  “Wait,” our guy said. “If Chevy already paid for it, you can’t touch it until 2:00.” “Oh, you’re going to eat it all?” the manager sniffed. “Yes,” said our guy and a Chevy District Manager who had been left behind. The two of them tried mightily, but by 1:20 they were overstuffed and quite drunk. Then the idea hit them. It would be a shame to waste all this food and booze. The District Manager stayed behind, while our guy went out of the NorthwesternFootball2006hotel onto Monroe St., and down to Michigan Ave., inviting homeless people to go to the 4th Floor Grand Ballroom of The Palmer House. There they would find all the food they could eat. A small stampede was generated.  When the folks got to the Grand Ballroom, the mariachi band struck up a local favorite, Vientecinco O Seis A Cuatro.  A lot of people were able to eat that day. The Zone guys were only an hour late for the game. Everyone laughed about the “crazy mix-up.” And, nobody got fired.

Next: The Bloom Starts To Come Off Of The Rose

 

Power Politics

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Soviet Officials on May Day

When I started my career adventure, I set out under the erroneous assumption that everyone got along, that everyone worked toward mutual goals, a spirit of collegiality drove corporate decisions, and a general feeling of Gemütlichkeit guided every business action. I was disabused of that notion starting in 1974. Sometimes various forms of power were flexed by individuals and groups to serve different agendas.  I present three examples:

#1 MINE IS BIGGER THAN YOURS

In the early 70’s, Chevrolet was bathing itself with sports sponsorships.  College football, NFL football, MLB baseball, and even the Soap Box Derby.  Network TV sponsorships, network radio sponsorships, local TV and radio sponsorships. They even had celebrity endorsement deals with former Olympian Jean-Claude Killy, and an up and coming Buffalo Bills star named O.J. Simpson. Chevy was spending a lot of money on these properties.  The challenge was “Are we maximizing our investment?”  That translates into, “How much can we squeeze out of the buys?” Campbell-Ewald Autry Hotelcame up with the perfect solution.  One that would “maximize the investment” as well as allow everyone to get out of the snow and ice of Detroit in January and play golf in Palm Springs. The “Chevrolet Sports Merchandising Conference” was invented. Chevy was sponsoring the California Angels.  Gene Autry owned the team, as well as Golden West broadcasting, which owned many stations receiving Chevy media dollars. Gene Autry also owned the Gene Autry Hotel in Palm Springs.  “Let’s hold the conference there!” Invitations (summonses?) went out to all of the station reps carrying a Chevy-sponsored team. They were being invited to attend the Sports Merchandising Conference and show what they had been doing to “maximize the buy.” The first conference got ugly.  Some teams and stations had lots of money to “maximize” the buy.  Many times the money was buried in the cost of the media sponsorship. Some stations didn’t. KMOX in St. Louis had the money. For their presentation, they flew out the late, great Jack Buck, the voice of the St. Louis Cardinals. Everyone would play golf in the morning, with the first presentation of the day scheduled for 1 PM.  Jack and the KMOX guys were waiting for us when we entered the room, having just completed our grilled hamburgers and bloody marys.  Once we had all been introduced to him, we took our seats. Jack began by telling us how honored KMOX and the Cardinals were to be associated with Chevrolet. He talked about being #1 in whatever you do.  He mentioned the Chevy logo on the outfield wall, and the in-game freebie promos. He then cued lou-brocka projector which showed Lou Brock breaking the single season stolen base record. “Lou Brock is a champion,” Jack said as we watched the moment, “he knows how to win.  He knows how to……. WAIT!!! Why am I telling you this, let’s have Lou tell you in his own words. Guys, please welcome Lou Brock.” On that cue, Lou walked into the room from behind the screen. He acknowledged our standing ovation.Brock-a-brella He spoke about being a champion, being #1. He then personally signed replica bases for each of us and gave each of us one of his novelty Brock-a-brellas. The KMOX presentation had now gone 25 minutes over its allotted time. Nobody cared. This was how to “maximize the buy.” The bar had been set. The next presenter was the National Sales Manager for WCCO, Minneapolis. He tentatively approached the podium.  He had the look of a man who knew that he was doomed.  “Hi, everybody. Thanks for sponsoring the Twins. We are really, really thankful. He then reached inside his jacket and pulled out a small Twins’ pocket schedule. “Uhh, we printed the Chevy logo on 300,000 pocket schedules. Uhh, we’re really, really grateful to you folks. Hey, what a beautiful hotel you got for us here. Did I say how really, really grateful we are? Well, thanks.”  He crept away from the podium to polite and mercy applause. He was probably on his way to the garden to commit ritual seppuku to atone for his shame. I turned to one of the Campbell-Ewald heavy-breathers who was here from Detroit.  “That poor devil, he didn’t have a chance.” He responded, “Yeah, but you can bet your ass that next season we’ll get a lot more out of WCCO. That’s why we have these conferences.  Nothing pushes you to perform like the fear of being shamed in front of your peers.” Hmmmmmm.

#2 “HEY, WHAT’S YOUR NAME AGAIN?”

I was headed back to Las Vegas to call on the local Chevy dealers and get input for my weekly reports. The calls were pretty uneventful, until I got to the dealership owned by Fletcher Jones. Jones was a successful, multi-franchise dealer.  His son now runs a very successful Mercedes dealership in Newport Beach, CA.  I announced myself at the Chevy dealership reception desk. After a few minutes I was led into a massive office, festooned with sales awards, trophies, and autographed pictures of celebrities. I introduced myself.  He asked me why I was visiting him.  I said it was to provide “input to Detroit.” He then leaned across the desk and stared directly at me.  “When is Chevrolet going to get it through their thick heads that Las Vegas is an important market to them and add us to their Top 25 market list so we can be part of their spot TV buys? Ford is killing us.” I had an answer.  Sort of. I knew that Las Vegas was on the cusp.  There were three markets all vying for the cherished final 25th spot. “Well, Mr. Jones, right now it’s close, Las Vegas is right in there..”  “Humph,” he said, as he swung his chair around toward his credenza, picked up his phone and punched in three digits. He was business-man-fear-nailbiting-300x214speed dialing someone. I could hear someone answer.  “Hey, Fletcher Jones here, I want to talk to Bob Lund.” For those who haven’t seen previous posts, Bob was a GM VP and General Manager of Chevrolet!  “Hey Bobby, Fletcher Jones here.  How are you and the wife?  Yeah, still hot out here. When are you going to come visit? Bob, I need to ask you a question.” Jones turned to me and said, “Hey, what’s your name again?”  I told him. “Bob, I have one of your Campbell-Ewald guys by the name of Tom Cavanagh here who says that you guys are adding us to the Spot Market list.  Are you?” What if Lund said no?  Was this how my career was to end…limping out of a dealership in Las Vegas? Maybe I’m not too old for med school. “You are!!! Bob, that’s great news.  I’ll tell my local agency to plan around your buys. Take care, bye!”  Bob Lund had just arbitrarily made the decision that our media scholars were slaving over. Fletcher Jones wheeled around toward me with a smile on his face.  “Son,” he said, “sometimes you have to know when to push ’em.”

#3 WRAP YOURSELF WITH THE CLIENT

This example is pretty straightforward. Align yourself with powerful, or soon to be powerful, people who work at the client. Dick O’Connor, who started at Campbell-Ewald as a trainee in 1956, was the Chevy Account Director. He reported directly to Tom Adams, the chairman. As I had mentioned, being a field guy was the best way to pick up on rumors about change. Information leaks didn’t move from Detroit out, but from the field in. Chevy had just promoted a fellow to the job of General Sales Manager. It was their second highest position. His best agency buddy was Paul John, who worked for Dick O’Connor. The new GSM was traveling to all of the Chevy regions to meet the staffs and key dealers. Paul John accompanied him. My fellow field guys who had attended the meetings told me that Paul was being introduced as the Chevy Account Director!!  What?? We had received no company memo. What was going on? The regional meetings ended just as Campbell-Ewald was calling us to Detroit for Greek civilization, Plinth of kouros statue, bas-relief depicting wrestlers, circa 510 B.C., detail, from Kerameikos necropolis in Athens, Greeceour field meetings. We were gathered in the conference room on the first morning, waiting to hear from our Field Director. Instead, in walked Tom Adams and Dick O’Connor. Tom spoke to us. “You may have heard some wild rumors out there that there is a new Account Director. Well, as long as I have anything to say about the running of this agency, Dick here is our Account Director.” That’s what we wanted to hear!  We all applauded. Two days after I returned from the meetings, I got a copy of an all-company memo.

TO: The Staff

From: Tom Adams

Subject: Dick O’Connor Promotion

I am pleased and proud to announce the fact that, effective immediately, Dick O’Connor is being promoted to the position of Vice Chairman of Campbell-Ewald. Dick has served us for almost 20 years. In his new position, Dick will oversee the day-to-day operations of the agency as well as our business development activities. His skill and business acumen have proven to be great assets for this company. Through his leadership, our relationship with our Chevrolet client has grown ever stronger. Please join me in congratulating Dick on this well-earned promotion. By the way, Paul John takes over as Chevrolet Account Director.

Well, at least this meant that the client was happy.

Next:  More Tales From The Darkside

The Rocket Car

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Rocket

Here’s my story it’s sad but true, it’s about a car I once knew.  It took my love then ran around, through every light in town…Hayp, Hayp. Bumda hady hady hayp hayp… Well, most of you know the lyrics to the rest of the song.  This is the story of a car that was born too soon.  If Charles Dickens were to write a story about an orphan car, battered by cruel fate, and then cast aside, he would write about this car.  Except, in this story, there is no heroic redemption as in “Great Expectations.”  Our story begins in 1969 in the top floors of the GM Building. GM was looking for an alternative power plant to the internal combustion engine that would provide great low-end torque, and a true sporty car feel.  NSU, of Germany, had developed a rotary engine, the Wankel engine. Felix Wankel was a brilliant engineer.  He was also a high ranking SS officer during WWII. During the war he developed a revolutionary rotary 1974_GM_Rotory_engineengine.  After doing his prison time following the war, he went to work for NSU Motorenwerke AG. The modern Wankel was shown to the world in 1960.  Mazda, seeing its benefits, bought a license to manufacture it. GM saw that Mazda had a hot little number with the technology. In 1970, GM paid NSU $50 million to license the rotary engine.  They were going to put it in the Vega. BUT…the GM version had durability problems. They went back to the drawing boards and decided to use it in a model, still in development, to be launched in late 1974.  They went back to NSU and paid another $10 million to re-up the license.

The model in development was a sporty 2+2 hatchback based on a Vega frame. It was going to be called the Chevy Chaparral.  Jim Hall Racing of Midland , TX., had long partnered with Chevy to supply him with engines and parts.  Chevy made a deal with him to use his Chapparal name.  Then, two things happened that would doom the as yet unborn child.  GM couldn’t solve the durability problem with the Wankel, and the Arab oil crisis made the Wankel’s mediocre MPG numbers problematic.  GM dropped the Wankel. The other was that Jim Hall Racing decided that they wanted more money for their Chapparal name. GM had already spent more than $60 million on an engine they weren’t going to use, they weren’t going to spend more money on a name. Chevy needed a name. And it had to be about 5 inches long, as the dies for the sheet metal forms had already been made. Someone in Chevy Marketing suggested that they let customers name their purchase, providing them with sheets of stick-on letters. That idea died when management begin coming up with some of the possibilities. Then, someone realized that they still held a license for the Monza name.  Monza being a trim level name for the ill-fated Chevy Corvair.  The unborn child would be christened Monza.

Only one hurdle remained.  How would the child be powered? The base engine would be the Vega inline 4-cylinder aluminum block engine. The upgrade would be a V-6 that Buick offered.  There was one, teensy, tiny, microscopic, picayune problem with all of this.  California,car_exploding where GM was hoping to repulse the Japanese car invasion, had air quality requirements much more stringent than federal EPA standards.  At the time, GM’s solution was to strap on post-combustion air pollution devices.  This caused nasty back pressure problems.  The Vega for sale in California had a unique problem.  They tended to blow up. The aluminum block engine would heat up and expand, causing the cylinders to jam in the combustion chamber, causing the rods to bend and blow. Not good.  What about the V-6?  Again, Fate had dealt a cruel blow to young Pip.  The engine was “dirty” in the state of California, and couldn’t be sold there.  What was a mother to do? Again, American ingenuity came to the rescue. A GM engineer had measured the square foot area of the Monza’s engine well.  The GM plant in Tonawanda,NY., had excess capacity. They built the monster 5.7 Liter, 350 HP, V-8 engine that went into Corvettes and the Chevy Caprice.  The engine developed 250 HP. GM discovered that this engine (clean in California) would fit, just barely, into the Monza engine well. Chevy made it a California-only engine option.  There were a few problems to this, however.

The Monza had been designed to accommodate a much lighter Wankel engine. It could handle the inline Vega engine,35150-SuperTomcat.tif but the huge V-8 weighed hundreds of pounds more than the front end was designed to support. A Monza with the big engine looked like it was always driving downhill, as the weight forced the rear end into the air.  This was an engine that was built to power cars weighing almost one ton more than the Monza.  Because the car was so much lighter, it was only available with an automatic transmission. Revving it up with a stick, would have torn the gears apart. Being the savvy auto consumer that I was, I bought one!

What a car!! Pulling up to muscle cars at stop signs, knowing that I had a comparable engine, but weighed as much as a ton less, challenging them off the stop light was child’s play. I didn’t drive this car, I aimed it.  Being a rear wheel car with it’s butt up in the air was no handicap.  Pushing the accelerator sent 250 horses into the back seat. I was the King of the Road until one day I heard a fwap, fwap, fwap. TireThe front tire treads had been worn off on the inside, exposing the steel belts. The car had less than 10K miles on it.  The Firestone dealer honored the warranty and gave me new tires. Six thousand miles later, the same thing happened.  I went to a different Firestone dealer for new tires. I figured out what was going on.  Since the front suspension was burdened with hundreds of pounds of extra weight, it sagged and pushed the front tires into a bowed position.  I was only driving on the inner six inches of tread! No wonder the tires were failing so quickly. I also discovered that the engine’s radiator, designed to cool a much smaller engine, was the size of a small Frisbee.  Another vestige of an earlier incarnation.  Maybe Dickens shouldn’t have written the story of the Monza. Maybe Mary Shelley should have.

Next:  I Visit Sin City

Baseball, Something, Apple Pie, and Chevrolet

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America’s Bicentennial was approaching.  Marketers all across the country were wrapping themselves in all things American.  So it was with Chevrolet.  Campbell-Ewald had come up with a catchy ditty called “Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie, and Chevrolet.”  Words by Campbell-Ewald writer Jim Hartzell, and music by Ed Labunski, the commercial launching the theme line has been voted one of the best in American history.  Chevrolet was selling 3 million cars and trucks a year. They were running on all cylinders…sorry, I had to say that. Chevy had introduced the Monza 2+2, a sporty hatchback “import fighter.” Early in 1975, they introduced a notchback coupe version. The South Gate GM Assembly facility was now making “H” body vehicles, including the Monza, in anticipation of the nation’s move to smaller cars. Bob Lund, GM VP and General Manager of the Chevrolet Division was going to visit Southern California to inspect the plant, and tour local Chevy dealerships to see how they were promoting the launch of the new Monza Town Coupe. This news hit the LA Zone like a thermonuclear bomb.  They were being visited by “the man.”  All hands on deck! Spare no expense! Cordon off Interstates! Alert GM PR! Order the food! Kill the fatted calf!

The South Gate GM facility was Located in South Gate, CA., a few miles southeast of downtown LA.  Built in 1939, it had churned out Buicks, Oldsmobiles, and Pontiacs for 36 years. Now it was going to make small cars. The South Gate High School band was on hand, playing the “Baseball, Hotdogs” music. The mayor and city council of South Gate were there.  The press was there. I was there. The Zone wanted me to attend all of the day’s activities so I could include a glowing report of them in my weekly report to Detroit. The Regional Manager had flown in from San Francisco and was waiting for Mr.Southgate Lund’s arrival at LAX. District Managers were poised to take Mr. Lund’s baggage claims and rush his luggage to the hotel. A fully loaded Chevrolet Caprice Classic was waiting curbside with the a/c running for him to exit the terminal building and be whisked away in a motorcade to South Gate. When he entered the car, a Zone staffer made a call to a land line in an office in factory, telling the Zone Manager that “the package had left the building.” About 45 minutes later, the motorcade drove through security and entered the main parking lot.  The band struck up.  Mr. Lund was introduced to the dignitaries. A parade of Monza Town Coupes festooned with red, white, and blue ribbons drove by the reviewing stand.  The speechifying began. A sumptuous buffet had been laid out in case Mr. Lund was hungry. Unfortunately, he wasn’t.  Unfortunately, the buffet had been put out two hours earlier. Unfortunately, it was already 94 degrees. Unfortunately, every fly south of the Santa Monica Freeway had already found the buffet. Unfortunately, I could see the rare roast beef slices apparently moving on their own.

Once everyone had been duly overcome with bonhomie, it was time to visit Chevy dealerships.  We all piled into a luxurious GMC motor home someone had cleverly named Chevrolet One.  We only lacked the F-14 fighter escort as we gmc_motorhome_12headed out onto the freeway. Onboard, more food and a full bar added to the jocularity. Bob Lund turned to the Zone Manager and said, “Stop and park the motor home 1/2 mile before we get to a dealership.” “Why, sir,” was the Zone Manager’s response. “Because this isn’t a Chevrolet motor home”, Mr. Lund said. “Sir, Chevrolet doesn’t make a motor home.  This is a GMC motor home, made by GM.  The same company as us,” the now sweating Zone Manager offered. “I know that! But GMC also makes GMC trucks which compete with our Chevy trucks, and I’ll be darned if I’m going to show up at a Chevy dealership, riding in a competitor’s product. We’ll park 1/2 mile away from each dealership and walk!” Everyone put their drink down. We would be doing a lot of walking today.

That day, now remembered fondly as the “Great South Gate Death March,” started to unravel. We would park the motor home and trudge 1/2 mile to a dealership in the now 96 degree heat. The dealership staff would be shocked, and somewhat terrified, to see this bedraggled group of pedestrians walk into their stores. Each dealership, thinking that perhaps Mr. Lund hadn’t eaten in several days, had put out their own lavish buffets guarded by management keeping hungry sales and service people away from the food.  We’d all nod approvingly, wait for the dealer to have his picture taken with Mr. Lund, and then turn to trudge back to the motor home. Fortunately, since I hadn’t eaten since the night before, I was able to squirrel some cornichons into my trouser pocket. We were all hoping that the day couldn’t get worse. That hope was dashed at the next dealership.

The dealer shook Mr. Lund’s hand and said “Sir, welcome to our dealership.  We have something very exciting to show you. Boys, bring it out!” From around the side of the dealership came something that even I, with my limited automotive knowledge, knew was a big no-no. Pulling up in front of the CordovaGeneral Manager of Chevrolet was a brand new Monza Town Coupe that had been customized with a landau roof and an opera window.  The Chevrolet people averted their eyes in anticipation of what they knew was coming.  “So, Mr. Lund, what do you think?” the dealer cluelessly asked. Bob Lund turned to the dealer and asked his own question, “What’s wrong with the product we painstakingly designed and built for you?”  The entire crowd went silent. The party was over. We shuffled down the street back to the air conditioned bosom of Chevrolet One.

Of course, every dealership we visited that day had a variation of the current Chevy theme. One dealership we visited was having a promotion. Showroom visitors that day received a plastic baseball, a Little Debbie apple pie, and a hot dog.  The problem was that the dealer wanted the event to be in full swing, so he wasn’t giving anything away until the Magical Mystery Tour showed up.  In this pre-cell phone age, he could only estimate our arrival.  We were early.  The music started. the people rushed in. Baseballs started flying. Their sales manager realized that he had three cases of hot dogs that hadn’t been cooked yet. Emergency!!  I told him not to worry. That GMC motor home parked 200 yards down the street had one of those new-fangled microwave ovens on it.  He could take the hot dogs down there and nuke them all in a jiffy. About fifteen minutes had passed when Mr. Lund decided it was time to head to the next dealership. As we pulled away, I noticed a horrified man running next to the motor home, waving his arms in the air.  It was the Hot Dogsdealership’s sales manager! It was about five hours later when we began to notice the smell. The pleasant smell of rotting processed meat. It was traced to the microwave, where two dozen shriveled hot dogs were found, and to the cabinet under it, where two and a half cases of hot dogs were resting next to the motor home’s muffler.  “What are these doing here?” everyone asked. The driver shouted back over his shoulder, “Some guy brought them on this morning. He was here for about three minutes when he heard the loudspeaker calling him to the showroom floor as he had a customer waiting.  He never came back.” We had driven off with the dealership’s hot dogs.  Oh well, I hope they had a successful “Baseball, Apple Pie, and Chevrolet” sales event.

Next: The Rocket Car

 

The Case Of The Missing Cars

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The answer is: McCloud (Dennis Weaver), McMillan and Wife (Rock Hudson and Susan St. James), and Columbo (Peter Falk).  The year is 1973. A few years earlier, NBC and Universal signed a multi-year deal to develop feature length mysteries for television.  The “wheel” format was born.  Sensing a winner, Campbell-Ewald inked a deal making Chevrolet the “presenting sponsor” of the Sunday Night Mystery Movie, as well as giving Chevrolet automotive exclusivity in the program. “Exclusivity” is an arcane term used years ago when a sponsor could purchase an exclusive sponsorship to lock out category competitors.  Today a sponsor can’t even get the fall-back “ten minute separation” cushion.  This was also back in the era when clients had some control over the programming. Before each episode was shot, we received a script to make sure there was nothing “objectionable” in the show. Also,angels no Chevrolet could be used depicting the commission of a crime, or in any other negative light.  Chevy wasn’t the only one doing this. Did you ever notice that every car parked outside of Charlie’s office in “Charlie’s Angels” was a Ford?

To sweeten the deal, Chevrolet agreed to provide 40 loaner cars made up of different Chevrolet models.  They were to be used as cars for the filming of the shows.  They were generously sprinkled throughout each exterior scene.  Everyone was happy. Until the start of the 1974 model year.  Chevy was anxious for us to recall the current fleet and replace them with 1974 models.  I was tasked with calling our Universal contact to arrange for the fleet to be returned to Chevy’s LA Zone Office.  I was told that they would all be returned by the end of the following week.  I informed Chevy. On the appointed day, I called Universal and was told that the cars had been returned. Late that afternoon, I was informed by the Zone that only 26 cars had been returned.  I called Universal, and left a message for my contact.  The following Monday I called him again. “Uhhhh, Mike, you only brought 26 back.  We’re missing 14 vehicles.”  Mike actually seemed surprised.  “Tom, that was all of them.  There aren’t anymore in our garage.”  Hmmmm.  “Mike, we’re missing 14 cars.”  “Tom,” he said, “what’s the big deal?  GM is a big company.  What’s 14 stupid cars?”  I instantly knew where they were.  Universal heavy-breathers had gone to the production vehicle candy store and were personally driving the missing units.  I’ll get back to you, Mike.”  I called the Zone.  They said that they would “handle it.”  Two hours later, I received, via fax, a copy of a letter messengered to Mike at Universal.  The letter listed the 1012or_11_+1973_chevy_blazer+right_side_viewVINs (Vehicle Identification Numbers) of the missing cars.  It also listed the model, color, and option package of each one.  They were all Chevy Blazer 4X4s and Corvettes.  Surprise, surprise, surprise!!!  The letter went on to state that at 12:01 AM the following Wednesday, these units were being reported to the California Highway Patrol as stolen vehicles. Less than an hour later, I got a frantic call from Mike. The Universal lawyers were apoplectic. The missing cars had to be found.  They couldn’t have some big exec arrested for driving a stolen vehicle.

The next day 12 of the missing 14 were turned in.  We were still missing a Blazer and a Corvette.  The Blazer was located at the Napa vineyard a Universal director. It was being put on a truck and shipped to the LA Zone.  One to go.  A fully-loaded 1973 orange Corvette.  “Mike, GM’s gonna find it.” He was terrified.  The next morning I got a call from a famous producer with the motion picture division of Universal. He had given the Corvette to his girlfriend as a “gift.”  He explained that he couldn’t give itCorvette back as it was a gift to her. If he took it back, his girlfriend might do something crazy…like tell his wife! I explained to him how you can’t give things away that don’t belong to you. He then said that he’d pay for it. The Zone came up with a price…well above MSRP. The next day a cashier’s check was delivered to the Zone.

The bloom was now off the rose.  Chevy was starting to put more money into sports programs like NCAA Football and NFL Monday Night Football, both on ABC.  One of the nails in the Sunday Mystery Movie coffin came on january 27, 1974. That night’s episode of McMillan and Wife was about Rock Hudson’s character attending a reunion of his college football team. One by one, the attendees were being murdered. In buddy-mcmillan&wifeone scene, an attendee is crossing the street when, suddenly, a car races around the corner and accelerates straight toward him.  As the car approaches the poor soul, the Chevy bow tie logo is clearly scene on the grill of the advancing car. It was a 1974 Chevy Caprice.  The murderer used it to run the man down.  SPOILER ALERT!!!….the murderer turned out to be that legendary screen villain and evil-doer, Buddy Hackett.  The following Monday morning was highlighted by many angry calls from GM and Chevy, as well as a lot of professional grade ass covering.  The hit and run scene was in the script.  Universal knew the rule about not using Chevy products with bad guys driving them. They had always obliged by having the villains drive Fords.  Someone at Universal was getting even for the stolen car fiasco!  Chevy did not renew their sponsorship of the Sunday Mystery Movie.

This did not, however, mean that Chevy was done loaning out cars.  They became the “Official Vehicle” for the Glenn Campbell LA Open…now known as the Northern Trust Open.  Several weeks after Buddy Hackettgate, I was told that some gentlemen from the LA Junior Chamber of Commerce were in the lobby to see me.  Sensing the opportunity for a possible free lunch, I had them sent to my office.  I was surprised by their mission.  Apparently, someone in Detroit had given them my name as the LA Open contact.  The Junior Chamber was the service organization handling the staging of the tournament. They presented me with a list of vehicle needs for the tournament. I had been told that we only needed one vehicle which was to be parked in front of the clubhouse.  Not so.  To get the “Official Vehicle” honor Chevy had to provide,in addition to a boatload of cash, 20 vehicles for “tournament officials” to use as courtesy vehicles.  Here we go again!  We scrambled to find 20 cars to loan them. I reminded them that Chevy kept records of the VIN numbers on each car.

The tournament went off without  a hitch. Nineteen of the cars were returned within two days of the tournament’s finish. On Wednesday morning I received a call from the Chamber member who had given me the list.  “Hey Tom,” he said, “uhhh, we want to bring the Chevy Caprice back, but there’s a slight problem.”  Uh oh.  “Last night we were kind of celebrating, and, uh, we were looking for a place to have dinner.  We pulled up in front of The Palm and told the valet guy we didn’t have reservations and were going to just run in and check it out.”  “And…..?” I queried. “Well, you see, we were in such a hurry, and we’d already stopped at a few places, that we all jumped out of the car and accidentally locked the keys in the ignition.”  This wasn’t going to end well. “You see, the valet guys were getting mad because we were blocking the driveway, and we’d left the engine running. So we, so we found a rock and smashed out the driver’s side window to get back in the car.  The door frame got dinged a little too. We’ll pay for all the damages.  Sorry.” I told him that I’d call him right back and phoned our show car manager. “Don, we’ve got a slight problem.  The Chamber guys smashed out the driver’s sidelets-make-a-deal-doors window of the burgundy Caprice Classic with the white vinyl roof.” “Oh shark” (he really didn’t say shark), he screamed. I borrowed that car from Let’s Make A Deal.  That’s the grand prize behind Door #2!  They tape in three hours.  We can’t have the door open up on an empty turntable.”  There was no time to fix the car.  I told the Chamber guy to deliver the car directly to the studio.  We explained our predicament to their production people. Our solution was to have one of the models sit behind the wheel with her forearm resting on the doorframe…which had been cleared of glass, smiling broadly at the camera. If this didn’t work, I was sure that I was going to be saddled with the blame. The moment of truth arrived. Mrs. Fendeker, from Ottumwa Iowa, and dressed as an ear of corn, had to choose.  “Don’t pick Door #2, don’t pick 2,” I prayed.  She picked Door #3 and was on her way to Hawaii.

Next:  “Baseball, Something, Apple Pie, and Chevrolet” 

Chita Rivera Saves the Day

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We bid a fond adieu to Kansas City.  We watched as the moving packers swept through our apartment like locusts on the Kansas plains.  The last thing to be loaded onto the moving van was our new 1973 Chevy Vega Kammback Wagon.  I was nothing if not a company man.  I gave the keys to my free KC car to my replacement. Dick Byrne was giving me his Impala company car. We landed at LAX and went directly to the Franklin Arms.  This was old Hollywood at its stylish.  The residents were all “entertainment people” who would rent a unit on a month-to-month basis. Lots of ice plant and palm trees. A large pool in the centre of the units provided ample tanning area for folks to maintain their healthy Hollywood patinas.  It was about a half a mile from my office.  Fortunately, each unit was air-conditioned, as it was 104 degrees when we arrived.  I told my wife to enjoy the pool as I went off to work. Our furniture wasn’t expected to arrive for another five days. After the first day of having nothing to do from 8:30 AM to 6:00 PM but sit by the pool and read, she informed me that she was getting bored. Uh oh! I suggested that she walk down Hollywood Blvd, maybe visit Grauman’s Chinese Theater which was next to my office.  She wasn’t too keen on that as long as the temperature was above 100.  I told her that I’d try to come up with something for her to do all day.  

This all changed on the evening of the second day.  My wife had met a friend at the pool.  Chita Rivera!  Ms. Rivera was the first Anita in West Side Story on Broadway. Her show stopper was the song “America”…”I like to be in America, OK by me in America, Everything free in America.” She and my wife struck up a conversation and became pool buddies.  Whew!!  On the third morning, as I was checking for any mail, a French couple was checking in.  I don’t really recall what he looked like, but his wife/girlfriend/mistress/lover was striking.  Think of Catherine Deneuve with long dark hair.  Thatimages afternoon I received a call from my wife.  She was quite upset. “What kind of place is this?  Around noon, a French woman comes out and takes her top off and starts sunbathing in front of everyone!!!”  “No!!!,” I exclaimed.  “Tom, I want you to call the manager and complain.” I replied that I’d “get right on it.”  When I got to the apartment that night she asked if I had called the manager.  “He was out, so I left a message.”  The next day, at noon, I got another call.  “She’s back! This isn’t France. Call the manager”  About ten minutes later I surprised my wife by joining her at the pool.  “What are you doing here?” she asked.  “I brought you some lunch, Dear,” as I dropped an egg salad sandwich in her lap, while I frantically scoured the lounge chairs.  “Uhhh, where is that French trollop?”  “Oh, she left about ten minutes before you got here.” Hmmmm. The next day I brought a tuna salad sandwich…at 11:00.  No luck.  I guess someone else had called the manager.

Being the LA Field Guy was the greatest job in the world.  Even though I protested that I didn’t, all of the TV and radio stations, newspapers and outdoor companies in LA and San Diego thought I could help them get on a Chevrolet media buy. I quickly learned about Chasen’s, Perino’s, The Brown Derby, The Polo Lounge, Trader Vic’s, Tail O’ the Cock, and Scandia to name a few.  I learned that the big outdoor companies, Pacific Outdoor and Foster & Kleiser, would barter space with Las Vegas resorts and airlines to provide trips to clients.  I quickly realized  why Dick Byrne had refused to go work in Detroit and stayed in this job for 17 years.  If I played my cards right, I could stay in this job for at least 39 years.  I quickly became used to the lifestyle.  The one thing that I had yet to master, and found out that I should, was golf.  The landed gentry in England went fox-hunting, the Germans went boar-hunting, LA Ad Guys played golf. A wonderful man named Harley Humes “adopted us.”  He was a rep for Pacific Outdoor, and was already well into his sixties. My wife and I would often have dinner at his house in La Cañada. He was “old LA.” His father was one of the founding members of Wilshire Country Club in 1919. Harley came into my office one day and announced to me, “Tom, I’ve gotten you a membership in SCAGA!”  This was the Southern California Advertising Golf Association.  Rich ad guys who were good at golf.  “I’ve put you in our foursome for the next tournament at Lakeside County Club,” he said. Another old line club, a short distance from Warner Brothers in Burbank, Lakeside was founded in 1924 and had as it’s members Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, W.C. Fields, Oliver Hardy, Gene Autry, among others. On the day of the tournament, and with my Sears golf clubs, I arrived at the club. A man about the same age as my father 8893588_122902194863approached me and asked if I was Mr. Cavanagh. I was, I told him.  “Hi, sir.  I’m Sam. I’ll be your caddy today.  Why don’t you just give me those clubs and meet your friends in the grill.”  OK. Not too shabby.  I met Harley, who was sitting at a table with two other gentlemen. The first was introduced as Jim Davis, who owned a photography studio.  The other was introduced as Neal Reagan, Senior VP at McCann-LA.  I tried to lighten things up.  “Hey Neal,” I asked summoning all of my 26 year-old hubris, “you any relation to our actor-governor Ronald Reagan?”  “Why yes,” he intoned,”Ron is my brother.”  Uh oh!!  I felt retribution on its way.

As we walked toward the first tee, Harley pulled me aside and whispered, “We’re partners in this foursome. Don’t let Neal get under your skin. He’ll try to ride you, but he’s really a good guy. We’re not betting that much.”  If this hasn’t happened to you, you have NO idea the terror of being the new guy in a golf organization as you walk up to the first tee which is surrounded by golfers waiting to see what the “new kid” can do. I casually asked Sam for my driver and sauntered to the tee.  The quiet was deafening as I began my images (1)swing. Keep your head down!  Keep your head down! The ball left the tee with a mighty crack.  It was about 100 yards out when the ball’s right turn signal began flashing and it veered into some brush on the right side of the fairway.  Whew!! At least I got off the tee. “You’re OB, Tom!” Neal crowed.  “Tee it up again, you’re lying three!” Mortified, I walked over to Sam for my 3-wood.  Just hit it straight.  Again, the turn signal. This time the ball wasn’t as far right.  “OB again!!” Neal observed. “Tommy, you are now lying 6!!!!” I walked over to Sam and asked for my 9-iron. At least my slice would be limited. By this time the throng had dispersed, shaking their heads and chuckling to themselves.  My shot went all of 60 yards, but I was off the tee.

The rest of the round wasn’t too traumatic.  That evening at the awards dinner, Neal sat with me. The evening was kept buoyant by gallons of vodka martinis.  Well into the evening he turned to me and said, “You know Tom, you took my ribbing well. You’re a fine Irishman…like me. It’s a pleasure meeting you. Now I have to go the bathroom. I’ll be right back because I want to talk to you.”  He ambled off to the mens’ room.  After 30 minutes had gone by, Harley and I became alarmed.  We asked the waiter if he had seen Neal.  “Oh” he said, “Mr. Reagan got into his car about 30 minutes and drove home.” There were giants in those days.

Next:  The Case Of The Missing Cars