SOME OF THE FUN THINGS WE DID AT NEWSRADIO 970 WFLA WHILE I WAS
OPS MGR/PD IN '88 & '89
Bob Schuman


THE PLANE

BACK IN THE LATE 80s I GOT AN IDEA.  WHY NOT TRY AND FIND A REAL PLANE AND STICK IT ON TOP OF OUR HUGE TRAFFIC BILLBOARD AT MALFUNCTION JUNCTION IN DOWNTOWN TAMPA?  AFTER GETTING A RELUCTANT OKAY FROM VP/GM DAVID MACEJKO, I SCHEDULED A MEETING WITH THE TOP PEOPLE AT 3M NATIONAL BILLBOARD COMPANY IN TAMPA TO SEE IF IT WOULD BE FEASIBLE IN THE FIRST PLACE.

THE 3M NATIONAL TEAM LOOKED PRETTY INTIMIDATED BY SUCH A PROJECT, INITIALLY.  THERE WERE MORE "WE PROBABLY WON'T BE ABLE TO DO THAT" THAN I WANTED TO HEAR.  BUT THEN THEY TOOK A LIKING TO THE PROJECT AND GAVE ME THE GO AHEAD TO START SEARCHING FOR A SUITABLE PLANE. 

IT TOOK A COUPLE OF WEEKS TO FIND A PLANE BUT I FINALLY LOCATED AN AERO COMMANDER LARK IN THE LAKELAND AREA.  I DROVE OVER AND CHECKED IT OUT.  DUE TO CORROSION THE PLANE WAS NO LONGER AIRWORTHY BUT IT LOOKED ABSOLUTELY FACTORY FRESH.  I SHELLED $8,000 OF JACOR'S DOUGH AND HAD IT HAULED TO THE 3M NATIONAL FACILITY IN TAMPA.  THERE THEY GAVE IT A FRESH COATING OF PAINT ALONG WITH OUR LOGO.  WE EVEN ARRANGED TO STICK A MANNEQUIN IN THE COCKPIT AND WITH A PAIR OF HEADSETS, NO LESS!

I ASKED THE 3M NATIONAL PEOPLE IF THEY COULD INSTALL A MOTORIZED PROP SO IT WOULD SPIN.  I GOT A QUICK "NO" BECAUSE CITY CODE DID NOT ALLOW ANY MOTORIZED PARTS.  THEN ANOTHER IDEA HIT ME.  I ASKED THE ENGINEERS IF THEY COULD COME UP WITH AN EXTREMELY LIGHT BALSA WOOD PROP THAT COULD BE PAINTED SILVER AND COULD SPIN IN THE WIND.  THAT IDEA WORKED!   I ASKED IF THEY COULD INSTALL A ROTATING BEACON LIGHT ON THE TAIL AND AGAIN I WAS TOLD NO BECAUSE IT WOULD REQUIRE A MOTORIZED PART.  I THOUGHT TO MYSELF "WHAT ABOUT A FLASHING RED LIGHT" AND THAT WAS GIVEN THE OKAY.

ON THE DAY WE HOISTED THE PLANE UP ON TOP OF THE HUGE 18x55 BILLBOARD AT THE INTERSECTION OF I-275 AND I-4 IN TAMPA, 3M NATIONAL SHIPPED THE PLANE TO THE BOARD DISASSEMBLED.  THEN IT WAS PUT BACK TOGETHER AND GENTLY HOISTED UP ON THE BOARD.  AL GARDNER DID HIS "GARDNER & COMPANY" SHOW LIVE FROM THE SITE OF THE BILLBOARD THAT MORNING.

THIS WAS ANYTHING BUT A NORMAL 3M NATIONAL PROJECT.  THIS BILLBOARD AND PLANE HAD TO BE HURRICANE PROOF AND WITHSTAND EXTREMELY HIGH WINDS.  SO THEY HAD TO COME UP WITH GUY WIRE SYSTEM TO HOLD THE PLANE DOWN.  BUT THE PLANE WENT UP AND BOY DID IT GET NOTICED!

OTHER RADIO STATIONS WERE PULLING THEIR HAIR OUT BECAUSE THEY HAD BOARDS VERY CLOSE TO OURS BUT OURS WAS GRABBING ALL THE ATTENTION AWAY FROM THEIR BOARDS.  SO THEY STARTED A CAMPAIGN OF "DIRTY TRICKS."  EMPLOYEES WOULD CALL TAMPA POLICE AND SAY:  "I LIVE NEAR THAT AIRPLANE BULLETIN BOARD AND IT'S DANGEROUS.  I'VE CAUGHT MY KIDS TRYING TO CLIMB THE CABLES TO GET TO THE PLANE SEVERAL TIMES AND THEY COULD BE KILLED.  FORCE THEM TO TAKE THAT BULLETIN BOARD DOWN."  POLICE ALSO GOT SOME "LEGITIMATE" COMPLAINTS LIKE THIS ONE:  "WHEN I CAME AROUND THE BEND I SWERVED TO AVOID IMPACT BECAUSE I REALLY THOUGHT A PLANE WAS ABOUT TO LAND ON THE FREEWAY."

THAT PARTICULAR BILLBOARD, AS I MENTIONED, HAD DIMENSIONS OF 18x55 FEET.  CITY OF TAMPA CODE STATED THAT BILLBOARDS COULD BE NO BIGGER THAN 10x40.  OUR BOARD HAD BEEN "GRANDFATHERED" AND PROTECTED BY THAT CODE.  BUT THE BOARD DREW SO MUCH ATTENTION THAT THE CITY WENT TO COURT IN AN EFFORT TO GET US TO TAKE IT DOWN.  BUT THAT WAS GOOD FOR US SINCE IT GENERATED ALL KINDS OF PUBLICITY!

ABOUT THAT TIME I LEFT WFLA AND VP/GM DAVID MACEJKO HAD HAD ENOUGH OF LEGAL BATTLES WITH THE AIRPLANE BILLBOARD AND IT CAME DOWN.  I THINK IT WAS PLACED IN A MUSEUM IN TAMPA WHERE IT PROBABLY STILL IS ON DISPLAY TODAY.

INTERESTINGLY, I HAD EVEN   M O R E   PLANS FOR THAT PLANE HAD I REMAINED AT THE STATION.  I KNEW THAT SOONER OR LATER THE CITY COULD FORCE US TO TAKE IT DOWN FROM THE BILLBOARD.  BUT THE LONGER IT TOOK THE BETTER BECAUSE THAT PLANE WOULD BE IN THE NEWSPAPERS EVERY TIME NEW DEVELOPMENTS OCCURRED.  ONCE WE GOT THE FINAL EDICT TO REMOVE THE PLANE, I WAS GOING TO HAVE IT HAULED TO OUR STUDIO BUILDING ON GANDY BLVD. IN TAMPA AND ANCHOR IT ON THE ROOF.  I KNEW THE CITY OF TAMPA WOULD COME AFTER US AGAIN SAYING THE PLANE SERVED AS A SIGN AND THAT IT WAS TOO BIG UNDER CITY CODE.  BUT I ALREADY HAD A PLAN.  I WAS GOING TO OFFER OUR STAFF MEMBERS  A 15 MINUTE BREAK EVERY DAY AT NOON SO THEY COULD GO OUT IN THE PARKING LOT AND WORSHIP THE PLANE.  I FIGURED THAT IF IT WAS AN OBJECT OF RELIGIOUS WORSHIP, IT WOULD BE PROTECTED!  BUT I NEVER GOT TO TEST THE CITY ON THAT ONE!

THE GREAT PEOPLE AT 3M NATIONAL TOLD ME THAT THIS PROJECT WAS THE SECOND MOST DIFFICULT THEY HAD EVER UNDERTAKEN IN THE HISTORY OF THE COMPANY NATIONWIDE.   THE ONLY PROJECT THAT WAS MORE COMPLICATED WAS A BILLBOARD CONSTRUCTED ON THE CLEVELAND SHIPPING CHANNEL WHICH COLLAPSED CAUSING A LONG DELAY FOR MARITIME TRAFFIC THERE.

NEWSRADIO 970 WFLA
SKY HIGH ON TRAFFIC

UP SHE GOES!



WFLA MORNING SHOW HOST AL GARDNER (WHITE SHIRT) WITH 3M NATIONAL PEOPLE AT BROADCAST


AL WITH HIS WIFE AND SON AND 3M NATIONAL PEOPLE AT THE BROADCAST


MAN WAS THAT THING HEAVY?!


JUST PRIOR TO THE HOISTING (NOTE AL IN CHERRY PICKER ON LEFT)

 


SPECIAL THANKS TO MICHAEL C. LYNK FOR SOME OF
THE COPYRIGHT IMAGES ABOVE


THE HUGH GOTTA GO BILLBOARDS

AT ONE POINT THERE WAS TALK FROM HUGH CLUVERHOUSE ABOUT THE POSSIBILITY OF THE BUCS PLAYING SOME GAMES IN JACKSONVILLE.  SO I DECIDED TO LAUNCH A GRASSROOTS CAMPAIGN TO KEEP THAT FROM HAPPENING.  WE  "HIRED" THREE BILLBOARDS IN TAMPA AND IN PINELLAS COUNTY.  WE DID A LIVE BROADCAST FROM EACH BILLBOARD AND INVITED LISTENERS TO DROP BY AND SIGN OUR "PETITION."  LISTENERS WOULD SIGN THEIR NAMES ON A PIECE OF PAPER THEN THE PAPER WOULD BE HOISTED UP TO AN ARTIST WHO "SIGNED" THEIR NAMES ON THE BOARDS.  HUNDREDS AND HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE STOPPED BY TO AUTOGRAPH THE BOARDS.  ALSO, THE STATION ORDERED THOUSANDS OF ORANGE "ANTENNA BALLS" TO FLASH THE SAME MESSAGE.  INITIALLY I  ORDERED A FEW THOUSAND BUT HAD TO QUICKLY ORDER THOUSANDS OF ADDITIONAL BALLS AS THEY BECAME HUGELY POPULAR.  AS PEOPLE SIGNED THE BILLBOARDS, STATION GRUNTS INSTALLED ONE OF THE ORANGE ANTENNA BALLS ON THEIR VEHICLES AT THE LIVE REMOTES.

TEDDY WEBB DID A SHOW FROM THIS ONE ON DALE MABRY - NOTE TEDDY'S SIGNATURE IN THE MIDDLE UNDER THE LADDER


THE SIGNATURES STARTED TO ADD UP


MY WIFE, CINDY AND ME AT ONE OF THE "HUGH GOTTA GO" BILLBOARDS


WE'D TELL LISTENERS TO LOOK FOR THE BIG ORANGE FOOTBALLS ON THE SIDE OF THE ROAD AT REMOTE SITES


"HUGH GOTTA GO" ON FRONT - ON THE OTHER SIDE IT READ " 970 WFLA"


THE LEAR JET FANTASY CONTEST

ONE OF THE MORE INTERESTING CONTESTS WE DID WAS THE "LEAR JET FANTASY" CONTEST.  WE OFFERED THE SERVICES OF A LEAR JET ANYWHERE IT COULD FLY FOR THE LUCKY WINNER AND FIVE OF HIS OR HER FRIENDS.  WE SOLICITED ENTRIES BY MAIL AND GOT TENS OF THOUSANDS OF THEM.  WE PLANNED TO PICK THE WINNER DURING A LIVE BROADCAST WITH GARDNER AND COMPANY ON A FRIDAY MORNING.  I HAD A COUPLE OF BOXES IN MY OFFICE WHERE WE STORED THE ENTRIES.  I WROTE ON THE BOXES IN BOTH ENGLISH AND SPANISH:  "IMPORTANT - DO NOT THROW AWAY!"  HOWEVER AS LUCK WOULD HAVE IT, WHEN I CAME IN THURSDAY MORNING--ONE DAY PRIOR TO THE GRAND PRIZE DRAWING--ALL THE ENTRIES HAD BEEN THROWN AWAY BY THE CLEANING CREW!  I ASKED SUE TRECCASE, OUR ASSISTANT P.D., TO GO TO THE DUMP WHERE THEY WERE TAKEN IN THE HOPES OF FINDING THEM.  TURNS OUT THEY HAD ALREADY BEEN BURNED.  THE NEXT STEP WAS TO PLEAD WITH THE POST OFFICE TO LET US HAVE THE NEXT DAY'S MAIL AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE SO WE'D HAVE SOME ENTRIES TO DRAW FROM.  GARDNER AND COMPANY DID THEIR LIVE REMOTE THE NEXT DAY FROM MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE AND A WINNER WAS CHOSEN.  TO OUR AMAZEMENT, HE DIDN'T GIVE IT MUCH THOUGHT AND WHEN WE ASKED HIM WHERE HE WAS GOING TO GO ON THE AIR HE REPLIED:  "NEW ORLEANS."  HE COULD HAVE PRACTICALLY TAKEN THAT JET TO EUROPE FOR A WEEKEND!  REALIZING THAT HE HAD MADE A POOR DECISION, HE CALLED BACK AND ASKED IF HE COULD CHANGE HIS DESTINATION AND WE TOLD HIM:  "SORRY, BUT NO!"  SO THE GUY AND FIVE OF HIS FRIENDS MADE THE TRIP TO NEW ORLEANS AND WE INVITED BOB LASSITER AND HIS WIFE MARY TO TAKE THE TRIP, TOO.


OUR LEAR JET FANTASY CONTEST WINNER (FAR RIGHT) AND HIS FAMILY


BOB & MARY LASSITER (BOB'S ON THE LEFT!)
 


SNAZZY COCKPIT


SLEEK LOOKIN' LEAR


REMOTES
SOME FUN MEMORIES!


TAMPA BAY'S BIGGEST ATHLETIC SUPPORTER - MR. TEDDY WEBB


GARY MCHENRY & BOB LASSITER


L-R GARY MCHENRY, BOB LASSITER & ME


LIONEL (LEFT) AND FRIENDS


AL GARDNER DOING A LIVE REMOTE FROM MOTE MARINE LAB IN SARASOTA


AL GARDNER AT DISNEY WORLD (SEE THE WOMAN'S TWO-WAY ON THE DESK?  TEDDY LATER GOT ON IT AND TERRORIZED THE DISNEY FOLKS!)


JEFFREY DAHMER AND CHARLES MANSON ON REMOTE AT DISNEY
WHEN AL "CUPPED" HIS HANDS LIKE THAT IT USUALLY MEANT THAT HE HAD SIGHTED FOOD!


GARDNER & COMPANY SALUTED THE COAST GUARD AT ST. PETE/CLEARWATER INTL. AIRPORT
WE WERE LIVE FROM THE COCKPIT WHEN THEY STARTED THE ENGINES ON THAT C-130 HERC