Friday, January 20, 2006

Jon Stewart, Jennifer Tilly & The Lincoln Tunnel

I was on the Jon Stewart Show. Not the current show. The predecessor that was on MTV. It only lasted a about a year or so, but it was still a great show. Though I think he's hilarious and love his show, Jon Stewart almost got me fired.

As part of the Hotdogging experience our job was to get media impressions for Oscar Mayer and the Wienermobile. The better the quality the better the kudos from home office. It was a contest of one-upmanship to see if you could out do the other Hotdoggers. Thankfully, Jeanne and I were on the East Coast and had made tons of great contacts throughout New England and NYC.

One time we made arrangements to do a skit with the writers of the Jon Stewart Show. They wanted to get some footage of Jon riding around NY while he drove the Wienermobile. "Sure" I said. "But I need to be sure you understand that my boss demands that we keep it clean. No dirty jokes." I was told that by all means they would comply. They just thought it would be great to have Jon drive around Manhattan behind the wheel. It would be a great media piece for us and he would have some fun too.

So we made our plans. We arrived at the studio and met Jon and some of the writers. A camera guy, Jon and the head writer hopped into the dog. Jon hopped behind the wheel. Jeanne and I gave Jon the basic tips for driving the dog before we let him take the dog for a spin.

"Watch your buns on turns. They stick out."

"Don't drive too fast. This isn't a lamborweenie."

"Drive the normal speed. Leave plenty of room between you and the car in front of you. Not too much though as you don't want to have to ketchup to traffic."

Which got pretty much the same reaction as you might expect. Lots of groans.

He was a very safe driver. He didn't do anything crazy. No scratches, bumps or dents to the big dog while he was behind the wheel. We drove around Manhattan for an hour or so getting footage of Jon behind the wheel from the inside. The writer asked if we could stop and let the camera guy out to get some footage from the outside. No problem! Just make sure you get the logo in the shot!

And then he drove to the Lincoln Tunnel. I asked what they had in mind. "oh, nothing much, it's just the Lincoln Tunnel. You know, part of New York culture. We just want a shot of Jon leaning out the window smiling and driving off. This happens to be a good spot."

Now, I am not an complete dolt. I had spent several months already as a Hotdogger by the time we met up with the folks from the Jon Stewart Show. I had heard every phallic hot dog joke out there. I could tell right away that driving into the Lincoln Tunnel would not be a good thing. So I reminded them that they agreed to keep it clean. Oh, sure... no problem. This wasn't dirty, just a nice shot.

Well, I thought about that. In the footage they had shot already Jon did not say anything suggestive at all. In fact, he was quite polite and extremely thankful for having the opportunity to drive the dog. I really enjoyed meeting him and hanging out for a few hours. I'll have to trust them I thought.

And then the show aired.

Jennifer Tilly, the bubbly, spastic, and self-deprecatingly funny, actress with the helium voice was the guest that night. She was out hitting the talk show circuit after her Oscar Nomination for Bullets Over Broadway. I wasn't able to watch the show that night as it was on at about 3 AM in limited DMA's. I think we were in Rhode Island that night and not able to watch. I called Mary back in Kansas City and asked her to tape it for me. She did.

The next morning I got a wake up phone call in my hotel room from Mary. She had taped the show. She had enough background with my job to know what was considered a good media piece that we could get credit for, and what was worthless or bad. She thought I might not want to turn this one in for credit. Too late. I had already called the video monitoring service that Oscar Mayer used to track news stories. I told them ahead of time what show we were on, what channel and what markets. They in turn would turn on their recorders, capture the piece and send it off to the Wienermobile Dept, back in Madison, Wisconsin. There, Russ Whitacre, the program director, would take a look at the piece, the viewership size and let us know if the piece was to be counted towards our total.

Thankfully Chad Gretzema, who had been part of Hotdogger VI and was now the Hotdogger Advisor, saw the piece before Russ did. I got a Tigon from Chad a few days later when he saw the piece. I think he said something like "Umm, Dan? I saw the Jon Stewart Show clip? Um... I don't think Russ will think this is good. I'll do you a favor and just not let him see it. Call me."

So what happened?

Jennifer Tilly was sitting on the couch babbling on about something or other as Jon casually mentioned that he had a dream about her. The next thing you know the screen starts getting wavy indicating a dream sequence. And there he was, sitting behind the wheel of the Wienermobile with a smile of pure delight on his face. Then putting his hands on the ten and two position of the wheel, slowly pulls away from the curb and drives straight into the darkness of the Lincoln Tunnel.

Back in the studio, Jennifer looks at Jon and says with a giggle "oh, I think you are going to get a call from the litigation department from the good folks at Oscar Mayer". Dead on. I was a dead little Hotdogger. It was fun while it lasted! Thanks for the opportunity!

Thankfully Russ never called me on that one. To this day I do not know if he ever saw the clip. There were other incidents that I was involved in with the Dog that I am certain would have overshadowed this one had he known about it. I still owe Chad a beer or two for his help.

By the way... the logo looked great in the shot.

If you are interested in the Wienermobile I've got a few other posts about that experience here, here and here. Check back from time to time as I've got more on the way.
Just added: check out my Squidoo lens on the Wienermobile at

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Girls Scouts Are Evil

Just as the new year begins and everyone and their mother is struggling to keep up with new year's resolutions to eat better and get in shape those evil little pixies start knocking on doors to deliver those cookies you ordered back in the old year.

That was the old you. You don't eat cookies anymore. You are on a new diet, or better yet, you have made a lifestyle decision to eat better (see Weight Watchers for more about lifestyle vs. dieting explained). How did this happen? How could you have possibly chosen to order these extra pounds for your hips, belly and thighs? No way! You don't do those things... anymore.

Those sweet little girls are really just relentless masters of marketing. They plan to come at the end of the year, just prior to Christmas with their little smiles and green sashes showing those little merit badges they've earned. They just need to get the one for selling cookies. Awww, how cute. To make it worse they usually employ mom or dad to stand about ten to fifteen feet behind them on the sidewalk. This might seem to be something the parents choose to do, to make sure that the girls are safe as they go door to door, but I think it's something else. I think there is a Girl Scout Marketing Manual out there that suggests using the "Distant, But Visible Parent Marketing Tactic" to guilt us into buying cookies from their kid.

How in the world could we turn them down? If you do, all they need to do is to give a soft whimper, look longingly over their shoulder at mom as if to say "I am sorry mommy. I didn't mean to disappoint you, but this very nice man says he is a diabetic and that he cannot eat cookies. Please don't beat me when we get home for disappointing you". Of course mom is oblivious to this ploy. She really thinks she is there to ensure her daughters safety and to provide moral support as she ventures out into the cruel world of cold calling.

But the tactic works. And they know it. All I need to see is a little child about to break out into a full blown cry when I inevitably end up saying "okay, okay! It's alright! I'll buy a box of Thin Mints and a box of Caramel Delights. No, just one of each, thank you. Now please don't cry here on my doorstep. I don't want the other neighbors to think I am mean."

And that was just the neighbor girl. I'd forgotten about our nieces. We have a bunch. Thankfully only one of Girl Scout age lives in town with us. Mary placed an obligatory order with her. We are her god parents after all.

And thus I end up ordering cookies prior to making my new year resolution to get into better physical shape.

Did I mention that Mary sold the most cookies in her troop one year? Yup. And she still gets guilted into buying several boxes each year. Those little scouts are marketing geniuses.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


Money does not equal leadership. Title does not equal leadership. Neither does birth order, gene pool, height, eye color, language, or shoe size.

Leadership comes from communication, vision and understanding how to work with others.

Just because an individual has a higher rank does not make them a leader. Just because they can hire and fire does not make them a leader. An individual who is a leader has the ability to lead. If people follow the vision, guidance and direction of an individual that makes them a leader.

A raise or promotion does not automatically equate to having leadership skills. Some of the greatest leaders have come from the lower rank and file amongst workers and society. They have vision. They have passion. They have empathy. They take risks because they have beliefs. They want more than money or power. They see a greater good. They stand for something.

A leader cares about others.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Shampoo Theory

I have a theory about shampoo. It goes like this.

You can gauge a man's maturity by the type of shampoo he uses. It's quite obvious really. Kinda like the rings on a tree. Think about it.

From birth to age ten a boy will use whatever his mother buys. In our house it was Johnson's "No More Tears" Baby Shampoo. It was, for all I can figure, the first shampoo that was ever colored yellow. It also prevented tears should it get in your eyes. Good stuff really. Had a nice smell too.

At around age ten a boy starts thinking about becoming a teenager. Pre-teen aspirations require that boys change things. It's symbolic. There is no real reason that a ten year old needs to shave, but he'll try it out anyway. There is really no reason to switch from Johnson's Baby shampoo either, except that there may be times when this boy goes on an overnight trip to say, camp or a sleep over at a friends house. He'd be caught dead if he brought "baby" shampoo. So he switches.

The shampoo that he uses next is carefully researched, considered and the topic of much internal dialogue. In the end, if he has an older brother, it will be the shampoo that the older brother is using. For me it was Finesse. Yup. Finesse. One of my dad's good friends worked at Helene Curtis, the company that made Finesse shampoo. Every Christmas we would get a gift basket filled with goodies from his company, including bottles of shampoo. So when my brother Kevin hit the age of ten and made the switch, Finesse was a readily available choice. Three years later when I hit the age it became mine too.

I don't know what boys without older brothers do to make the switch at this age. I never had to ponder it, so I don't know.

The next change in shampoo can happen anywhere, anytime within the next five years. It all depends on when your friends discover the bottle of Finesse and give you enough grief about using a "girly" shampoo that you tell your mom you must get a new kind. Something more masculine and less likely to make you the object of finger pointing in the school halls. You don't tell your mom this reasoning of course. You say something like "I need a new shampoo that will be better for my hair. This stuff that we have in the house now doesn't cut it anymore" or something like that.

A few of my friends were using Pert so of course I asked my mom to get some for me. Pert was a safe choice at the time, but if you really wanted to be on the cutting edge you would try the bold combo of shampoo plus conditioner, aka "Pert Plus". Within a month I made that switch too. Now looking back on this I realize that the name Pert sounds and awful lot like "perk" which might make you think of coffee percolating, but all it really makes me think about is Katie Couric. She's "perky". Pert is what I used until I was a Junior in High School. Then I made the switch to Suave.

Suave was cool. Suave was, well, suave. And suave is what I wanted to be. I wanted girls to notice me, and so, giving into the marketing machine of Unilever I believed that if I used a product that had a desirable adjective to teenage boys as it's name then, by some method of transfusion, teleportation or osmosis this product I rubbed on my head would magically transform me into a real Casanova. I would be a teenage ladies man without the Courvoisier. And this naturally is what occurred. To me anyway. To everyone else I was still that quiet geeky kid who wore yellow Chuck Taylor's, argyle socks, white pants, CSN concert t-shirt and flannel shirt. It was like Billy Squier, Eddy Vedder and Ferris Bueller got together and had a love child. I don't have any clue how that might work, but my point isn't about the reproduction capabilities of a couple teen idols. At that time in my life I was at the intersection of Preppie and Grunge, and there was a six car pile up in the middle of the street. It wasn't pretty. I have pictures. But I digress.

So Suave was the shampoo of choice for me all the way through college. Sometime after college the hair started thinning and a few flakes began appearing. And as the commercial says "you never have a second chance to make a first impression" so tried Head & Shoulders. Since then I've tried all flavors of Head & Shoulders shampoos. I've tried Dry Scalp, Itchy Scalp, Oily Hair, Half and Half, Half Calf Decalf and even some versions with actual tar include. What's that about? Is the tar supposed to glue the hair on my head so it doesn't fall out? It's craziness.

Thankfully the flaky scalp was a phase. I am now at a point in my life where I buy whatever is on sale. And if I run out and I am using the right shower I simply grab some of the kids shampoo. It's all good, plus I am a cheapskate. I must be in my thirties.

I will know that I have reached senior citizen age when my choice of shampoo automatically switches to something nasty smelling like Psorigel. If that happens I might just shave my head.