A special meeting place for
By Andy Limber

           At a time in life when all my friends, former associates and acquaintances are either dead, retired or in jail, it becomes almost a duty to reminisce about the people and events of the past--a past rich in poignancy, personalities and humor. So here, let's give Ray Lindstrom a round of applause for creating this web site to record and preserve those big and small pages in the historical record of Arizona media and the people who shaped it through the decades. 

           When Ray asked me to contribute to this site, I decided almost instantly what I would write about in the first "issue."  After Ray reads this, it may also be my last such essay. 

           I had known Ray for a few years when he called me one day at my ad agency. It was somewhere around 1970 or 1971, when he was a sales rep for Channel 12 in Phoenix, with the then call letters of KTAR-TV.  With his customary enthusiasm and opening sales tease, he said,  "Boy, have I got an idea that's going to make us a lot of money!!!"  (Because Ray is unlike any other salesman I have ever known, he gets at least three exclamation marks after sales pitch sentences.)

           Pressing him for details over the phone was futile.  Ray loves cliffhangers, so I had to wait for a personal meeting to hear about his latest "million dollar idea."

           It was pure genius.  With today's advertising rates, it may not seem that some businesses could not afford to buy TV commercial time some 35 years ago.  But such was the case, and Ray had figured out a way to attract small business owners to KTAR's

           As all great ideas, the premise was beautifully simple:  Combine a large group of small advertisers under a common banner, making it possible for all of them to gain the benefit of television advertising. Ray created the Society of Top Arizona Retailers, a.k.a. "STAR."  Two different advertisers would share a 30 second spot, and at the end would appear the STAR logo, created by Channel 12's highly talented art director, Emmett Lancaster.  As a sales tool, the aid of the station's congenial weatherman, Frank Peddie, was enlisted to host a sales film (yes, film, as in 16mm), promoting the STAR concept.

           My role in the STAR venture was to be the ad agency of record for the account, placing the time and scheduling each of the participating STAR members within a group of 30 second daytime, fringe and even some prime time slots, and receiving the usual 15 percent agency commission.

           Ray herded one bunch of potential advertisers after another into the KTAR conference room to view the filmed sales pitch, followed by a slam-bang personal close by him.  In a matter of weeks, STAR was all over the place, putting a few extra bucks into everybody's pockets.

           Success, however, often breeds some undesirable circumstances.  As for many people in our business at the time, lunch meant one of three places:  Navarre's, Durant's or the Beef Eaters.  It was at Navarre's one day that a visibly upset competing ad agency principal came to my table to inform me that STAR was "unethical" and that I should be drummed out of the advertising community.  

           Even though I had a guest, I invited "Paul" to sit at my table and have a drink so we could discuss the matter, but he refused and stormed away.

           Variations of this scene repeated themselves several times with other ad agency owners of the day, although none was as perturbed as Paul.  Personally, I liked the guy, and, in fact, had no ax to grind with anyone in the advertising agency business.  Yes, there were times when we might compete for the same account, but big boys and girls know that's a natural part of the game.  Besides, I had an agreement with Ray that we would not deliberately solicit any client already represented by an agency.  But if they came to us and asked to be a STAR member, we would not turn them away.

           Well, the more STAR appeared on KTAR's air, the more heat I got from Paul and some others anytime I showed up at my favorite lunch spots, which prompted an increase in my supply of Alka-Seltzer.   What these critics failed to understand was that those businesses involved in STAR would not have otherwise been television advertisers; they were also too small to be worthwhile agency accounts.

           Truth be known, the controversial STAR program had some success but was not the money machine its detractors perceived. As for some of the consternation it brought, I should have told everybody it was all Ray Lindstrom's fault.  But if I threw Ray under the bus, I knew he would pop up unscathed and I would lose a friend.  Besides, I actually had fun tweaking the noses of some of my more stuff shirt advertising colleagues.

           More importantly, I eagerly awaited the next telephone call from a familiar voice, saying, "Andy!!! Boy!!! Do I have a deal for you!!!" 

           Another day, another exclamation mark, another adventure in advertising.        



JUNE, 2004

     By Andy Limber

    Those of us who were involved in video production all have themthose juicy small and large gems of missteps, mishaps and at times downright mayhem associated with the production of a television commercial or program.  Here are some of mine:

    The Dodge City Cussing Caper.  I was the continuity director at KTVK (Ch. 3), the then ABC-TV Phoenix affiliate, when they received their very first Ampex videotape machine in late 1960 or early 1961.  This was a momentous occasion, and everybody was thrilled that spots no longer had to be done live or on film but could be videotaped and played back instantly.  No more live on-the-air embarrassing goofs, no more late night announcers hanging around the studio, no more running over the allotted time and screwing up the programming schedule.    This video technology was a station's dream come true.  And sometimes, it's worst nightmare.

    Part of my $75 a week job was to accompany some of the station's salesmen when they met with clients regarding copy content.  A major advertiser of the day was  Peagler's Dodge City, on East Camelback Road near 16th Street.  Dodge City was on Jack Clifford's account list, and when we met with owner Julian Peagler, he would typically hand us two pages of typewritten copy. The video instructions were: ON CAR AND ANNCR.

     Back at the station, it was my responsibility to essentially condense two minutes of copy down to 60 secondsand still keep all the sales points that Mr. Peagler wanted. 

     It was a formidable task, and when I discussed this with Jack, he gave me that wicked little boy smile of his and said, "Andy, my boy, I know you can do it!"  Then he walked away.  Yeah, thanks, Jack.

    My one ace in the hole was staff announcer Harry Ebbessen. Harry was not only a handsome guy with a great voice, he could deliver more words in the shortest time better than anyone I knewand still be understood.

    At the studio taping session:  My tightly written copy is on prompter.  Harry in tie and sport coat is seated on a stool in front of a new white Dodge Polaris.  Roll tape, cue Harry.  He's off to an energetic start.  The words come flooding out of his mouth as smooth as can be.  Then, verbal stumble, and a frustrated Harry utters an epithet involving the Lord and damnation.  Stop tape!   No problem.  In the second take, Harry successfully crams nearly 1:30 minutes into 00:59 seconds.  God bless Ampex.

    Remember what a thrill it was to go home after work and actually view the spot you wrote, directed or appeared in?  I recall that night after the Dodge City spot was done, eagerly watching it with my wife in our little apartment on East Roanoke Street. 

    See Harry in front of the Dodge Polaris. See Harry looking into camera and praising the deals at Dodge City.  See and hear Harry say something nasty that was not in the script. See Harry, car and studio fade quickly to black.  See station switchboard light up like the Manhattan skyline.

    There was, of course, some fallout.  And a few changes that may or may not have had anything to do with this incident.  But it wasn't long afterwards that a great pitchman from the carnival barker days by the name of Stan Norman became the exclusive on-air talent for Dodge City.  I was no longer writing the copy and the spots were produced on-location in front of the dealership, which aired on every station in town.

    The Hallcraft Homes Emblem "Branding."  In 1961, I left KTVK to become the radio-television writer/producer for Allen C. Reed Advertising and its primary account, Hallcraft Homes. Some of you may recall that Hallcraft sponsored a movie every Friday night on KTVK, Hallcraft Theatre, hosted by Jeanne Metzger, the most beautiful and most professional female talent I ever worked with.  Besides Jeanne's extraordinary on-air presence, the entire movie contained only three commercials, though they were each considerably longer than 60 seconds. One of them we called the "integrated" commercial, meaning that a scene would be selected from the movie, duplicated in the studio, then run in place of the real thing just ahead of the commercial break.  The duplicated scene always surprised the audience by revealing the Hallcraft emblem, with a voice-over by Jeanne saying, "The Hallcraft emblemsymbol of quality."

     I wish I could claim that I invented this fantastically clever gimmick, but I didn't.  Whether it was Allen himself or somebody else who came up with it, I can't be sure. Nevertheless, I had inherited the responsibility of continuing it and refining it, so one of the fun parts of my job was previewing the feature film every week to select the "integrated" element, then producing it along with the commercials I had written.

    On one such occasion, the Hallcraft Theatre movie of the week was Young at Heart, first released in 1954, starring Frank Sinatra and Doris Day.  There's a scene in which Sinatra is shaving with a safety razor, and that's the one I picked to "integrate."

    Working with gifted KTVK staff director Tom Habib, we got cameraman Sonny Stires to volunteer as a "stand in" for Sinatra. 

    Station Art Director Bill Stinson applied a velox of the v-shaped Hallcraft emblem to Sonny's right cheek, then we lathered his face and handed him a safety razor sans blade. It required about three or four takes, but we finally got it on tape just right, so as Sonny shaved away the lather, the Hallcraft emblem magically appeared on Sinatra's face in the movie, followed by Jeanne's standard tag line, then the full commercial.

    The integrated segment was in the can, so Sonny wiped away the rest of the shaving lather from his face and peeled off the Hallcraft emblem. Except that it was still there, or at least the shape of it wasa bright reddish-orange Hallcraft logo "branded" into his cheek from the rubber cement used to affix it to his skin.

    The studio rocked with laughter, and Sonny, good sport that he was, saw the humor in what had happened, even though it took a week or so for the Hallcraft "brand" to disappear from his cheek. In that time, Sonny had fun with it, treating the emblem emblazoned on his face as a badge of honor. If this happens to somebody today they will, naturally, file a lawsuit.

    Well, I have more production "war stories," but this is running a bit long and I don't want to wear out my welcome.  But what about the rest of you?  You must have some standout production incidents that we'd all like to hear about.  How about you, Maurie Helle?  And you, Jim Fancher, Bob Allingham, Jack Miller and all the others.

    As for you, Sonny Stires, wherever you are:  Thanks for this memory.              

                                               - 30 -                                                            

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June, 2005