07 March 2010

Beer Selling in the Old Days

The Detroit Free Press printed a column by sports commentator Ernie Harwell, finally retiring at age 92, who among other things recounts the beer selling business in Baltimore decades ago:

Working for Gunther Beer in Baltimore, I encountered another bad plan. The ad agency dispatched Herb Carneal and me to various downtown bars. We were to buy a bottle of Gunther, sit and talk about its great taste. A problem arose. Our visits were scheduled for 8 or 9 o'clock in the morning. The only bar occupants were lonely drunks and ladies of the evening.
"Sure, you can buy me a drink," one of the barflies told me. "But I don't want no beer. Buy me a whiskey."
The folks at Gunther went back to the drawing board.
My other beer sponsor in Baltimore, National Brewing, missed the target big-time. I had been with the company less than a week when the ad manager invited me to meet some salesman at the famous Oasis, an upholstered sewer in the notorious Baltimore Block. There were dancing girls in this dive and a pasty-faced, emaciated MC named Sid Gray. I chatted with the salesman at minuscule tables surrounding the strippers.
Gray stood and said, "Let me introduce our great Oriole announcer, a man who is doing a fantastic job." (I had been in the city only a few days and was certain that neither Gray nor anybody else had ever heard me broadcast.) "We love him. He is terrific. A big hand for the fabulous Ernie Harwell."
Reluctantly, I rose and took a timid bow. The crowd responded with the enthusiasm of a man in a dentist chair. I sat down as soon as possible. Suddenly to my dismay, Gray was introducing me again. "He is great, folks, just great, Ernie, take another bow." As I stood up again, Gray, with a toothless grin, said, "Sit down, you little so-and-so, nobody wants to look at you."
It was another ad idea gone sour.

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