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One thing not to be so thankful for this Thanksgiving week is that McDonald’s, the world’s largest restaurant business with 37,000 locations worldwide, announced that it has no room in the modern world for Ray Kroc’s first McDonald’s location in Des Plaines, Illinois. The historic non-operating museum restaurant, rebuilt to original plans on its original site in 1985, and since become a popular tourist destination, is slated to be demolished within a month, with relics preserved and land donated to the city.

Of course, the Des Plaines restaurant was actually the ninth McDonald’s ever built, including the McDonald brother’s very first location in San Bernardino, California, now long gone, except for a cement and bronze marker at the site. But DesPlaines, now apparently destined for the same treatment, is where Kroc really launched the chain, attracting throngs of local customers while showing off the potential of the business to prospective franchisees. It is also where Kroc’s successor as Chairman and CEO, Fred Turner, began work flipping burgers for one dollar an hour.

In his autobiography, Grinding it Out, Kroc recalls the beginnings: ” It was in DesPlaines, a seven-minute drive from my home and a short walk from the Northwestern Railroad Station, from where I could commute to the city.” He recalled the opening: “Art Bender, the McDonald brothers’ manager, came to DesPlaines and helped me and Ed (McLuckie) open that store on April 15, 1955. It was a hell of an ordeal, but the experience was to prove invaluable in opening other stores.” Ray said he would “drive down to DesPlaines each morning and help get the place ready to open. The janitor would arrive at the same time I did, and if there was nothing else to be done, I’d help him. I’ve never been too proud to grab a mop and clean up…in the evenings I would commute back to DesPlaines and walk over to the store. I was always eager to see it come into view, my McDonald’s!”

There are plans for historic displays at McDonald’s new corporate headquarters, now being build in the hot, growing business district of West Chicago, however something quite tangible will be lost when that early neon-swaddled McDonald’s — Ray Kroc’s first — no longer exists, and on its original site. Of course, the museum restaurant could be reconstructed, indoors or outdoors, in conjunction with some other museum, such as the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago or the Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, where the Wright Brother’s shop and Thomas Edison labs stand, but that would take some doing, and some caring, from the corporate folks at McDonald’s. We’ll see.

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It was 1969, as the first Boeing 747 double deck planes were coming off the line. I had just gone to work in the public affairs department at the HQ of the Allstate Insurance Company, in Deerfield, Il. I was initially assigned to the Accident Prevention Section, and reporting up to Don, then Allstate’s director of safety.

Don was chatting with us one day, and mentioned that Allstate had taken on part of the reinsurance for the first 747’s. Reinsurance is a way to spread risk, in which large insurance company’s like Allstate would provide insurance to back up another company’s insurance policy.

Don told us he had seen the loss projections on the early 747’s, and said that based on that, he would not be flying on them. We were stunned. I think it was several years later, after I had left Allstate and forgotten about Don’s cautionary admonition, before I booked a flight on one.

I just looked at the records of the giant craft, and since their first production, some 1500-plus 747’s have been manufactured, and 61 hulls have been lost, around 4%. However, a large percentage of those hull losses resulted in no loss of life, and many others were due to external causes such as terrorism and pilot error. In general, the planes have been incredibly safe.

But Don was right: statistics can be scary.

Chuck Todd of MSNBC closed his Sunday feature news program this morning by thanking the audience for watching his “show.” This grates me no end. To me, he is degrading an important news program by referring to it as a simple entertainment — a “show!”

Semantics matter, even in this world of reality TV and Trumpness.

A program implies, to me at least, something of importance. A show is just that, some Barnum & Bailey entertainment.

So, let’s call a spade a spade, and let’s call news by the name “programs,” and comedies, etc. “shows.” Such respect of semantics might help us begin to define the difference between the two terms in our contemporary lives, where, thanks to the one who calls himself “the President who is making America great again,” a meaningful “program” has often been denigrated to a mere “show.”

Bring on the Clown

Learn about PR from the man whose hair, ego, and finances are all about puffery.

Donald Trump

CEO, the Trump Organization
New York City
October 24, 2004

It’s hard to tell if Donald Trump truly is a ruthless, self-serving billionaire with a weakness for Ottoman decor, or if he just plays one on TV. Either way, one thing’s certain: Nobody beats Trump at PR.

So it was that, at the behest of his front man Howard Rubenstein — the closest thing public relations has to Vito Corleone — Trump found time one recent Sunday to school 4,100 PR pros in the art of self-promotion at the Public Relations Society of America’s fall conference.

Accompanied by his now-standard royal trumpet fanfare, Trump trotted out his usual Darwinian script on how to make it big in business: Always hit back, only harder; don’t trust anyone, especially loved ones; and never underestimate the power of a good prenup.

But that’s not why Trump was addressing the flacking masses. He is himself the king of hype, with a genius for winning attention for Donald Trump and thus the Trump Empire. Why that is became clear in a streak of mean-spirited, profanity-laced, misogynistic asides that, true to form, melted everyone’s heart.

LESSON ONE: DISH DIRT, LIBERALLY.

Mid-riff on humility, of all things, Trump got big yucks for this digression: “I was walking down the street with a very young and beautiful woman named Marla. Did anyone ever hear of Marla? I have. Trust me, it cost me a fortune. It wasn’t worth it.” Trump isn’t above dissing himself, either, if it will score him a few points for color. “I think I get terrible press,” he observed. “If there’s half a sentence that says ‘his hair is terrible’ or ‘he looks like s — t,’ I take it very personally.”

LESSON TWO: KEEP IT SIMPLE, STUPID.

Part of Trump’s PR power is his black-and-white view of the universe. He hews to a simple character narrative of brash-businessman-with-a-big-ego that makes even SpongeBob SquarePants appear complex. “All my life I’ve been successful,” he began. “All my life.” When it comes to business, Donald is always, always doing “great,” despite an occasionally contrary opinion from his accountants in Atlantic City.

LESSON THREE: THE EXPLETIVE IS MIGHTIER THAN THE IDEA.

Trump regaled the crowd with his savvy strategy for managing headlines when the media thought his real estate empire would collapse in the late 1980s. “I said to the press [long pause], ‘F — k you!’ “

LESSON FOUR: SEX SELLS. MENTION SEX. A LOT.

Trump knows that settling into a stable relationship would make his PR hits drop faster than the fat diamond he just gave new fiancee Melania Knauss. In the course of a 30-minute address, he managed to make at least 15 references to women and/or the woes of marriage.

The look, the ego, the swearing, the sex. Crass, sure — but in that way, brilliant. He nailed his message, and he won 4,100 fans. It was all part of Trump’s signature (and carefully copyrighted) strategy: not just style over substance, but style as substance. Sadly, it works like a charm.

OK, what’s going on? Young Reality Winner is not given bail for leaking actual proof that the Russians were messing with our election, while Comey hearings are described as non-conclusive regarding Russian meddling in our elections. She is a hero of the American people for having the courage to break laws to prove what our government says are only allegations. We are not getting the truth from our own government and not even from the news media. And people wonder why many are losing faith in the government and media? We the people are being “handled” by arrogant bastards who think they know what is best for us. Enough!

Robert Todd Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln’s son, made his last public appearance on the occasion of the dedication of America’s monument to his father in Washington, D.C. He was 78. Todd would die four years later. You can read about his fascinating life in my essay, “Dodging The Shadow of Greatness,” at http://www.chilit.org. (go to “papers online by author”, and look under ‘E’.)

On this day in 1922, the Lincoln Memorial was dedicated. The monument was first proposed in 1867, but construction didn’t begin until 1914; the cornerstone was set in 1915. Architect Henry Bacon designed it to resemble the Parthenon, believing that a defender of democracy should be memorialized in a building that pays homage to the birthplace of democracy. The monument has 36 marble columns, one for each state in the union at the time of Lincoln’s assassination. On the south wall is inscribed the Gettysburg Address, and on the north, his second inaugural address. There’s a persistent myth that one of the words in the inaugural address is misspelled, but it’s not true. Stonemasons did accidentally carve an “E” where they meant to carve an “F,” but it was filled in immediately and no evidence remains.

The marble and granite chosen for the monument came from Massachusetts, Colorado, Georgia, Tennessee, Indiana, and Alabama. Bacon intended to show the divided nation coming together to build something of lasting significance.

Sculptor Daniel Chester French studied photographs of Lincoln for years; his Lincoln appears somber, even care-worn, one hand closed in a fist and the other in a more relaxed position. Though it’s commonly thought that the sculpture’s hands are forming the American Sign Language letters “A” and “L,” the National Park Service reports that this was French’s way to show Lincoln’s strength and compassion. There’s also a rumor that the profile of Robert E. Lee – or Ulysses S. Grant, or Jefferson Davis – can be seen in the locks of the sculpture’s hair, but the National Parks Service insists that these are merely wayward strands.

The monument was dedicated in front of an audience of more than 50,000 people. Even though Lincoln was known as the Great Emancipator, the audience was segregated; keynote speaker Robert Moton, president of the Tuskegee Institute and an African-American, was not permitted to sit on the speakers’ platform. Just over 40 years later, on the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, Martin Luther King Jr. would give his “I have a dream” speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, in front of an audience of 200,000.

Yesterday, Vicki and I attended a life celebration for the friends and associates of Al Golin, a legendary Chicago PR man who has recently died. It was a warm opportunity to reminisce about Al, and to see, for the first time in a long time, and perhaps for the last in some cases, many of the people whom I’ve been associated with for the past 40-some years since I went to work with Al on the McDonald’s PR account in 1974. Together, we helped serve hamburgers and french fries to millions of people, brought some good and happiness into many lives, while living out our own stories among friends. Al’s family stood by him, as did we all, one more time, just yesterday.

J. Edgar Hoover was named acting director of the FBI on this date in 1924, beginning a term that would span nearly 50 years, and establish the United States Department of Justice as we know it today.

Hoover was born to two government civil servants in Washington, D.C., in 1895. He took a job with the Library of Congress right out of high school and took night classes to earn his law degree. He graduated in 1917 and joined the Justice Department. He rose through the ranks quickly and was soon appointed leader of the General Intelligence Division. He was the driving force behind the “Palmer Raids” of 1919 – a series of raids conducted without search warrants that led to the arrest of hundreds of suspected radicals.

He made no secret of his ambition to run the Bureau of Investigation, as it was known then. President Calvin Coolidge named him acting director in May 1924, and he was formally named director by the end of the year. He made it his mission to separate the bureau from politics, and fired anyone who was, in his view, a political appointee. He made it more difficult to become an agent – candidates must pass rigorous interviews, background checks, and physical tests, and at one point it was said to be harder to get into the Bureau of Investigation than it was to get into an Ivy League college. Hoover also established forensic evidence labs. He took on gangsters and organized crime in the 1930s, arguing that because gangsters crossed state lines, they could and should be apprehended by federal agents, rather than state and local law enforcement, whose resources were often inadequate to the task.

Hoover also made it the mission of the bureau to root out suspected subversives and communists during the Cold War. To get around the restrictions placed by the Supreme Court on the agency’s investigations, he formed the Counter Intelligence Program. COINTELPRO went after any groups that Hoover considered subversive, including the KKK, the Black Panthers, and the Civil Rights Movement. He criticized a free breakfast program for urban poor children that was run by the Black Panthers, saying it was a recruitment tool for the organization and called the program “potentially the greatest threat to efforts . to neutralize the BPP and what it stands for.” He ordered illegal wiretaps, searches, and even burglaries to compile files on many parties, including Martin Luther King Jr., whom Hoover “the most dangerous Negro in the future of this nation.” He also kept immense files on Albert Einstein, Marilyn Monroe, and Elvis Presley. When Charlie Chaplin – whose FBI file was almost 2,000 pages long – left the United States for a promotional tour in Europe in 1952, Hoover revoked his re-entry permit. Hoover also pushed to have John Lennon’s immigrant visa revoked; he had a huge file on Lennon that was kept under wraps until just a few years ago, and when it was released, it turned out that most of the information it contained was already common knowledge. A memo in the file reads: “Lennon has encouraged the belief that he holds revolutionary views, not only by means of his formal interviews with Marxists, but by the content of some of his songs and other publications.”

No president was willing to fire Hoover, or even ask him to retire, even when he passed the government’s mandatory retirement age of 70. Lyndon Johnson was quoted as saying, “It’s probably better to have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in.” Hoover died in office in 1972, at the age of 77.

Given today’s announcement of the sudden firing of FBI chief James Comey, one can reasonably wonder why senior intelligence and investigative leaders are being removed (ne: “purged” by President Trump? Is the President covering something up, or otherwise removing those who are or might investigate and potentially prosecute him and members of his administration? Smells a little like a Watergate in the offing?

“Our country needs a good “shutdown” in September to fix mess!”

YES he did.

What?

Small, resentful, peevish, demeaning, taking his political frustrations out on the American people.

This is the act of an American President?

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