Blowfish: A Private Life in Public Relations – Episode II
Blowfish: A Private Life in Public Relations – Episode II
A serialized business noir story – By Steve Lundin
Recap: Jack Vance, the colorful CEO of Blowfish Communications, has just secured a $150,000 retainer for the publicity launch of VGlobe a new online video network.
Jack walked East on Madison Street, his office was situated in the best location that he could find after being marooned in Chicago: the Hancock Building. If he cut through the right streets in the Loop, during a semi-blind drunk stupor, it almost felt like being back in NY. Until he heard that unmistakable Chicago accent: a guttural sputtering tinged with shrilly high pitched edges that bumbled carelessly over every consonant like a 300 pound plumber working his way, ass towards faces, to the middle seat at a ball game. There was nothing lyrical about it, which explained why so many Chicago actors, except those specializing in playing Chicago cops, worked slavishly to hide the true tenor of their vocal delivery.
Did he really deserve banishment from NYC for hiring a group of fighter jets to conduct a low pass over the Macy’s parade in promotion of a new civilian space shuttle service? He was doing his job! Thin -skinned Mayor Hillary Clinton lost his vote when she permanently banned him from ever having a business or personal address in Manhattan. Now he was stuck amongst the portly, high pitched Polish sausage eaters of the Midwest. It almost turned him to veganism on more than one occasion.
The chipset in his ear vibrated and the words “Blowfish: Stanley Best” raced across his field of view; he yanked on his left ear lobe to answer it.
“I’ve got a check for $150,000 in my pocket; down payment on the first month of the project.”
“And they bought the whole idea – even the death thing?”
“Well – that’s the grabber isn’t it Stanley? Without death, it’s just another show. Assemble the team in the War Room, I’ll tell them myself.” Vance yanked on his right lobe to end the call and realized that he hadn’t properly celebrated, as he passed the Hard Rock Hotel on the corner of Michigan and Wacker Place. He entered the bar area, enjoying the comforting feeling of being as close to as much alcohol as he could ever want. A middle aged bartender whose attempt at a thinning pompadour and porkchop sideburns was more dark paint than hair, was busy swabbing the granite desk. Vance idled up, slipped into a stool and asked for a triple Belvedere with a splash of absinthe. Elvis’ corpse checked his watch then looked back at his sole customer.
“Come back in three hours, we’re open during lunch.”
“How about a drink now, Mr. Presley?” Vance pulled a 100 euro note out of his pocket and slid it over. “And keep the change.” The bartender looked at it.
“That would be about $12 these days. I think I’ll keep my job instead.”
Vance had the inimitable quality of being able instantly size up someone’s weakest point and exploit it in a manner guaranteed to beg, if not elicit a violent response. His Krav Maga training with the Israeli military hadn’t prevented three black eyes and a broken nose. If he hadn’t been properly loose from liquid lubrication during each altercation he probably wouldn’t be alive.
“Keep it; put it towards the real hairline fund.” And he left, pulling his flask out of his pocket.
Vance unscrewed the cap on his vintage Dunhill flask, the same flask that his father had carried during the early days of Vietnam, when he was fighting with the French as an expat. It contained the last of his home brew: a base of Balkan 176 vodka, La Fée Absinthe and Ritalin. He had switched from a gram of cocaine per flask to 100 mg of Ritalin when he turned 40, to keep his health in check. By the time he covered the ¾ of a mile walk from the Wrigley Building to the Hancock Building the flask was empty and he was ready to issue orders to his staff. After all, there was a lot of work to be done and someone had to do it. God knows he had done the heavy lifting through developing and selling the idea.
Vance entered the building through the 175 East Delaware side; he tried to vary the routine as much as possible, sometimes even going in through one of the ground floor retail spaces and slipping through the back and out a service door. He had built his career on designing the most over the top, controversial marketing campaigns in the world, and had no qualms on alienating certain demographics to capture others. His campaign for PETA, declaring open hunting season on anyone wearing a fur coat, had actually helped him score the NRA as a client. The gambit had sparked protests outside his old Hudson Street offices, as several hundred men and women wore their paintball splattered furs in protest of the violence that his campaign created. After the footage aired on Fox, he picked up one of the world’s largest paintball manufacturers as a client to boot. Several death threats had taught him to be alert to danger.
The Blowfish offices were located in suite 2130, and filled a good 11,000 square feet of the city’s skyline. There were 11 offices, 14 cubes, a lunch room and a War Room. Vance himself didn’t keep an office because he didn’t want to admit that he was actually working in Chicago. He had a small leather chair, crafted for him by Herman Miller, which he rolled from room to room, parking himself on the corner of anyone’s desk for a few hours to do some work. Vance thought nothing of interrupting calls, conducting impromptu video conferences or spreading out over an employee’s work space. After all – what could be more important than his work? If the employees weren’t an extension of his arms and legs, fingers and toes, there to execute his ideas, then what good were they? He didn’t attain his level of success by hiring more than one left thumb.
The office door flew open before Vance could put a hand on it, and Stanley Best pushed him back into the hallway. Vance had hired Stanley as his VP/Director of Operations for three reasons: His bald head glistened nicely when tanned, he was very good at understanding people and Jack owed him under the ‘get out of jail free’ life clause. Best had been a NJ State Trooper who had pulled Vance over on “suspicion” of vehicular manslaughter back in 2015. Both men knew that Vance, although under the influence of psychoactive mushrooms, had not caused the 96 year old woman in the car ahead of him to slide off an icy country highway and into a creek. She had slammed on her brakes, explaining why the rear bumper of her 1998 Tercel was embedded in the plastic front end of Vance’s 2019 Aston Martin. They came to an understanding on the spot: Best would join Blowfish as the new VP at a salary four times what he made as a trooper with the Aston Martin as his company car, and Vance would take a cab back to Manhattan.
Best sniffed dramatically. “Hell of a time for a drink, Jack.”
“Am I driving, officer? Give me a break, I’ve got your salary in my pocket. Where are the balloons and the music? What’s the problem with these deadbeats in there? Do I have to create every party myself?” Vance pulled on his left ear, activating his chip and thought the words, “Binny’s Beverage Depot.” Best yanked on his right lobe, ending the transmission.
“Not today Jack. The Southwest Air account just went south because of that stunt you pulled with the flour bombing of the Panama Canal.”
“It was international news! In ten seconds, everyone knew they were opening new Latin American routes.”
“The Panamanians are suing Southwest and barring them from landing at any airports.”
Atypically, Vance pondered the question for a second. “Screw-em. We’ll pitch Panama Air on a campaign to keep the gringo airlines from monopolizing Latin America travel and open some gates for them in the US. Now where the hell is everybody?”
“In the War Room – wondering if you’re going to have enough money to pay their salaries.”
“Apt place for a bunch of cowering pacifists. Let’s go Stan – in two weeks these chickens will be shooting themselves for not taking Blowfish stock options.” And Vance pushed past Best into his offices. It was showtime.
Copyright 2012 Steve Lundin
About the author: Steve Lundin is the chief hunter and gatherer of BIGfrontier Communications Group, a Chicago based media strategy firm. He is the humor column for MediaPost’s Marketing Daily and has written for the Chicago Tribune, International Watch and a variety of aviation publications. He has worked as a professional marketing executive for several Chicago area marketing companies, as a production manager and cartoonist for a regional newspaper chain and as the public relations director for a national non profit agency. He is a writer, cartoonist, photographer, videographer, designer, amateur sociologist, pop culture expert/collector, scuba diver, motorcyclist and aviator in the making. And he knows a few things about marketing, having consulted for nearly 100 companies from Fortune 50 to a couple of guys in a garage with a business plan.