Shut Yer Piehole, St. Louis: We Got It Good!

To think that most of us didn't know any better

Part of the "challenge," according to Fleming, is that about 70 percent of St. Louis residents have always lived here. In other words, they don't know any better. Maybe they don't know that real estate is so costly on the coasts and that in terms of expense and inconvenience, life is easier here. So maybe the compared-to-what approach is the safest good thing you can say about St. Louis. But that's sad. The reason real estate is high is supply and demand; there are reasons millions flock to Southern California -- it doesn't snow, hardly ever freezes and rains 14 inches a year; the desert, beach and mountains are nearby; and there's plenty to do.

St. Louis boosters make much of the "Best Sports Town" label, but there's a downside to that. It's a description of a place where too many people satisfy themselves with sitting and watching others do something exciting. Vicarious thrills and voyeurism have their limits.

But don't despair. More ads are on the way. They'll stress the upside of living here, focusing on the symphony, the zoo, the museums, the libraries and the parks, most of which are remnants of the city's bygone glory days but still better than comparable entities in most Sun Belt cities.

Two "Boston" sports fans gripe about their hometown teams. Feel better?
Two "Boston" sports fans gripe about their hometown teams. Feel better?

And in the end, the old line of advertisers applies: "Half of the money I spend on advertising is wasted; I just don't know which half." The airtime and "creative" work are donated; only out-of-pocket production costs are being covered by the RCGA's outlay of $50,000. It will be hard to gauge whether the campaign works.

David Molho, associate creative director at Schupp Co., who wrote the ads, isn't clear how that will be judged. "Other than everybody just being in a better mood, I don't know how they plan on measuring it," he says. "Everybody is laughing in the right parts and nodding in agreement. They're getting it. Generally the reaction's been very positive." Fleming thinks RCGA will conduct an "image attitude poll" at the end of the year to draw "attitudinal reactions," seeing whether the ads were seen and whether they had any effect.

Molho says most of the creative and postproduction work was done in St. Louis, but because of a tight timetable, the actual filming was done in Los Angeles. "And if we had used St. Louis talent, people might have recognized them and it might have seemed less authentic," says Molho. "If you had seen the Schnucks guy in one of these, you might have said, "Wait a second' or "I've seen that guy in a Becky the Carpet Queen ad.' It might not have had the veracity it seems to have."

Maybe it's fitting that commercials boosting St. Louis were filmed in Los Angeles using California actors talking about New York City, Boston and Chicago. What did you expect? Local talent? Molho says the production companies here were booked, so the ads had to be filmed on the Left Coast. But for the ad in the bar, local casting couldn't have been a problem. It's not as if they couldn't find two fat guys in St. Louis sitting on barstools bitching about their sports teams. At least in the spot that pokes fun at how expensive it is to live in New York City, the actor is from St. Louis -- a Florissant native who went to LA to pursue his bright-lights, big-city dreams. Maybe, if he sees the ad, he'll come back home. RCGA could find him a cheap two-family flat.

Campaign managers and press secretaries are being hired and a barbecue restaurant is about to open -- the March 6 mayoral primary fast approaches.

Mayor Clarence Harmon, oft ribbed about Rory Riddler, his campaign "consultant" who is also a St. Charles city councilman -- oh, the irony -- went east this time to hire his campaign manager, Dean Levitan. Levitan worked the '99 mayoral race in Philadelphia, running the campaign of Democratic primary candidate John White, who lost to John Street, and then helping Street in the general election. Both Street and White are African-Americans. Street, a 19-year veteran of the City Council, won the mayor's race by fewer than 2 percentage points. In September, Levitan worked on the U.S. Senate bid of Rebecca Yanisch in Minnesota, who lost to Mark Dayton, an heir to the Target fortune.

To deal with the Fourth Estate, Aldermanic President Francis Slay hired Ed Rhode, who worked for Rep. Richard Gephardt for seven years as a local press spokesman. For Slay, any linkage with the Gephardt camp is perceived as a good thing. Former Mayor Freeman Bosley has acquired the services of Harold Crumpton, formerly of the state Democratic Coordinating Committee and a Southwestern Bell executive, as his campaign manager.

And in the most substantive act of the last week of mounting mayoral mania, the Boz took time off the campaign trail to appear before the Commercial Committee of the Skinker-DeBaliviere Community Council. He was pumping up the proposed opening of Big Jake's Memphis Style Restaurant, down the street from the Pageant. The plan is to renovate the closed McDonald's at 5800 Delmar Blvd., just east of the MetroLink stop at the old Delmar Station for the Wabash Railroad, and reopen it as a sit-down/drive-through barbecue restaurant.

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