Joan Crawford – Motion Picture Star and Corporate Spokesperson
I met Miss Crawford after she had completed her movie responsibilities as she assumed the position of chief spokesperson for Pepsico in the 1960’s. I was working with the public relations section of a local advertising firm that handled Pepsi products throughout most of Indiana. It was in that capacity that Miss Crawford was visiting in our state and I was to advance her stay while here and arrange for media coverage.
Going in, there were a number of stories concerning her professionalism and how she was a stickler for doing things to her liking and little or no variance was tolerated. So, it was with more than a little trepidation that we met for the first time. I was taking notes as fast as I could. She wanted a certain style of mattress in her sleeping room-the bed to be two-feet off the floor; flower arrangement was to made up with her favorites; Pepsi product lines were to be properly chilled and ice provided in clean glasses of a certain size. There were diet restrictions as well, but through the years I have forgotten most of them other than meat was to be well done and served hot on the plate. Everything in the meeting rooms was to be thoroughly dusted, floor rugs swept and all windows spotless.
I must admit that I was picking up as many tips on how to do things in a “Hollywood way”, as I am sure she was learning a number of items on how we in Indiana did things in the Midwest. One of the procedures that she taught me I carried through the years of my public relations activities, was the art of setting up and staging news conferences so that the media felt privileged and had personal interviews. To accomplish, we arranged the room so there were ten small conferences separated by enough space that there could be little or no voice carry-over from one to other. Each media representative was given ten minutes to achieve his or her interview while I kept a strict stopwatch on the session. I would give silent hand signals to the media rep for countdown purposes.
A little to my surprise, the program worked without a hitch, and the media loved the individual talks. After that visit, I used the same set-up any number of times with other celebrities, and they all seemed to like the personal attention. And, Miss Crawford stated that we were among the best PR people with whom she had dealings. True or not, I loved that she said it.
Loretta Lynn - Country Recording Star
The “Coal Miners Daughter” was hired by Amax Coal to be the spokesperson for a year by our advertising firm. Considering that Ms. Lynn’s father had passed away from “black lung” disease, this turned out to be more than just a small accomplishment on our part. In our presentation to Amax, we recommended Loretta Lynn. I think they weren’t sure we could deliver, but we had already checked to make sure that Ms Lynn would be willing.
I found Loretta to be truly wonderful to work with and more than a little accommodating. I hadn’t realized that Ms. Lynn did not read music, but was so professional that she picked up on the Amax theme song with just a short run through in the studio. The song “Coal Has The Power” was a huge success in the industry and catapulted Amax from the ranks of also-runs to one of the most recognized among coal companies – particularly in the Midwest.
Along with running the musical commercial on stations throughout coal country, Loretta made personal appearances for the company at several of the Amax surface mines. The local miners were really excited to have her in their areas and they turned the visits into local holidays.
The program was so successful, we signed Miss Lynn to a second year’s contract with even more personal appearances. She and her manager – Dolittle (Lynn’s husband) eagerly agreed. We were in the final process of setting up the second year when I received a call from “Dolittle” asking if they could break the contract. It seemed that some of the “higher-ups” in the coal union didn’t want Loretta associating that closely with a coal company management. Even though we could have forced the issue, it was determined that it would not be in the best interest of Amax or our talent. Loretta was released from the contract. TIME Magazine reported the story and the final decision. By the way, Loretta and Dolittle staged a conference call when all was said and done, and said how much they appreciated how they had been treated by our firm and Amax. They said they would not forget our professionalism and would remember us fondly for our fairness.
Ann B. “Schultzie” Davis - TV Star
My only knowledge of Ann B. Davis was her appearances as the maid on the TV Show – THE BRADY BUNCH. However, my review of her credentials, indicated her accomplishments far surpassed that stage. She had starred for many years in summer stock and theater productions as well as on the motion picture screen. Even so, I did feel that my research left a lot to be desired.
Miss Davis was a great example of a “star” who knew how to make a person searching for a story come away feeling truly comfortable and professional. She was in the city performing a play at the Avondale Playhouse – theatre in the round. When I arrived early for the interview, which was my habit, I could see her walking by herself around the stage memorizing her lines. Right on time, she moved in my direction and welcomed me warmly and wanted to know if she could provide any kind of refreshment. She was the only interview I ever did in those years that offered that courtesy.
Even with my research, she offered tidbits of her life and professional acclaim that were above and beyond my questioning. She delved into her college life and early stage profession back grounding thoroughly what it took her to make a name for herself. She indicated the early struggles and limited success at first in her profession, and how she had built upon those times to perform at a higher level.
Before I knew it, over a half-hour of tape had been recorded, and all of it was of value. It was going to make editing for a couple of ten minute segments difficult to say the least. Upon hearing the recording, the station manager complimented me on a job well done. And, I really didn’t have the intestinal fortitude to tell him that I had just turned on the recorder and let a true professional do her thing. I will always remember “Schultzie” for her being so kind to a young reporter just getting started.