Coffee Break, Bull and Magic
I probably learned more about TV sales listening to my office mate of over 20 years work the phones than from Willie Gale, Earl Nightingale, Dale Carnage and Zig Ziglar combined. For sure, I was a quick study under the guidance of Johnny Evans when it came to trade-outs, live plugs and promotional mentions. I wondered why Johnny always got so many boxes in the mail until he started sharing the "promotional items". As I recall, several departments had folks very adapt in these areas. I still believe we may have been contributing factors in the closing of the Diplomat and Twickingham Station.
BS took on a whole new meaning when one of Johnny's clients showed up one morning for Coffee Break with a 4000 lb prized bull named Rolo II. The client was very put out that Rolo couldn't come in the studio for his appearance. Seems like I recall Coffee Break co-hostess Mary Beaton reply we already had enough bulls@#t in the station. Not true, Mary is a super sweet southern lady who would never say such a thing. Thanks to trucking camera, a strong cameraman and stretched cables, Rolo II appeared live from our parking lot. This opened up a whole new outdoor studio.
In addition to a ventriloquist via Tex and Grandfather clock (one could get an argument from Tex as to who was what), Johnny considered himself a quite a Magician. There is an old saying "it takes one to know one". This didn't hold true for a slight of hand trick one morning on Coffee Break. A local flea market vendor was scheduled to draw live for the winner of a used car folks had been registering for at his flea market booth. We had been promoting the registration and drawing on our air. After the drawing and the announcement of the lucky winner, our switchboard received an anonymous call identifying the winner as a close friend of the vendor. It was suggested we review the tape of the show. Sure enough, upon further review it was very clear the vendor had not so neatly palmed the winning ticket. A redraw was done later without the magic.
Early Sales Trip
Some salespeople were slower than others when it came to trades. Dan, Johnny, Dean and myself were on a sales trip to Ft.Walton. For what reason, if there was one, I don't recall. We were picked up at the airport by the GM of Smith Broadcasting's Ft. Walton radio station, WNUE. Holly Rogers was the trade-out king. Dean and I, being relative new to broadcasting sales, were amazed when we stopped at a local beverage store and could fill a grocery cart full of various "soft drinks" and "put it on the trade". As we were turning into the motel, Dean noticed an excursion helicopter parked across the road and commented how he sure would like to fly in it. "No problem," says Holly. "Just tell the pilot to put it on the trade". Upon return from a 30 minute buzz of the beach, the pilot asked Dean for his $25 fee (things were cheaper then at the beach). Dean, now catching on to this trade business smartly replied," put in on the WNUE trade". "What trade," replied the pilot? Holly was also big on practical jokes.
Cactus happened to be down at the same time working on the radio station. While there he drove the station Newshound. This was a very old, very gaudy, VW Beetle. The motel where we stayed had a large sand strip separating the room wings. I asked Cactus for a ride around to the other wing. "Why go around," he replied. We had to crawl out of the windows since the doors were sunk so low in the sand. While dusting the sand off his kakis, Cactus said, " Don't worry, we'll put the wrecker on the trade".
In order to stimulate more memory article submissions, I think I'll suggest to MD to give a very nice prize for the one he likes the best. After all, I can put it on the HiWAAY trade.
Three in particular come to memory from my 31 years at WAAY: Early Days… Johnny Evans was doing sports and came on in his brand new Afro hairdo. I don't remember anything about his delivery or sportscast just "the do". Next MD did the weather using a mark on map. I knew either the fumes from the marker cleaner or his pre newscast relaxer had gotten to him when he drew a tornado symbol for our area that wound up covering the better part of Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi and Georgia. I'm not sure we were even under a watch at the time. As for the anchor, I don't remember his last name but his first name had to have been Mo.
Happy Talk…We had just aired a story about a couple winning a brand new Cadillac in some contest and had switched back live for happy talk time before the break. One talking head commented to the other how lucky the winners of the car were. The other talking head agreed and said the happy couple told her they were going to trade the Cadillac for the Lincoln Continental they had always wanted. Guess the first spot in the break Yep, you guessed it, Sterling Cadillac.The Sterling owner called me at home before the spot was over to make that the last Sterling spot we ever ran.
Remote Broadcast... In my 31st year at WAAY, sitting in the remote truck at Guntersville's City Harbor I gained a new sense of appreciation and pride for the young people around me. During a "WAAY Down The River" remote, everything that could go wrong looked to me like it did. Mics went out, lights went out, shots had to change, tapes didn't roll, you name it, it happened. The folks directing and producing didn't break a sweat. Talent on camera moved with the flow. Myself, I was a bundle of sweating tension. It took a couple beers and a hardboiled egg at the First Chance in Madison County to settle me down. I now understood why no one in the van was over 30. It was a great feeling for this old salesman to experience the admiration I had for the folks making it happen and the pride that I felt to be their GM for that last year before the new owners.
There have been some comments submitted that the W2L crew felt misunderstood. As happens often in broadcasting, that's a matter of perception. Engineering was actually the one misunderstood. We have to be reminded here that W2L was taking these engineers from Scottsboro a little too fast. As for sales, we were just jealous you were having so much fun without drugs.
With regard to selling advertising in W2L, the show was certainly prominent enough and was not too late. Some may have felt it was not late enough. Sales at first had planned to sell complete sponsorships. After viewing the first few shows, we changed the strategy to selling participating spots. Following the next few shows, this was revised to a ROS spot carrier. As creative juices really started to flow, W2L seemed like a perfect place to fulfill our PSA obligation to the FCC. After talking to several of the Public Service groups willing to give up their time in the show, Sales agreed that if you guys could give up so much of your free time the least we could do was give up the breaks and make W2L commercial free for our viewers pleasure.
Late Programming Note:
For those of you who don't remember Diane Buffington, she was station artist for a short time and a good friend. One day soon after she and her husband moved to Atlanta, I received a phone call from her about a new daytime syndicated show that had just started in Atlanta. She thought we might want to take a take a look for our market. We passed. How could a show done in Chicago by a young female Afro- American make it? Especially, with a name like OPRAH.
October 1968 to October 1999. It was a great 31year ride! How the time flew because we WERE having fun.