Thursday, February 24, 2011

Magic, you cover the Town and Country

This week's theme -- celebrities I have worked with-- continues with Coach Pat Riley.

Yesterday I talked about Ricardo Montalban and his stint as spokesman for the Southern California Chrysler Plymouth Dealers. What I didn't mention was the reason he was hired. You see the previous spokesperson, the great Coach Pat Riley had reached the end of his contract and decided not to renew.

It wasn't about money. The relationship had just gone sour. And I was fortunate enough to be caught in the middle of that acrimony.

We were shooting another crappy dealer event spot. The Plymouth Spring Fling Sales Event. Or maybe it was Plymouth Rock Bottom Prices Dealing Days. It doesn't matter. It's all the same.

Pat power walks out on the dealer floor. Pat passes by enthusiastic couples eager to get fleeced by their Chrysler Plymouth dealer. Pat does hackneyed basketball joke about driving the lane or not dropping the ball. Something about the deals going faster than a Laker fast break. Pat does a call to action. Logo. And Cut.

At least that was the way it was supposed to go.

On the set, one of the dealers thought it would be a good idea for Coach Riley to point out some of the specifics on the deal, like $1500 cash back on a New Yorker. Or 2.9% financing on an Imperial.

Coach didn't think it was such a good idea. He said it cheapened his image and his brand. He flat out said he wasn't going to pound sheet metal and shill cars like Cal Worthington.

The sparks began to fly. And phone calls to lawyers were not far behind. Coach Riley retreated to his trailer, read the newspaper and smoked cigarettes. (I was more upset about the smoking than his stand for integrity.) And the dealer stood his ground, demanding that his spokesman do the dog and pony. Naturally the account team turned to me -- the "writer" -- to solve this mess.

The standoff lasted 5 hours. And to be honest I don't remember how we got passed the impasse, but we did.

Coach Riley went on to win 3 more NBA championships rings. The stubborn dealer sold the dealership and made millions on the ground floor of a budding frozen yogurt franchise. And this week I'm writing dealer ads for a different car company:

Open on Abe Vigoda walking onto car dealership floor...

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