Rolling Coconuts and Footballs

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Deana Tiki

In addition to getting free cars, another great thing about being in advertising is the opportunity to meet fascinating people at free dinners in fancy hotels.  This was the case when an old friend of mine, George Burns (the mag rep, not the comedian), invited me to a David Gergendinner at the Ritz Carlton Hotel, located in Marina Del Rey, CA. George’s magazine, U.S. News & World Report, was always able to land some heavy-duty Washington, D.C., face to speak at their dinners. This year’s speaker was David Gergen. Gergen was considered to be an ultimate D.C. insider. He started out writing speeches for Nixon, and quickly became the head speech writer. He was Director of Communications for Ford and Reagan. After taking a few years off, he returned to Washington to become a key advisor to Bill Clinton. He is one of those people in Washington who knows where the bodies are buried.


Because the invitation was for two, I brought a longtime friend and former co-worker, Deana Linderholm. As we arrived that evening, I was immediately struck by two things. The first was that the hotel was populated by gargantuan men whoHigh Fashion Models were quite loud and had fingers that seemed to have been broken many times. A quick glance at the marquee explained it. The NFL and Fox Sports were having their annual Summer Meeting here. The other thing that struck me was that the lobby was jammed with very attractive women, wearing very expensive dresses, and ambulating easily on their very spikey high heels. The only other organisation mentioned on the marquee was the National Association of Kosher Butchers.  I had a hunch that these women were not part of that group.

We worked our way to the dining room that had been set aside for U.S. News. A number of familiar faces were already gathered at the bar. Another great thing about advertising was that you had the opportunity of drinking really great booze.

After all the booze was gone, we were asked to find our seats. I discovered, much to my surprise, that Deana and I had place cards on either side of Gergen!  I should point out that there is a great deal of stagecraft at work at any media event serving food.  The basic plan consists of four parts. #1: Serve booze before the dinner. This allows the mag rep and the magazine’s management to “work” the crowd.  #2: Sit down and greeting.  This is done to help the ad cattle-penpeople remember who is buying the booze and the food. #3: Follow the order. Make sure to have your guest speak, or pitch, or opine BEFORE you serve the meal. The ad people are only there for the free food and booze. Once they are done eating, they will stampede toward the exit.  #4: Serve dessert slowly. By doing this, the magazine is able to keep the ad people at their tables, waiting for the yellow sheet cake with white frosting.  This gives the magazine salespeople one last chance to work the room.

We sat down on either side of David Gergen.  I discovered him to be a very affable gentleman. He wanted to know what each of us did for a living. Each person around the table spoke in turn: Ad guy, ad guy, ad girl, spouse, ad guy, spouse, ad girl, ad guy. Perhaps to change things up a little, and because it was true, Deana said, “I teach Hawaiian and Polynesian dance.” This caught David’s attention. As this was the seventh dinner on his grueling cross country mag rep dinner circuit, he had become used to the litanies of “ad guy, ad girl, spouse.” “My, that’s an interesting occupation,” he said. “Did you ever have something embarrassing happen to you while you danced?” Interesting question.  Deana thoughthawaiian_hula_dancers_2_by_thetomatohead for a moment and said, “Well something happened to a friend of mine as we were in line doing a very spirited Tahitian dance. I heard her squeal, then heard a “clack” and saw half of a hollowed out coconut shell hit the stage and roll away. My friend had lost half of her top!”  David then asked, “Did anything ever happen to you?” She thought and then said, “One time, as we were exiting the dance floor, I passed too close to a candle on a table, and my grass skirt started to go up in flames. Fortunately, the dancer behind me saw it and immediately tore my skirt off.” There was stunned silence at the table.

It was time for David to speak. He opened his talk by saying, “Thank you very much for having me with you here tonight. Quite interestingly, I just met a woman who teaches Hawaiian dance. I’ve never met one before.  Deana can you stand up? (Polite applause) I thought MY job was exciting. Deana was dancing one time when half of her coconut shell bra fell off while she was dancing on stage. As she tried to run off, her grass skirt somehow caught fire, and she had to rip it off.” (Polite laughter) “Wow!” Deana slowly sat down.  After his speech, David came back and sat down at our table. When he was made aware of the factual mistakes in his story, he apologized profusely to Deana. I think that this may have been the reason was founded.

After the dessert had been consumed, George Burns came over and said, “Hey. Do you guys have to leave? Why don’t you meet me in the lounge for a nightcap?” Goodie, more free booze!  Just as we were being seated in the stock-footage-happy-attractive-woman-talking-on-cellphone-in-cafelounge, I noticed the gargantuan men had been seated on one end of the lounge, and the attractive women, who were not Kosher butchers,  were seated across the lounge from them. The only difference in their appearance was that now the ladies were all carrying their cell phones. As each one got a call, they would talk for about thirty seconds, write something down, then leave the table and saunter toward the guest elevators. Then it dawned on me! The NFL was here, and I was looking at the paid escort staging area!

After a few minutes, George departed, telling us that he had opened a tab for us in his name. More free booze.  About three drinks later,  Deana looked over my shoulder and shouted, “O my gosh!”  I asked, “What?” She whispered, “That’s Terry Bradshaw over there! My brother is a big fan of his and he’d kill me if I didn’t get his autograph.” She grabbed a pen and a cocktail napkin and went over to the table with Bradshaw and several other ex-NFL players. I ordered another drink. About fifteen minutes later, I realized that Deana had not returned.  I peered over the back of my chair and saw that Deana and the guys were having quite a good time telling stories and laughing. Oh well, that just means more bar nuts for me.

A few minutes later, two giant hands reached over the back of my chair and grabbed my shoulders.  I turned to see Terry Bradshaw smiling down at me.  “Hey hoss,” he said, “we’d like tuh apologize for keepin’ your lady friend so long.  Please come on over and join us.” I got up and followed him to his table.  I could feel the sixty eyes of the not-a-Kosher-butcher ladies boring into the back of my skull. In addition to Terry, I saw that Howie Long and Ronnie Lott were also sitting at the table.

Terry immediately asked, “Whatcha drinkin’?” Realizing that the NFL was buying drinks, I blurted out, “I’d like a triple Johnny Walker Blue Label…neat.”  Everyone was having a wonderful time. Terry was telling a lot of jokes. After one of them, he gasped and said, “Ronnie, was that joke offensive?”  Lott answered, “Of course it was Terry!”  Then everyone would break out in laughter.  I guess it was a shtick they did. More jokes followed.  Howie Long and I started some small talk about where we had grown up.  He in Boston, IHowie-Long-Terry-Bradshaw-Fox-Pregame-2-300x171 in Detroit. We talked about what it was like growing up in an Irish family, and how the family traditions carry on. I found out that his grandmother and my grandmother both had the same picture of Jesus over the fireplace mantle in the living room.  I had just finished reading “Angela’s Ashes.” I told Howie the story line.  We both laughed at how many things in the book were familiar to both of us. He took out a pad from his coat and had me write down the name of the book and the author.  He promised to read it when he got home.  While we were still reminiscing, two ladies from the staging area came up behind his chair and put their hands on his shoulders. Not missing a beat, Howie kept talking to me while he slowly raised the back of his left fist to the eye level of the ladies.  He then put his left thumb into the middle of his clenched fist and slowly pushed up his ring finger, revealing a very nice gold wedding band.  The ladies made a hasty retreat back to their staging area.  “Well done!” I said.  He chuckled and said, “I don’t like to talk to them, and the ring finger/wedding band thing keeps them away better than Deep Woods OFF.”  Soon, all the jokes and stories had been told.  Ronnie Lott said that it was late and their first meeting was at 8:00 the next morning.  Terry and Howie agreed. Hand shakes and hugs were exchanged with us before they walked off through an exit that didn’t go near the staging area.  These three guys were no longer knuckle dragging gargantuan men to me.

Within fifteen seconds, the recently vacated chairs were filled by three twenty-something FOX Sports production assistants.  They quickly affixed NFL lapel pins to their blue blazers.  The pins must have been laced with mating musk oxen pheromones, because 5 White-backed vultures at a carcass (note the yellow wing tags)about twenty of the not-kosher-butcher ladies were now stampeding toward us. I grabbed Deana’s wrist and screamed, “Run for the exit before it’s too late!!!” As we ran out into the lobby, I looked back. It was a terrifying sight. Oh well, at least I got a lot of free booze and food…and had met some very interesting people.  




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” 

“Have You Met Any Movie Stars?”

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Hollywood!  I was 26 years old and working in Hollywood.  I knew nothing about California except for what I saw out of the cab window on my way to start my first day of work.  Dick Byrne greeted me and took me back to his (soon to be mine) corner office.  He brought me up to date on what was going on in the two zones I would be covering.  He introduced me to everyone in the office.  I asked him about his retirement.  He was going to live in his condo in Apple Valley, near Victorville in the Mojave Desert.  His wife was already out there, and Dick was living in a motel for the next week until his retirement became official.  He couldn’t wait to start playing golf every day.  Dick then took me to lunch.  As we walked out onto sidewalk, I immediately realized that I was on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Treading lightly on the names of long-deceased celebs, we soon reached the Musso & Frank’s Grill.  I had never heard of it.  I will never forget it.  Opened in 1919, the dark interior features red leather and mahogany.  The waiters, many of whom have been there for years, sport red jackets and black ties. Faulkner used to go behind the bar to mix his own mint juleps, Fitzgerald would manny-aguirresit in a booth and review his writing.  Their nonpareil martinis are served in carafes.  Gore Vidal described the place, saying,  “Coming into Musso’s is like stepping into a warm bath.”  It was during lunch with Dick that I saw my first movie star: Cornell Wilde!  He was sitting alone at the next table, quietly eating his Shrimp Louie.  He was probably contemplating whether or not to appear on “Dean Martin Presents The Goldiggers.”

As our lunch was finishing, Dick asked me where I was planning on living.  I told him that since this was my first trip to LA, I didn’t have a clue.  He suggested the Park LaBrea complex.  “It’s very close to work. My wife and I lived there for 22 years. You should really consider it.”  I told him that I would. When we got back to the office, Dick went off to make some phone calls. Some of the other staffers also asked me where I was going to live.  I mentioned Park LaBrea. “Noooo!!,” they said as one. They explained that even though Dick and his wife had lived there for 22 years, when his lease term was up the first of April, he had to either renew for another year or move.  They didn’t allow month-to-month leases. They moved out, with Dick’s wife going to the desert condo, and Dick staying in a cheesy local motel.  On top of that, there was no central air conditioning at Park LaBrea, and window air conditioners were prohibited.  Since it was 102 that day, Park LaBrea was crossed off my list.  Just then, Dave Koontz, one of our TV producers came up with a suggestion. Dave’s wife, at the time, was Christina Crawford of “Mommy Dearest” fame.  “Hey man, do you have any kids?” We didn’t at the time.  “You should check out a place called Marina Del Rey.  It’s on the water, and it’s a non-stop party place.”  That sounded very good to me.

Screen Shot 2013-08-13 at 12.05.50 AMThe next day I drove to the Marina and visited one apartment complex: Mariner’s Village.  It was right on the main channel into the Marina. It truly was a village, or at least my imagery of one.  It even had its own on-site dry cleaners!!  The two bedroom unit they showed me was perfect.  The living room sliding glass door went out to a balcony with a breathtaking view of the water.  Sailboats slowly cruised by right on front of me.  “I want it,” I screamed. “I’ll be back in 48 hours with my wife to sign the lease.”  I ran to the nearest pay phone and called my wife in Kansas City. “I have found the promised land! It’s an apartment right on the water. I’m flying home tonight to start packing, and then we’ll fly back here tomorrow.  You’ll love it”

Timing is, truly, everything.  Bad Timing Item #1: When we got off the plane in LA, it was 104 degrees with a Stage 3 smog alert.  I think Stage 3 meant that your skin would start blistering if you were outside for more than ten minutes. My case for moving to LA wasn’t helped by the fact that my wife’sla-smog-jordansmall_462 eyes were burning and she had developed a nasty hacking cough in the last ten minutes.  Bad Timing Item #2: When we got to Mariner’s Village, I found out that my dream apartment had been leased to someone else that morning. “But I told you I was coming right back,” I sobbed. “Sir,” they officiously scoffed, “we don’t ‘hold’ units without a deposit.”  “Is there another one?”  “No, they said.  We have no more vacancies. We’d be happy to put your name on a waiting list.”  I stormed out.  There had to be other really cool Marina apartments for rent.  After driving around for three hours, I found that there weren’t.  We stopped for lunch.  My wife bought the current issue of Newsweek.  When I returned from the bathroom to join her at our table, she threw the magazine at me.  “Now I know why you want to move to LA!!!”

Bad Timing Item #3


The cover story of the current issue of Newsweek was an expose on the anything-goes, swinging sex scene lifestyle found in a place called Marina Del Rey.  To top it all off, the cover picture was taken at the pool at Mariner’s Village, the place I had been dying to make mine.  “You can move here if you want.  But I’m not coming with you.”  Hmmmm.  I realized that I had some selling to do.  And I only had 24 hours to do it. I desperately suggested, “Let’s drive around for a while. We might find something.”  I was clutching at straws. I managed to get lost as we drove in ever-widening arcs away from the Marina.  “Why don’t you give up?  We’re not going to find anything we like,” she said.  Just then, I saw it.  The sign that said “Luxury Apartments and Townhouses just ahead.”  Last chance.  I pulled into Raintree. It was just off Jefferson,east of Overland in Culver City.  MGM was selling off Raintreemany of their backlots.  Raintree was no exception.  Many of the exteriors from the Elizabeth Taylor movie, Raintree County were filmed on this lot.  MGM left the small lake which was now the centerpiece of the complex.  The units were brand new, unoccupied.  We could have our pick.  Once you passed the guard gate, the air was cooler, cleaner. Large willow trees shaded the walkways.  The resident managers were from Ohio, and spoke Midwestern.  They told us that Telly Savalas and Isabel Sanford (The Jeffersons) were residents in the townhouse section of Raintree. My wife said, “This will do.”

Next:  Chita Rivera Saves The Day  

Into The Belly Of The Beast



June 26, 1971, started as any other day except for one thing.  I was now an Ad Guy!!  I had relocated from Lansing to my grandmother’s house in Detroit several days earlier to be close to work.  I was to report to Personnel at 9:oo AM.  As I entered the lobby of the GM Building and made my way to the elevators, I noticed that I was now part of a sea of suits that was about to infest every corner of the building, making heavy decisions, determining the course of the U.S. economy, and just generally being brilliant.  After dropping my paperwork off, I was escorted to the main conference room.  Soon, the other four chosen ones came in.  My MSU college buddy, Ed Pietila, had made the cut. Tom Turner and Greg Stein, Vietnam vets, and Chuck Seibert, who had been a caddy at Oakland Hills C. C..

We had all been assigned to different departments to begin our instruction into the art, craft, science, and lifestyle choice that was advertising.  I grabbed my briefcase, that had nothing in it, and was taken to the Media Department.  The Media Department was not in the GM Building.  It was behind it on the 11th floor of the Argonaut Building.  To get there, you had to take a GM Bldg elevator to the 10th floor where a hallway led you to a skyway concourse that took you directly into the Media Department.  To this day I haven’t been able to figure out how one gained a floor by crossing Milwaukee Avenue a hundred feet in the air.

Bill Kennedy, VP – Media Director, greeted me and took me around to meet the group.  I’m sure that they had all been told to be nice to the “bag smasher” they were getting stuck with.  I was to be assigned to the Broadcast Group.  They were the ones who planned and bought the time for TV and radio commercials.  I instantly learned about “glom.”  Glom was the free tchotchkes you got from networks, stations, and reps.  I was immediately given a Mutual Broadcasting coffee mug, a CBS Spot Radio Sales notepad, and an NBC Sports ballpoint pen.  I was ready to start making a difference.

I was turned over to Mary George. Mary was the head of the Spot Buying Unit.  A very petite lady, she gave meaning to the adage “Hell hath no fury like a spot buyer scorned.”  On many occasions, I would hear Mary’s voice rise when a rep would tell her that he couldn’t deliver the ratings he had promised.  The walls would shake as she told the rep was about to happen to his career.  It was the only time in my career that I would see men run out of an office.  I crunched rating numbers for her.  One day I was standing behind her at her desk, going over a buy.  I noticed that she had a milk crate under her desk, upon which she had placed her feet.  I asked about it. Mary smiled.  “Tom, I’m so short that my feet don’t touch the ground when I sit in my desk chair.  If I didn’t have something to anchor my feet when I went to throw something at a rep, I would just spin in my chair.  That’s not a good image for engendering fear.”  That advice went into Tom’s Book of Advice to Never Forget.

A few weeks after I’d started, the FCC did something that almost caused me to reconsider my chosen vocation.  They came out with PTAR…the Prime Time Access Rule. It wasn’t so much the rule that almost sank me, it was what the rule brought about.  TV stations now were able to run their own local programming.  The hour from 7:00 PM to 8:00 PM would no longer carry network programming.  The race was on!!!  Syndicators and advertisers went crazy coming up with shows to fill this vast wasteland…of time.  Chevy was no different.  The General Manager of Chevy was John Delorean.  John Z. had many Hollywood connections.  The agency was told that Chevy had purchased three barter syndication shows. Barter meant that Chevy would slug two commercials into the show, the station could run the program at no charge and sell the other two spots for their own profit.  They were:

  1. The Tom Brookshier Sports Illustrated Show – Ahead of it’s time.  Think of a kinder, gentler Bryant Gumbel’s Real Sports 
  2. Johnny Mann’s Stand Up and Cheer – Wholesome, clean-cut, mostly young, singers and dancers who always seemed to be wearing red, white, and blue spandex. Notable about the show were two of the singers.  Thurl Ravenscroft, who was 57 at the time.  He gave voice to many of the animatronics at Disneyland, but was most famous as the voice of Tony the Tiger.  The other was Ken Prymus. One of two African Americans in the group, Kennie is probably most famous for his role as PFC. Seidman in the movie version of MASH.  During the “Last Supper” scene, he sings the now iconic theme “Suicide is Painless.”  These were cool people to be around.
  3. Chevrolet Presents the Golddiggers – This was a dog’s breakfast of skits, unintentional bloopers, and going through the motions dance numbers.  For those of you who weren’t around, the Golddiggers were a group of lovely young women who were featured on the Dean Martin Show in the 70’s.  They would lounge around on couches, supporting Dean’s naughty boy image, while he delivered the opening monologue.  Someone had the brilliant idea to package the routines that weren’t good enough to air on NBC, and sell them to Chevy as a syndicated show.

Either because everyone else was too busy, or nobody wanted to be connected with this deal and get career-ending schmutz on them,  I was given the project.  My instructions were simple:

  • Clear the top 25 markets at all costs!
  • There are no demo tapes, “so they’ll just have to trust you that these are great shows.”
  • The MOST important thing was to clear a Detroit station.  There would be a lot of televisions in Bloomfield Hills, Birmingham, and Grosse Pointe looking for them.
  • All of this had to be done in two weeks.

Armed with a station directory and my NBC Sports pen, I started cold calling station managers.  There were a few hurdles.  They had never heard of the shows (except they could name all of the Goldiggers), they wanted to see a demo before they committed to a program, and, of course, they had no idea who I was.  Within two weeks I had cleared 24 markets with at least one of the shows.  I couldn’t crack Detroit.  The folks in media told me to remind the local station managers that there was a huge Chevy Spot TV buy coming up.  Wink, Wink.  WWJ-TV, the Detroit NBC outlet relented.  They signed up for The Golddiggers.  The first show was to air the following Monday at 7:00 PM!  I told my co-workers, I told the client. I also told my friends and my family.  I wanted them all to see that I was now a powerful ad guy.

Monday arrived.  It was 4:30 PM.  My phone rang.  It was the Channel 4 station manager.  I couldn’t really tell what he was saying because of all the cursing and gagging. I finally got the gist of his call.  They had just received the tape for that evening’s show.  Not only was it a terribly edited piece of crap, the program, INCLUDING commercial slugs, was only seventeen minutes long.  Oooops!  I naively suggested that he pull the show and run a George Pierrott Travel Show repeat. Silence.  Then he said, “Don’t worry , Tom.  I’ll get even.”  Hmmmmmm. Something was going to happen tonight that might delay my getting my free car.

7:00 PM.  Judgement half-hour. The program came on.  Everything seemed to be OK. Sure, the production values were crappy, the lip synch was off, and the lighting was bad.  Big deal.  The PTAR was bound to cause a few hiccups.  Then, about ten minutes into the program, while the Golddiggers were singing “Let Me entertain You,” it happened.  The tape slowly ground to a halt.  …”let me make you smmmmm… The station then ran twelve minutes of the same Smokey the Bear commercial.  No big deal for WWJ.  They completed their monthly FCC mandated public service advertising duty in one night.  As Smokey faded out, they started the tape back up. “…smmmmmile. Let me do a few tricks, some old and some new tricks…”  My phone rang.  It was the Media Director.  “Tom, what happened?  Three clients have already called me at home!”  I told him what had happened.  How the syndicator had sent a bad show.  How sorry I was.  He simply and calmly said, “See me first thing tomorrow morning.”  I immediately showered and shaved. Put on my best suit, and sat in my car until the sun came up.

I walked into his office that morning looking like a whipped dog.  I was surprised to see him smiling.  “Thanks, Tom.  You did us all a great favor.  You’re going to go far in this business.”  Huh?  What was going on?  He explained to me that the agency had fought tooth and nail to distance themselves from the Golddiggers.  Since John Delorean had blessed the project, nobody could say No.”  Only by broadcasting one of the shows on a Detroit station could the voices of reason be heard.

I guess I took one for the team.  I learned that most good deeds never go unpunished.

Next:  “Get Out!  Get Out Now!