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Man From Mars Productions

George Freeman
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Q:Suddenly, it's 1961 and you're back at WDRC but this time you're off the air with a desk in Mike Boudreau's sales department. Tell us about him.

A: He described himself as "Harvard's token Catholic". He was a Harvard graduate. Wore expensive Italian-made shoes. Mike lived in New Britain. He had worked for a credit company setting up floor plan financing for car dealerships. When he was fired he answered a newspaper ad for an account executive position at DRC. He had never been in a radio station before. He told us he had little or no training, was given a rate card and told to hit the street. Mike told us he had to figure radio sales out for himself. And he did.

He called on all the car dealers who were his former customers. His pitch was the same to each: "buy 100 announcements a week, 52 weeks a year." That was the order. In each case the dealer asked if this would work and Mike, using common sense, could safely say, "yes." Mike was not much at writing continuity so he'd bring his orders back to Charlie Parker and me. Charlie would create the campaigns for each of his car dealers. I remember three. Jones Ford, East Harford (campaign featured the 1954 song "Cross Over The Bridge"); Williams Ford, West Hartford (I created this campaign and wrote the copy, recording each commercial for years at WDRC, then at WCCC where I created a budget which had heretofore not existed. I did the voice of the non-existent Mr. Williams using an imitation of the evil Wisconsin senator Joe McCarthy); and Charlie wrote Capitol Motors, downtown Hartford. Witness the math; three dealers X 300 announcements per week X 52 weeks = 15,600 announcements per year. Using his car connections Mike had created a year's income which turned into a long-term source for revenues for himself by making those three sales.

When they closed the TV-18 sales department I called WDRC on behalf of a middle aged insurance man who had left his insurance career to enter broadcasting. He had a family and I feared for him.

April 19, 1964 - What's Doing 'Round Connecticut column
What's Doing "Round Connecticut column
- April 19, 1964
 
 

I was very surprised when Mike Boudreau called me and asked why I hadn't called on behalf of myself. I reminded him I had called Bill Crawford before I went into sales to ask for a job in sales at Big D. Bill responded something like, "I had to fire you once as news director. I wouldn't like to have to fire you again." Mike said he wanted me to come to work for him. Wanted to take me to lunch. I demanded that Crawford be at the table. Mike showed up with Bill and we got together.

Mike hired me in spite of what I did to him when I was news director in 1960. I had dropped in his office to tell him about our great election coverage plans and urged him to sell this special programming. He told me he would not sell it. I immediately drafted a memo to New York detailing our news plans and urging sale of the special programming, going over Mike's head. The word came back to Mike that, indeed, this must be sold. Mike sold it. And I wondered how much of an enemy I had made. I learned later he was too big a man to be vindictive.

When Dick Buckley cut our sales commissions or guarantees, I arranged a meeting with the other two account executives, Mike Drechsler and Bob Kursman, at a park in West Hartford. I suggested we all resign at once. I suggested we invite Mike Boudreau to join us in the walkout. He met with us and explained that with his twins in college, and his advanced age, he could not leave a good paying job and probably could find no other employment. I vowed I would be gone before the end of the year. Mike and Bob elected to stay on. When I turned in my two weeks notice and resigned Mike Boudreau phoned Dick Buckley in New York. Dick told Mike to reinstate my old deal to keep me on at WDRC. Mike showed management skill and fairness as a man. "What about the other two?" said Mike. He told Dick the company would have to do the same for all three account executives. Dick wouldn't hear of that. Buckley's answer would not affect me. I was no longer available to WDRC. I was ready for the new challenges of managing WCCC A/F.

April 17, 1966 - What's Doing 'Round Connecticut column
What's Doing "Round Connecticut column
- April 17, 1966

Q:Something you don't hear much anymore is live commercial copy. How did you feel about the Big D personalities delivering live copy for your clients?

A: I will never forget Sandy Beach and my campaign for Windsor Furniture. This was a GOB (Going out of Business Sale) that went on for months and months. I used the Beatles Yesterday as a sound logo. The lyric, "Yesterday all my troubles seemed so far away" was always integrated into the commercial and often lead off each announcement. Each message was delivered by me in

a slow paced, somber, regretful tone. "After 30 years Windsor Furniture soon will be no more." The change in pace made the listener want to listen to see what was wrong. Each day Sandy just could not resist responding to the latest in a frequently changing message. His ad lib remarks added greatly to the value of the campaign. As a matter of fact when the GOB started WDRC was one of 13 media purchased to promote Windsor Furniture. After a couple of months WDRC was the only medium they bought since we were pulling results better than all the others. One Monday my new campaign revealed safe crackers had broken into Windsor Furniture and took cash from the metal box. In my copy I referred to the criminals as "yeggs", baiting Sandy, who flipped and my client got big bonus boosts on his show.

After I left the second time (1967), Bill Crawford was canned. Mike Boudreau was promoted to vice president/general manager at WDRC A/F. Mike was a "homebody." He liked to be at home every evening and weekends with his wife Kay and the kids. Extensive travel in his new VP position to and from New York City calling on agencies did not agree with Mike. The added layer of ratings talk was probably alien and suspect to his intellect. He joined the parade of fired general managers.

Some years later, in the late 1970's I visited Hartford, checked into a downtown Hartford hotel and phoned Mike Boudreau. He came over on the bus to visit me. He was surprised that I would take the trouble to look him up. It was a chance for me to tell him how good an influence he had been on me and my appreciation for his mentoring and most of all his examples of even-handed fairness.

Q:Something else you don't hear much anymore is a single commercial surrounded on either side by a song. How do you feel about clustering spots in four or five minute blocks instead of the 1960s-way of integrating them into the program?

A: In the Swingin' Sixties most portable radios did not have push buttons so it wasn't as easy to dial from 1360 WDRC to 1410 WPOP, the other rock 'n roll station. Therefore spot clusters weren't as dangerous to program for fear of losing an audience. Newscasts, however, did cost us the rock-n-roll lovers. As soon as a newscast on either of the stations came on you could almost feel the audience leave for the other top 40 station's hit music.

 

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