Archive for February, 2010

What I Learned From Clarence Armstrong

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on February 25, 2010 by innovativemediapr

Last night I watched a documentary on the Ovation television network on jazz legend Louis Armstrong. I’ve always been fascinated with the man known as “Satchmo,” not only because of his music, which I love, but because of a boyhood tie that I have to him.

During the course of the documentary, reference was made to Louis’ adopted son, who was retarded. No name was given, but I knew what they were talking about, for he was my friend Clarence, a person I first knew as a little boy as Ooga Booga.

I grew up in the northeast Bronx on a street called Oakley. The cross street was Fenton Ave, and a few house up that block was a woman named Miss Lillian. That was the house that Clarence lived in as well. Growing up, I didn’t have a lot of friends until I was 8 and I was allowed to start playing in the street and nearby school yard of my boyhood school, P.S. 78. From my backyard, I would see Clarence pass my house every day, wearing his Mets cap. I never really talked with him. Then, when I started playing ball in the street with the other kids up my block, I heard them call him by another name, that of “Ooga Booga.” The kids were afraid of him and would tease him for chewing on his tongue. When they would see him they would taunt him with the cry of “Hey, Ooga Booga, Hey Ooga Booga” and then run. I’m ashamed to say, I joined in.

Then, one day, Clarence called me out and said he would tell my father. When I was home that night, I asked my parents about Clarence. They then told me that he was the son of Louis Armstrong. They even told me that Louis used to come up to the house to see Clarence when they first moved in. I knew Louis Armstrong was a musician, and knew him from television and the song, Hello Dolly. What I didn’t know was that Miss Lillian had married Clarence under an arrangement with Louis Armstrong. They had a son who used to play the trumpet out of his window all the time. However, he later died, although I do not know the reasons.

Knowing now the background of Clarence, I was carrying the guilt of being one of the abusive kids taunting him. The next time I saw him, I didn’t run but said hello. Clarence started talking to me about his love, baseball. This would begin years of dialogue on the Mets. Even though I was a Yankees fan, Clarence knew I loved baseball too. He would make up trades for the Mets, ringing my door bell to tell me the Mets got Reggie Smith from the Red Sox or Tony Perez from the Reds and other such All-Stars. Of course, they never traded anyone for these players, but I caught on and just kept the discussion going. Many times, he would ring my doorbell to tell me his news. My dad or mom would have to rescue me by coming out to tell me to finish my home work or have dinner.

 I remember the one trade that was really made that thrilled Clarence was when the Mets got Willie Mays from the Giants. Clarence was literally jumping for joy that day. He would often jump up and down when he was excited, yelling as loud as he could. He was a little boy in a grown man’s body.

I communicated my discovery of Clarence’s background and love for baseball to my friends and they quickly caught on too. Soon Clarence began hanging out with us, watching us play. We’d even let him coach some times. He quickly became our mascot and lookout, watching for kids from other blocks that might look to start trouble with us.

Not only was I able to get to know Clarence, but I would visit and say hello to Miss Lillian nearly every day. Sometimes she would even give me a present.

When Louis Armstrong died in July, 1971, I remember WPIX carrying the funeral live on television. There, I got to see Clarence getting into a limousine. It confirmed for real, his relationship with the famed trumpeter.

As the years progressed and we all got older, we continued playing ball all the way through our college years. Clarence was there with us, watching and cheering us on as always. He was still making up trades. In fact, if the Mets hired Clarence, they may have won a few more pennants.

Clarence was Catholic and I would often walk and attend Mass with him at St. Phillip & James Church on Boston Road. Many parishioners would shy away, but I would sit with him in a side pew.

Sometimes when Clarence would ring my bell it wasn’t always about baseball. I can remember one time when he called on me to tell me a member of his daddy’s band had died.

After watching the documentary last night, I decided to look up information on Louis Armstrong, hoping to find mention of the adopted retarded son I knew as Clarence. Why I never did this earlier, I don’t know, but I was pleasantly surprised to find a link in the Wikipedia entry to a story written by Gary Giddins in the Village Voice in 2003
that outlined the history of Clarence. It turns out; Clarence was the son of Louis Armstrong’s cousin Flora. As Giddins account, posted below, points out, Louis began supporting Clarence when Louis was just 14. It became a lifelong pursuit, as Clarence was Louis’ only child.

A few steps into the archive I was stopped dead by a pasteboard blowup of a photograph that had never been published, showing Armstrong and his adopted son, “Clarence Hatfield.” I had never given Clarence much thought, having heard he was mentally retarded and died a long time ago, hidden away.

But here he was: beaming backstage at the Band Box, a club in Chicago, in the 1940s, nattily dressed in a double-breasted suit not unlike the pinstripe tailored for Armstrong, who also beams, with unmistakable paternal pride. Clarence and their relationship sprang to life, sending me back to Armstrong’s account in Satchmo: My Life in New Orleans, to appreciate for the first time its affectionate candor regarding his only venture into paternity. Clarence was born in 1915 to Louis’s teenage cousin, Flora, apparently after she was molested by an old white man her father felt powerless to challenge. Louis’s first sight of the baby washed “all the gloom out of me.” He took it upon himself, at 14, to get a job hauling coal (immortalized in the 1925 “Coal Cart Blues”) to support the baby and the ailing mother, and assumed full responsibility after Flora’s death, marrying his first wife and adopting the three-year-old at 17. In that period, Clarence fell off a porch and landed on his head; doctors judged him to be mentally impaired. When Louis married Lil Hardin in Chicago, Clarence joined them, and Louis never forgave Lil—who claimed that Clarence was never legally adopted—for her impatience with him. When he left Lil for Alpha, he brought Clarence along.

Eventually, Clarence was set up in the Bronx, where he was married in an arrangement of convenience financed by Louis.

Miss Lillian eventually passed and I got married and moved to New Jersey, losing any connection I had with Clarence. My dad and brother who were still living there told me that his house had been boarded up and Clarence taken away one day. They never knew what happened. After reading Gary Giddins’ story, I now know he died in 1998. I now have to read Satchmo: My Life in New Orleans and learn more.

Clarence Armstrong forever changed my life for he taught me how to deal with others. Appearances and background don’t matter. It’s what’s inside a person that counts. It’s something I’ve tried to carry through on throughout my professional career.

I can still see him cheering for us, tongue hanging from his mouth and his Mets cap hanging sideways on his head as he jumped up and down. “Tommy, Tommy” I can hear him yell. “The Mets just got Albert Pujols. They gonna have a bad ass team this year!”

Tom Cosentino

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The Power of a Small Business Network

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on February 18, 2010 by innovativemediapr

I have always been interested in how networking referral services work so I took up the invitation of Theresa Denza, owner of Treasures by Theresa and wife of a college friend and attended a breakfast meeting of LeTip of Marlboro recently as her guest. Needless to say, I was subsequently voted in as a member.  LeTip of Marlboro is one of the many chapters of the LeTip International referral networking organization.   This organization has been around for over 30 years.  Why would I join such an organization? How would my company, iMedia Public Relations  benefit? Those were questions I had going in, but after sitting around a table at the Manalapan Diner with 25 other business owners, I realized that this would indeed be an organization worth joining.

What I liked about LeTip is that it wasn’t a come when you feel like it organization.  Members have to come each week and share tips for business, both internal and external. Each business gets category exclusivity for their business and profession. Thus, I’m now the only public relations business representative and I have over 20 other businesses that I can connect with plus their business contacts. That to me was the defining reason to join the group.

The organization even has its own creed:

“LeTip is a professional organization of men and women dedicated to the highest standards of competence and service. Our purpose is the  exchange of business tips. Members will, at all times, maintain the higheest professional integrity. Each business category is represented by one member and conflicts of interest are disallowed.” 

Yesterday was the first meeting I attended as an official member. I already have a member wanting to schedule a meeting with him.  My mission with this is to not only make contacts but to educate these small business owners into realizing the positive impact public relations can have on their businesses. For many, their knowledge of public relations is that it is advertising.  This is a process that is easily overcome as I begin educating them on the applications of an effective public relations campaign.

For many of these small businesses, my involvement might only result in writing some web site copy or a few press releases. For others, it may lead to building a social media presence for their business. As each week unfolds I will be able to further educate small business owners into the value of using public relations. As they learn more they can refer me to their contacts.  That will ultimately showcase the true value of joining LeTip of Marlboro and the overall power of a small business network.

Tom Cosentino

Puppy Bowl is a Can’t Miss Treat

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on February 9, 2010 by innovativemediapr

It’s certainly tough for networks to counter program against the Super Bowl. This year’s event drew a household audience of 106.5 million homes, setting the all time viewing record, eclipsing the previous mark of over 105 million homes set in 1983 for the final episode of MASH. In the early years of the Super Bowl, it was not a difficult task as the game was still played in the afternoon, just like any other week during the NFL season and had not become the event it is today. However, once the Super Bowl attained spectacle status, alternative programming largely revolved around sacrificial repeats by other networks. It was as if the rest of the industry gave up and threw up the white flag and surrendered.
However, there are some networks that have not. The annual Puppy Bowl broadcast by cable channel Animal Planet has become a treat to watch on Super Bowl Sunday. This year’s event was Puppy Bowl VI and featured a new roster of puppy stars competing in Animal Planet Stadium.
This is an example of a creative marketing stunt that provides sponsors with a unique promotional platform, a cable network audience and rebroadcasts during the actual Super Bowl. Scheduled for its first airing from 3-5 pm on Super Bowl Sunday, Puppy Bowl VI gave fans, especially those households where Super Bowl parties are just getting under way, an entertaining alternative to the mind-numbing pre-game shows that start at 9 a.m. Sponsors of the event included Pedigree dog food and the Twizzler’s® blimp, piloted by a crew of hamsters.
The format is simple. An all-star lineup of rambunctious, rescue pups, run around a faux football field, complete with helmet-cam water bowls. As the puppies collide and tackle one another, a human referee controls the action. Viewers are treated to a variety of breeds all competing on the Animal Planet Stadium field. And, for the halftime show, Animal Planet spares no expense. Instead of bringing out a retread rock and roll band 30 years past their prime, a group of cute kittens provide the entertainment.
Animal Planet is not the only network that has used canines to provide entertaining programming alternatives to football. While the Puppy Bowl has become a mainstay on Super Bowl Sunday, NBC has also led the way with the National Dog Show Presented by Purina, which airs every Thanksgiving immediately following the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and smack dab against the annual Detroit Lions massacre on Fox.
Hosted by John O’Hurley and David Frei, this event is the most widely viewed dog show in America, reaching an audience of nearly 20 million viewers each year and is rapidly becoming an important American holiday tradition. I had the pleasure of assisting my former colleague Steve Griffith in publicizing the show in 2005 and 2006.
The event is hosted by the Kennel Club of Philadelphia during its annual cluster of dog shows which are sanctioned by the American Kennel Club (AKC). The show attracts over 2,000 of the top show dogs from across the country with over 150 different breeds and varieties compete for best of Breed, First in Group and the coveted title of Best in Show.

So if a network is looking for alternative programming to a major sporting event like the Super Bowl, it should look no further than man’s best friend. However, unlike Drew Brees, the winner of the Puppy Bowl doesn’t need a trip to Disney World; they just need a loving home.

Tom Cosentino

Radio Row is Where Action Is at Super Bowl

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on February 2, 2010 by innovativemediapr

Today is the annual Super Bowl Media Day. Players from the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints are gathered in Miami to address serious and mundane questions from a couple of thousand media representatives from around the world. NFL.com is streaming this live. While there is a lot of attention focused on this event, the real action is done in the media center on radio row where dozens of radio shows and personalities from across the country broadcast during Super Bowl week. There, a plethora of publicists lead former and current athletes around like sheep, conducting one interview after another. The majority of these interviews revolve around promoting a brand that has no affiliation with the Super Bowl. It is a goldmine for companies wishing to cash in on America’s biggest sporting event. 

A couple of years ago I shuffled former Dallas Cowboys great, Ed “Too Tall” Jones in his pre-Geico commercial days, around radio row to promote the NFL Charity Bowling Event that was to be held the day before the big game. It was amazing how crowded the area was with athletes and personalities. In the span of a couple of hours, Jones conducted about 20 radio interviews, as well as ESPN and the NFL Network.

Radio row is just one of the many areas surrounding Super Bowl Week that is an opportune setting for getting your spokesperson interviewed. With the huge influx of media outlets from throughout the country and world descending on the Super Bowl city, there is no shortage of chances to book your spokesperson.

Of course, you’ll need the right individual to carry your message. And, you’ll need to plan and budget for this way before next year’s game. Prices vary for athletes depending on their standing. Companies looking to capitalize on the Super Bowl next year in Indianapolis can use an outside athlete representation firm like our friends at The Agency to secure the right person for their brands. That spokesman will ensure a brand’s message is heard round the world, as they travel radio row and beyond.
Tom Cosentino