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Tampa Mayor Sandy Freedman

Q & A: Tampa Mayor Sandy Freedman! MADDUX REPORT 1991

(This interview with Tampa Mayor Sandy Freedman was recorded in March 1991 for the Maddux Report.)

Tampa Mayor Sandy Freedman
Tampa Mayor Sandy Freedman

Sandy Freedman’s fingerprints are all over her city. In typical big city fashion, nothing of any significance happens in Tampa these days without the mayor’s nod of approval or hands-on contribution. It’s evident in the Tampa Convention Center — for which she had final approval of details down to the color scheme — and the arrival of the Tampa Bay Lightning hockey franchise, which she personally rallied the National Hockey League Board of Governors to award. She participated in the city’s successful efforts to lure Salomon Brothers to Tampa and pushed the coming Florida Aquarium from dream to reality.

The mayor — who won re-election in February with the support of a crushing 73 percent of the electorate — made a reputation for herself during his first term as what she calls a “facilitator,” someone with a knack for bringing parties to the table to work out their differences. It was her influence that broke down years of mistrust between Tampa and St. Petersburg and set the stage for such infant trans-bay organizations as the Tampa Bay Partnership and the Tampa Bay Congress of Chambers of Commerce. She went to St. Petersburg to meet with the National League Expansion Committee in February and express the entire Tampa Bay area’s support for a baseball franchise in the Florida Suncoast Dome.

She says her early days in the office were awkward as city staff and business leaders struggled to adapt to not just Tampa’s first woman chief executive but to a mayor decidedly different in style and execution from her predecessor, Bob Martinez.

Still, however, she is a lioness searching for a voice, as her quiet asmidst the racial storm of the cancelled Gasparilla invasion and parade demonstrated. It was the perfect episode for the mayor of harmony to take a stand and be heard, yet she was largely silent, preferring to stay in the background.

Freedman talked with the Maddux Report for an hour in her city hall office in April, the day after she was sworn in for her second term.

MADDUX REPORT: You were re-elected by a landslide, probably making you the most powerful woman in Florida …

SANDY FREEDMAN: I never think about that. I hope I’m a good role-model for women. That’s the only way that comes into mind. It does say that women can be in executive positions, not just legislative position, that woman can lead and do well and have the support of the public as they’re doing it.

MR: What does it mean for Tampa that you did so well, that you established clearly that you are the mayor of all of Tampa?

SF: What it says is that people like the direction the city is in now, the direction we’ve taken these last four years and they want to continue along that course.

MR: What message did your victory sent to the citizens of Tampa and the city council in terms of your mandate and your ability to govern.

SF: One of the things I was interested in was winning big. Because there were an awful lot of things that I started and I wanted to continue. I think the margin lets everybody know that the public is supportive of those things and they want to keep ’em going, whether it’s the housing program or economic development. I hope they’re going to remember that as we move into new areas and that the public widely supported me. I might REMIND ’em on occasion. (She laughs.)

MR: You’re widely thought to be someone who’s low-key, a behind the scenes person, not a grab-’em-by-the-lapels mayor — almost a contradiction in a ‘strong mayor’ form of government.

SF: When you’re my size you can’t grab people by the lapels. (She laughs.) Kick ’em in the shins, maybe.

MR: What tops your agenda for the next four years?

SF: We will contine working on reducing crime in creative ways. It’s not just hiring more cops. The housing programs, which, of all the things I’ve done, I’m most proud of them. They’re really helping people. We’re going to continue them and fine-tune. We’re doing one pilot project, rebuilding and revitalizing, in effect, an entire neighborhood. If we make that one work, we’ll be able to take that model to other neighborhoods. I’m confident we’re going to get a convention hotel, but on terms the city can afford and handle, as opposed to someone else’s terms.

Hopefully some of the things that are the hardest to do — race relations, the arts — will be in better shape.

MR: How would you describe your style of governing?

SF: It’s a different style than this community is used to. And I think that’s why it’s was hard early on for some people to understand, even for some of the staff members. It was very different from the way Bob Martinez dealt.

I work in a very open way. People are in and out all day. It’s not a closed, inner circle and then another circle, as might have been the case in the past. Everybody has access to this office. It’s a very democratic kind of thing. Everybody shares their ideas, free-for-all. We don’t sit around a conference table; I’m not comfortable there. We kick around ideas and then I say okay, this is the way we’re going to do it. And everybody gets behind it.

I think it works. The people who work with me — I don’t think they’re scared out of me. They know I can be tough and I can be a taskmaster, but I don’t ask of them anything I don’t ask of myself.

It’s low-key, behind-the-scenes much of the time, non-traditional, maybe. There’s a lot of team building. We do some things out of the office, we socialize together. We spend more time together than we do with our families so we better like each other. There’s a lot of humor, a lot of laughter, a lot of kidding. There’s a great deal of camaraderie.

I get around a lot to the departments. If I need information, instead of asking them to come here, I go there. It helps for people to see me, to know I care about what they do. I probably know more people by name than any other mayor ever has. I like people. Maybe that’s the difference.

MR: You have been given credit for a number of things that have happened during the last four years — hockey, Salomon Brothers, the convention center, the Florida Aquarium. What do you think your contribution to these things has been?

SF: Often times I’m a facilitator. I take pride and some degree of credit in getting the convention center done on time and on budget. Every Wednesday morning I got a report on progress from the moment that project began to insure it came in on time and on budget. My credibility and the fortune of the city was at stake and I wasn’t going to let it get away from me.

Hockey, that was one of those once-in-a-lifetime kind of things. I’ve been given a lot of credit, but I think I just said, ‘Let’s pick up the pieces. You get the private financing and I’ll go down (to the NHL Board of Governors meetings at The Breakers in Palm Beach) and make the pitch for you.’ But I think they wanted to give Phil Esposito a franchise. There was an electricity when he walked in the room that is a very rare thing to see.

MR: There was a great picture of you holding a hockey stick over your head after the team was awarded …

SF: I hated that picture. Everybody else loved it. I guess it was because it was very different for me.

Women who started in politics a long time ago came along at a time when there were very few women involved in politics, when we really had to be smarter, be better, do more homework. At least we thought we did. We were held up to a microscope, much more so than the men who were elected. As a result of that, a lot of us developed what appears to be a level of intensity, much more thoughtful, less humorous, less frivolous. That has kind of carried over with me. That’s why it’s still hard for me to see myself with a hockey stick.

MR: What did Salomon Brothers ask of the city that the city could — and could not — deliver?

SF: They asked very little, quite honestly.

I think they knew the answers but in the early stages had to have discussions as to whether they could have tax incentives, tax abatements, the normal questions that everybody asks. I think they had well-researched this area and knew what the Florida Constitution allowed and also what it prohibited. They really didn’t ask much. They were very receptive to the few offers we made — the partnership school concept, which I took to them very late. They were very very enamored with the concept and they are going to be implementing it in conjunction with the Hillsborough County school system. We certainly offered to help facilitiate the process through permitting. Not to give them anything, but to help make sure that things move as quickly as possible. We’ve done that for others and will continue to do that.

I think they were most especially interested in the feel for the community, the receptivity to the top people who came down. They were interested in housing, the arts.

MR: Was there anything Salomon Brothers wanted that you just couldn’t give them?

SF: I don’t recall anything that ever came up that they said, ‘We have to have this,’ and we had to say no, we can’t provide it for you.

MR: You have maintained a very strong hand in negotiations for a convention center hotel, turning back some well-known, would-be developers. What were they asking for that the city can’t or won’t deliver?

SF: They’re asking more than we’re able to deliver or even want to deliver. I don’t think the city of Tampa — as interested as we are in getting a convention hotel in close proximity to the facility — should be in the convention hotel business. And some of the requests made of us have been to, in effect, own a piece of the rock. Not to own it, but we would have to put so much in, that in effect, we would be kinda partners even though we wouldn’t own it. I don’t want to do that, I don’t think the public wants that. There are certain things we can work with and they’ve been widely reported, from the parking situation — we’ve got a couple little parcels down there that might be part of the deal — and there’s a little bit of tax increment financing money, maybe some help with the meeting rooms. But owning half a hotel, in effect, is not what we’re going to do.

MR: Is there anything in particular holding up the process right now?

SF: I think the economy certainly hasn’t been in our favor. Land prices down there have been very, very high, although they seem to be coming down a little bit, which may help facilitate the deal.

I’m pretty confident that in the not too distant future we’re going to see something happen down there. I don’t have anything to announce — but there’s more interest in the last couple months than there was in the six months prior to that.

MR: You have made a mini-career of bringing together disparate groups and telling them to meet, talk among themselves and work together.

SF: I’m glad that I’ve been able to fill the facilitator’s role. It will mean more to me if those things become long-lasting. That’s one of the reasons why the way I operate is different. Some people say I should stand here, pound the desk and say, ‘THIS IS THE WAY IT’S GONNA BE!’ I don’t view that behavior as being for long-term progress. I think the community has to come together. I see my role as bringing those forces together for the long-term interest.

MR: Will Bob Ulrich’s decision to step aside as mayor of St. Petersburg interrupt the mood of cooperation across the bay?

SF: No. I think it’ll continue. David Fischer and his wife were at my swearing-in ceremony. Bob Ulrich was also there. That never would have happened four or five years ago.

I don’t know David Fischer at all, but I know of him and I’m real comfortable with him.

MR: Would you favor a Tampa BAY Sports Authority if a Major League Baseball team is awarded to St. Petersburg? What about a Tampa Bay United Way for the arts?

SF: I’m not sure I favor a Tampa Bay Sports Authority or a Tampa Bay United Way for the arts.

As much as I support regionalism, there are always going to be times — and there should be times — when we maintain our separate identities. Yes, we should work together on sports, but no, I don’t think we ought to have a Tampa Bay Sports Authority.

MR: How would you describe your relationship with the business community?

SF: I think I have a good relationship with the business community. There were times early on that maybe it wasn’t as good as it is now, but I think that was because I was somewhat unknown to them as a chief executive. My style is very different. I don’t just call a half-dozen people for advice. I call a LOT of people. And so I think there might have been some people who thought they were cut off.

I’m very supportive of good, sound economic development.

MR: Do you consider yourself and your administration pro-business?

SF: I think we’ve demonstrated that we are.

MR: What do you think of the Hillsborough County Commission’s proposal to establish its own economic development commission?

SF: I think it’s a mistake.

Government does some things very well and some things we don’t do very well. I think we need to acknowledge that. I don’t think this is an area government could do really well. We can help facilitate economic development, clearly, by our actions as well as our resources. But I think the Committee of One Hundred has done quite well; I think they can do better. There’s been a fragmentation of economic development with the proliferation of University North, the Parkway Association, Ybor City, downtown, Westshore — which hasn’t necessarily accrued to the benefit of the overall economic picture.

Personally I would hope there would be some pulling in of all of those in more of an umbrella effort, so that those resources that are expended in all of those areas might be more efficiently administered. But I don’t think it ought to be done by government.

MR: So you don’t favor the creation of another EDC.

SF: Absolutely not.

One of the frustrations (of the county commission) — and I have felt it myself — is as a public official you’re expected to know everything. And yet there’s an arena in which you can’t know everything. There’s a confidentiality when you’re dealing with corpprate relocations. Even as the mayor, I don’t know all the people or groups that we’re wooing. And I shouldn’t.

MR: There was probably one election issue that no one was happy with you about and that was your handling of Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla. You were uncharacteristically silent about the Krewe’s unwillingness to take in blacks, women and minorities, seemingly unwilling to take sides, unwilling to alienate the black coalition or the white power brokers who make up the Krewe. In the meantime, as the sports world prepared to come to town for Super Bowl XXV, Tampa’s national image took a beating in the press. Was it a mistake to not be more outspoken?

SF: I don’t know that I was silent. I said the city wouldn’t participate any longer (in the Gasparilla parade) with our services, the policemen, clean-up and everything else.

I’ve thought that one through dozens, hundreds of times probably by now. What could I have done differently, what would have been better? And I haven’t figured it out yet. I worked from day one behind the scenes, trying to bring the parties together, trying to get the Krewe to integrate, trying to make order rise from chaos and (Tampa received) a black eye, a nationwide black eye. But I don’t know what could have done differently.

MR: Did you not get a sense that people on both sides were waiting for you to come out on one side or the other?

SF: Yeah, yeah. But either way was a losing proposition. I think it was handled poorly all the way around from a public relations standpoint. I tried very hard to get that moderation between all the folks that were involved. I’m not sure that I could have handled it any better; perhaps if others had reduced the rhetoric and maybe belayed their actions … It was a painful thing. But sometimes, no pain, no gain. We’re gonna be a stronger community as a result of it.

MR: Will Gasparilla return to the city?

SF: We’ll have to wait and see.

MR: And if it does, will the city be involved with the Krewe?

SF: If the Krewe wants to put on a parade with the support of the city, then it’s going to have to be an inclusive organization.

MR: Cecil Edge said your fingerprints are on every downtown building built in the last four years and every building that will rise for the next four years. (The mayor laughs.) Do you have a clear vision for downtown?

SF: I think I have a pretty good vision for downtown. We put together the downtown plan to help articulate that vision. That’s to give everybody guidelines, to put everybody on a level playing field.

I have a vision. I’d like to see the waterfront very people-oriented. I would not like to see it walled-in with high-rise buildings where you couldn’t see the water or there was no green space. I think we have had the last of our buildings that is going to be concrete and steel, sidewalk to sidewalk. I hope we have. I think there’s going to be public art in downtown. I hope we will attract more retail and housing. Those are tricky, very tough. I hope the architecture will be architecture people will view in and of itself. Good architecture doesn’t cost more money.

MR: What will drive the Tampa Bay market in the next decade?

SF: I think we’re learning that we’ve got to have more homegrown. The SRI study proves that to be a reality. There aren’t that many corporate relocations out there. The real value-added is going to come from within and it should. We ought to have an environment that can nurture that.

MR: Your predecessor used this office to leap first into the governor’s mansion and now the president’s cabinet. What’s ahead for you?

SF: I get asked that question at least once a day. I don’t know what’s ahead. My schooling, my degree, was in local government. I get a great deal of reward and personal satisfaction from what I do. It’s probably a good thing that I can only serve two terms. But who knows? Maybe if there wasn’t a charter revision, maybe I’d want to keep on going. There’s a lot to do in this community and a lot I’d like to be involved with.

end

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Profile: Legendary Tampa Bay sportscaster Chris Thomas! PLAYERS 1991

By Bob Andelman

(Originally published in Players, August 1991)

The green blinking light is pressed.

“Bobby from St. Pete, you’re at bat. Take a swing!”

“Okay! I was at the airport the other day and Phil was there. He’s getting on a plane going to Newark. I said, ‘Hey, Phil! Good luck!’ He said, ‘Yeah, we’re going to do it!'”

For those who don’t know the players on a first-name basis, Chris Thomas explains to the rest of his listeners that “Phil” is Phil Esposito, president of the vaporware Tampa Bay Lightning.

Chris Thomas (WDAE)
Chris Thomas (WDAE)

“I have to think the National Hockey League is losing its patience,” opines Thomas, host of WFLA 970 AM’s “Tampa Bay Sports Line.” “It has been two months.”

“He looked really nervous,” reports Bobby from St. Pete. “I wondered if you have an update?”

“Naah,” says Thomas, waving his hand in disgust as if Bobby from St. Pete could see it. “Because the NHL doesn’t believe in the First Amendment and free speech, the league has a gag order in place.”

Bobby from St. Pete, satisfied, hangs up.

Thomas, 43, looks across the WFLA studio to his engineer in the next room, explaining to him on the air how the name Bob is a palindrome because it is spelled the same way backwards and forwards. Only Thomas can hear Jesse’s response in his headphones, but he tells the engineer, “Jesse, you are not a palindrome, you are a meathead.”

Four nights a week, Tuesday through Friday from 6:30-8 p.m., WFLA-TV Ch. 8 sportscaster Chris Thomas gives up his dinner break to spend 90 minutes talking to listeners on WFLA radio. It’s worth it, both to him and to listeners. There is no more commanding presence and personality in local sportscasting on either TV or radio. Thomas has all the elements, from a voice dripping with sarcasm and bombastic exuberance to an encyclopedic knowledge of sports and a devil-may-care attitude.

Moments before the radio show begins, he and his producer, Kevin, discuss upcoming guests.

“I thought we could get (former Colts quarterback) Earl Morrall,” says Kevin. “Did you ever talk to him in Baltimore?”

“Oh, sure,” says Thomas. “I know Earl.”

“Good talker?”

“Are you kidding? Guy’s in his 50s, still wears a crewcut!”

When the show starts, Thomas chats up his listeners a bit to warm up. “We’re going to have a special guest whose name escapes me,” he admits, cracking himself up.

During the first commercial break, Thomas confesses his only gripe with Tampa Bay sports fans: they’re too passive.

“They tend to sit back and listen,” he says. “We know they’re there. Sometimes I have to kick ’em in the butt. Sometimes I say, you’re killing me, you’re going to get me fired, my daughter’s not going to be able to go to a good college … Then they call.”

Even when they do call, Thomas says area sports fans don’t have the same fire in their belly found in Boston, New York, Chicago or Baltimore. “You listen to callers in big cities, they’re brutal! Rabid! They’re passive here,” he says. “There’s a latent audience of Bucs fans that want to go berserk, but what’s to go berserk over? It’s the worst team in the league.”

Back on the air.

“Is our guest on the phone yet?” Thomas asks Jesse. “He’s not? Play the music. I have to get my notes.” Turning off his microphone, Thomas thumbs through his bulging briefcase and asks the engineer: “What’s our guest’s name again?”

The man’s name is Cliff Charpentier and he’s just published his eighth book on fantasy football. Thomas knows the game well and makes conversation easily. Despite his bluster, he never hesitates, never takes more than a breath between one solid question and then another.

Charpentier does not light up the phone lines and Thomas grows bored. While the fantasy football expert drones on, Thomas turns off his microphone, coughs, and says, “Guy’s pretty exciting.” He then closes his eyes and his forehead bangs into the microphone, as if the sportscaster has fallen into a deep coma.

The feeling is not held back from his listeners, either. “Thank you for being on the Sports Line, Cliff,” says Thomas, disconnecting Charpentier. “Exciting guy, that Cliff,” he says, laughing. “Not quite in the Hoyt Wilhelm league … ”

Former knuckleballer Hoyt Wilhelm played Major League Baseball far later in life than most athletes. Thomas interviewed him one night for the show. “It was dreadful,” he recalls. “He kept doing this (clears his throat, with great difficulty) before answering questions. I thought he was going to die. First of all, why did you come on the show if you’re going to die? And if you’re going to die, don’t take me with you.”

Thomas never set out to be in broadcasting. His mind was set on journalism until he accidentally walked into the campus radio station at the University of South Carolina. “I heard this guy doing sports. He was horrible! I turned to this guy and said, ‘He’s horrible! He stinks! You ought to fire him!’ He said, ‘Who are you?'”

But Thomas won an audition and bulldozed his way on the air, working as both DJ and sportscaster. He worked in radio for years, in South Carolina and Baltimore, adding TV later on. This isn’t the first time he’s worked both media, either.

Back to the phones.

The blue computer screen to Thomas’s left indicates the name of each caller, their sex, topic of interest and how long they’ve been waiting. Cellular car phone callers usually get through quickest.

Mike from Clearwater: “I think you and Tedd Webb should get off Ray Perkins’ back.”

Thomas: “Hey, I haven’t mentioned his name in two days!”

Some callers are better than others, of course. They require the host’s full attention. That’s when Thomas puts down his latest Marlboro, his eyes narrow and focus on a point beyond the microphone, talking to it like the caller is actually in the room.

Thomas, like other talk show hosts at WFLA, has his regular callers. Kerry is distinguished by his horse laugh. Bill has a very distinctive voice. And Bill is a retiree from Detroit. Thomas prefers “open phones” to interviewing authors and minor celebs, which makes the job seem more like work.

Physically, Thomas is different than you’d expect from seeing him on TV. Instead of the de rigeour jacket and tie, he shows up at the radio studio in his golfing clothes, yellow shorts and multi-colored polo shirt. And where TV makes him look pudgy, he’s not. Thomas is tall, thin, tanned and taut. The camera, she lies.

Six calls later – and discussion of Arena football, Hugh Culverhouse, the Seattle Mariners behind him – it’s 7:55:01 p.m., time for the Fat Lady to sing.

“This is a marvelous country, ladies and gentlemen,” says Thomas as Kate Smith’s version of “God Bless America” comes up behind him. “It’s a land that I love … Stand beside her, and guide her … From the mountains, to the prairies … ”

A year ago, a listener sent him a tape of Kate Smith singing “God Bless America.” Thomas used it to close the show for a week or two as a gag. When he stopped, listeners demanded her return. Now WFLA promotes Chris Thomas and Kate Smith as “America’s Sweethearts.”

“Everybody needs a signature,” says Thomas with a shrug. “Not only that – it shortens the show by three minutes!”

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Jeff Arthur, jingle king, Maddux Business Report, by Bob Andelman

All hail the Jingle King, Jeff Arthur! MADDUX BUSINESS REPORT

 

By Bob Andelman
(Originally published in Maddux Report, 1989)

Jeff Arthur, jingle king, Maddux Business Report, by Bob Andelman
Jingle king Jeff Arthur

Some might say that jingle writing isn’t an art, it’s just advertising.Maybe. But there is a certain melodical, redundant appeal to a well-done jingle that is at once irrepressible and unrelenting, two qualities usually assigned to our finest pop arts.

Bay area jingle writers concentrate on regional and local businesses. Sometimes their stuff becomes ingrained, as Mary Lind Jorn’s words did in Tampa Electric Company (TECO)’s commercials for the heat pump. Jorn got the heat pump assignment a couple years ago from the Bozell/Ellis, Diaz advertising agency. Searching for inspiration, she heard the music from a Polar Beer spot the agency prepared but never used. Jorn re-wrote the lyrics and wound up with two seasonal versions:

HEAT PUMPS WARM YOU UP

WHEN THE COLD WINDS BLOW;

YOU CAN STAY WARM

WITHOUT SPENDING MUCH DOUGH.

And:

HEAT PUMPS COOL YOU DOWN

WHEN THE DAYS ARE SO HOT;

YOU CAN STAY COOL

WITHOUT SPENDING A LOT.

As anyone who listens to the radio knows, the jingle has gotten a lot of use with TECO. “The client liked it; it seemed to be effective,” according to Bill Diaz, who handles the TECO account for Bozell/Ellis, Diaz. “We’re entering the fourth campaign cycle using that jingle. It’s still got plenty of life in it.”

“With the heat pump,” says Jorn, “we had a simple message. We wrote a simple lyric that expressed that.”

Jeff Arthur, Tampa Bay’s “King of Jingles,” has written words and music for AMC Theaters, Anheuser-Busch, Eastern Airlines, Sun Bank, (“THUMBS UP, THE SUN IS SHINING, BRIGHTER EVERYDAY … SUN BANK, THE BRIGHT WAY TO BANK”) the ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, Wendy’s and many shopping malls in the Tampa Bay area. He has done crematories (“NECRON CREMATION DOES OUR PART, BY LEAVING LASTING MEMORIES IN YOUR HEART … WHEN CREMATION IS THE CHOICE YOU NEED, NECRON TRIBUTE ™ HANDLES IT TENDERLY .. IT’S BEST TO PLAN AHEAD YOU’LL SEE, MAKE THINGS EASY ON YOUR FAMILY”) and passed on escort services. But Mary’s Bonding Service, now there is a dilly of a ditty.

“Mary gets bail bonds for people who get in trouble,” explains Jeff Arthur, one-time national recording artist turned jingle writer. “She has a really good reputation as a grandmotherly person when you get in trouble.”

So this is what he came up with a few weeks ago for the Pinellas Park business, sung in the mellow, folksy style of James Taylor:

SOMETIMES THINGS DON’T GO AS PLANNED;

THAT’S WHY MARY’S THERE.

MARY’S GOT A WAY OF BONDING

THAT SHOWS HOW MUCH SHE CARES.

SO WHEN YOU NEED A LITTLE HELP,

CALL YOUR OLD FRIEND MARY.

MARY’S BONDING AGENCY, 571-H-E-L-P.

As the tape of Mary’s jingle plays, Arthur bounces around Studio B, laughing at the humor he hears in his own lyrics. He describes the ideal scenario of effectiveness for this commercial: “Can you imagine a cop, driving with a guy handcuffed in the back of his car, and the cop is singing, ‘Call your old friend Mary, 571-H-E-L-P.’?”

Arthur is laughing … all the way to the bank.

Don’t get the wrong idea: production of jingles is not a major industry on Florida’s west coast. It is, however, a clever, often hysterically funny medium requiring highly specialized talents. Not every copywriter in an ad agency can write a good jingle. That’s why most echo from Jeff Arthur Productions in Clearwater and a small but growing coterie of independent writers working at home or in studios no larger than a broom closet.

“I think Jeff Arthur does more straight jingle work than anyone else,” says Tom Morris, studio manager of Morrisound Studios in Tampa. “Jeff is kind of the jingle king around here.”

Jingles are 60-second musical dervishes that attempt to sell products and services with catchy lyrics, some rhyming, some funny. “It’s a little epic, only 60 seconds long,” says writer Howard Kleinfeld. “You have to make your point and get out.”

“People have a tendency to think of jingles as cute little things,” says Arthur. “Music is the soul of your advertising copy.”

JEFF ARTHUR audio excerpt: “Whenever I call a client and read lyrics, I say you have to understand, it’s not going to be the same without music. When you put your words to music, they becomes 400 times more memorable than the spoken word.”

Work done locally is typically assigned by out-of-town clients and advertising agencies. Jingle work that originates here is commonly farmed out to Atlanta, Miami, Orlando and New York, which accounts for the narrow marketplace.

“In advertising, there seems to be this mindset that, ‘We can’t do this in our hometown,’” says Morris. Morrisound is one of many Bay area studios doing technical jingle production; it is also home to two independent jingle writers, Kent Smith and Lex Macar.


When the Tampa-based advertising agency of Bozell/Ellis, Diaz needs a jingle, it sends the business out of town.

“I guess there’s not enough people doing it here,” says agency president Bill Diaz. “It’s a very competitive business. Maybe the reason we feel more comfortable going out of market is (the work) is not as mature here. There’s people doing good work, but it’s not that mature.” Diaz adds that with multi-million-dollar accounts, he can’t afford to take chances on untested talent. “I think Jeff Arthur does a pretty good job. (He is) probably the best here. He seems to have a style about him that is recognizable; therefore you have to see if his style will suit what you’re trying to get.”

Arthur, noting that only 20 percent of his company’s work is derived from local sources, believes Diaz and others simply don’t appreciate the creative and technical talent available to them in the Bay area.

“People here have not yet taken full advantage of local broadcast production quality,” he says. “There’s a great selection of quality (radio and television) stations but what they’re running on those stations is not given the thought it should be. They are buying radio and television and, because the costs are high for broadcast time, they are taking it away from their production quality. I say, run less time with a creative, professional piece, rather than more time with something of less quality.”

Jingles are meant to be sung. The words alone aren’t as emotional and jarring in print advertising unless the music has been working for a long time. With an established jingle — such as Chevrolet’s “Heartbeat of America” — when it’s tag line is printed, it should trigger the reader’s memory to the sound of the jingle.

Reading jingles here, in print, for example, cannot possibly convey the bubbly, infectious elements found in the best jingles. It’s not the message in jingles as much as it is the way the message is delivered: putting a sales pitch to music is a kinder, gentler way of reaching an audience.

“If music didn’t work,” says Arthur, “you wouldn’t have 97 percent of all major advertisers using it. I guarantee you, McDonalds and Coke know what the hell they’re doing.”

“The jingles you hear that are bad have everything thrown in,” says Jorn. “They’re print copy that people sing. You just can’t set everything to music and figure that’s going to do it. A jingle has to catch the essence of your message. You use phrases you wouldn’t use in print.”

What would “Oh, What a Feeling! Toyota” or “Welcome to Miller Time” be without music? asks Arthur. “Whenever I call a client and read lyrics, I say you have to understand, it’s not going to be the same without music. When you put your words to music, they becomes 400 times more memorable than the spoken word.”

And if anyone could speak authoritatively on that subject, it’s Jeff Arthur. At 37, his name is synonymous with jingles after seven years in Tampa Bay, 18 years in advertising and a few more in a recording group, Arthur, Hurley & Gottlieb. His lobby walls are covered with awards; there are two Clio Award statuettes in his private office. Between the Clearwater facility and a new office in Raleigh, N.C., he keeps very busy.

“I went to Raleigh last week and I got nine jingle (assignments). I’ve already got 25 running there,” he says.

Jeff Arthur Productions is the largest producer of music for shopping malls (“I’M FEELING TYRONE TERRIFIC, BUT TO BE MUCH MORE SPECIFIC, YOU’LL FEEL TERRIFIC, TYRONE SQUARE MALL”) in the country, owing to a longtime association with the DeBartolo Corp. “That’s a huge source of our income,” according to Arthur. His company also does a lot of business with furniture stores. Arthur’s company created the familiar music used nationwide by AMC Theaters (“THERE IS A DIFFERENCE YOU CAN SEE / THERE IS A DIFFERENCE WITH AMC”) and the theme songs for Super Bowl XVIII, “Be a Super Host” (“IF THEY LOVE US WHEN THEY LEAVE US, THEY’LL BE BACK”), and the Tampa Bay Bucanneers (“HEY, HEY, HEY, WE’RE THE BUCANNEERS”).

After several years spent establishing himself in Tampa Bay, Arthur says he’s just now starting to see a payoff.

“People don’t understand the incredible expense it takes to do all the commercials and keep a studio open seven days a week,” he says. “You spend 95 percent of your time selling the product and five percent creating it.”

Most recently, Arthur was commissioned by the Defrain Stemm advertising agency to write music for Larry’s Olde Fashioned Ice Cream Parlours.

“We wrote the copy,” says Vivek Rao, director of production for Defrain Stemm. “But he made enough changes that it almost became a Jeff Arthur original. It was just beautiful. I was so happy I’m going back to him with another commercial.”

Arthur often lifts a style from a familiar pop artist, according to former employees. “He used to put on the top of every spot ‘a la Wendy’s’ or ‘a la Coke,’” says one. Not that he denies it. A mall in Texas wanted its jingle to sound like Paula Abdul, a singer who is currently selling a lot of dance-oriented records. Arthur reproduced the rhythm track from one of her songs and gave it a new but similar melody to satisfy his client.

“Jingle writers aren’t ripping off pop performers,” he says, bristling. “Because everything that’s been done has been done before. It’s how well you do it. It’s having an attitude in your music that’s contemporary with the feeling you want to achieve.”

Mary Lind Jorn, 36, works as a freelancer out of her home in Hyde Park and maintains a loose partnership with Rayna Lancaster in Two Writers/No Waiting. The former SARASOTA HERALD-TRIBUNE reporter coined the phrase “the un-newspaper” for SUNRISE, the CLEARWATER SUN’s twice-weekly entertainment tabloid. It was a situation when a jingle was desired by the client but was not the best way to sell the product.

“The agency called me because they liked the heat pump (jingle),” says Jorn. “I re-lyriced ‘Surfin’ Safari.’ But I had a problem because I could not figure how we were going to sing ‘The Un-newspaper.’”

In the search for schtick, Jorn received a funny message on her telephone answering machine and the offbeat, topical answering machine relationship of Rollo the Nerd and Jasmine the Yuppie was born. “A lot of people say, ‘I want a jingle.’ Sometimes it’s just not the right thing for them,” says Jorn. “You really can’t sell a very complicated product with a jingle. Jingles are reserved for products where people already know what they are.”

One of Jorn’s favorite gimmicks is to rewrite the lyrics of once-popular songs to make a connection with a product. That’s why she initially tried to fit SUNRISE to “Surfin’ Safari.” “I’ll go through old music books looking for a lyric, something that triggers memory banks,” she says. “I like ‘Surfin’ Safari’ because of the familiarity of the era. (It) takes you back to when you were 18, cruising down the road.”


Writers have to be cautious in balancing the best way to sell a product with demonstrating how clever they are or how wide-ranging their vocabulary is.

“You’re not writing literature; it’s business,” she says. “If you’re just doing puns and plays on words, you’re taking the easy way out. If you can find a cliche and it works for you, that’s the best way.”

Don Poole, an engineer at Ron Rose Studios in Tampa, moonlights as a jingle writer and composer. The 27-year-old relies heavily on the memory of a Macintosh computer to give him the power of a studio orchestra.

“Musicians hate guys like me, who uses computers,” says the author of jingles for WFLA Radio, Cellular One, Charter Hospital, the New York Daily News and 3M. “A lot ofjingle writers are using it. I can use a trumpet as a lead instrument; if a client doesn’t like it, I can change with the push of a button.”

The best-known of Poole’s work is probably what he wrote for WTSP TV-10:

WATCH THE NEWS EVERY DAY

BECAUSE WE’RE IN TOUCH WITH TAMPA BAY.

WHEN YOU THINK OF NEWS,

THINK OF 10.

“It’s sort of repetitious,” concedes Poole, “but that punchline — ‘Think of 10′ — that hits home.”

If Jeff Arthur rules the Bay area’s jingle fiefdom, Howard Kleinfeld and Kent Smith are his rock ‘n’ roll princes. Both are graduates of the Arthur jingle mill, grateful for the experience but anxious to make their own marks.

Kleinfeld, 31, grudgingly relinquished a career as a rocker to pursue a lucrative, rising reputation as a different kind of jingle writer.

“I try to make my jingles sound like songs,” says the director of On The Air Productions in St. Petersburg. “Jeff played a tape for me about how a jingle evolves. It was really well done. But that’s not the way I work. I sit down and play like a real rock ‘n’ roll guy. I play loud — REAL loud.”

A jingle by Howard Kleinfeld sounds completely different than a Jeff Arthur jingle.

For a frenetic, high-energy track created for Orlando-based Ron Jon Surf Shops (“WE’RE NOT ONE OF MANY / WE’RE ONE OF A KIND”), Kleinfeld took his inspiration from new wave British rocker Thomas Dolby. “I wanted to match the flavor of their billboards (which feature cartoon images illustrated with bright, neon colors) with the sound.” The music is so convincing, the writer plans to use a longer version in a song. “It doesn’t sound like a jingle,” he says. “When we present something like this, they’re blown away.”

The first jingle Kleinfeld wrote was for Thoroughbred Music in Tampa. Many of his clients come from the Orlando area, including a nightclub called Hollywood Nights (“THESE ARE THE NIGHTS TO REMEMBER”); Central Florida Magazine; Luigi B.G. Pizza Factory; Shoppes at Olympia Place; and St. Luke’s Cataract and Intraocular Lens Institute in Tarpon Springs.

For Luigi B.G., Kleinfeld created the kind of schticky, Italian tune he might have written under Arthur’s aegis:

COME IN TO EAT

A PIZZA TREAT …

HERE’S WHAT WE GOT

FOR NOT A LOT.

“That’s a REAL jingle,” says Kleinfeld. “I like doing that. It’s a real challenge because I’m not familiar with Italian folk music.”

Kleinfeld has found himself in the position of having to redirect clients, as he did with the Sea Market, a seafood restaurant. “They said, ‘Make it sound like a Red Lobster commercial.’ I said, ‘Why? You want people to think of Red Lobster when they hear your ad?’ It takes time to build a good rep. And you’ve got to be aggressive.”

Kleinfeld is learning to be more aggressive in selling his own product; he’ll mount his first direct mail campaign this summer.

Kent Smith, proprietor of SoundSmith Productions in Tampa, began composing music at the age of seven. He has spent time in bands, but never saw where his talents would take him until Jeff Arthur was a guest speaker in one of his classes at USF in 1980.

“He said, ‘Not everybody can write jingles,’” recalls Smith. “I said, ‘I can.’ I started working for him a week later.”

After two years in Arthur’s employ, Smith moved to North Carolina for a time. He advertised nationally and attracted a loyal stable of clients who have stuck with him over the years. He does or has done work for: Flama Cola (a Puerto Rican version of Pepsi, only spicier); Carolina Circle Mall in N.C.; Four Seasons Realty in St. Paul, Mn.; Fresh Market in North Carolina; and Belk Lindsey.

One of his most amusing aural jingles, for Sheraton Hotels’ Charlie Goodnight Restaurants, won an Addy Award:

ROUND UP YOUR HEARTIEST APPETITE

AT (Sound of a whip cracking) CHARLIE GOODNIGHT.

BEST OF THE WEST

COOKED DAY AND NIGHT

CHUCK WAGON FOOD IS DYNAMITE (SOUND OF AN EXPLOSION).

Smith, 31, says his greatest thrill came this spring when a promotional ditty he wrote for WTVT TV-13 aired during a commercial break in the Grammy Awards. “I thought — ‘My music made it to the Grammys!’”

Despite recognition and plaudits for their work, neither Smith nor Kleinfeld are gaining new business or recognition as fast as they would like for their jingle work.

“To be a successful jingle writer you have to have a sales force,” says Smith, who works alone and relies on word-of-mouth and referrals. “That’s something Jeff has done well. That, and getting his name out.”

Perhaps the most striking contrast between Arthur and his graduates is their studios. Arthur has a large, traditional recording facility with a baby grand piano, soundproof glass, two production studios and a full staff. Smith runs SoundSmith Productions from a room the size of a closet with keyboards and recording equipment stacked from floor to ceiling; Kleinfeld operates On The Air Productions in a spare room of his home. Smith and Kleinfeld are one-man-bands, writing, producing and even performing their own work. (Kleinfeld does have a partner in Orlando, Tim Coons, who acts as salesman and helps polish the finish product.) Another difference: personal computers. Smith has stored thousand of digitized instrument sounds, from synthesized strings to saxophones, on a Macintosh Plus.

“The Mac is librarian for everything I do,” he says. “When I first started out people said, ‘Those are strings?’”

Smith’s computer didn’t come easy. It wasn’t just a case of saving up to buy it or taking out a loan. He earned it through his work. It seems that sometimes, jingle writing requires more than just a fertile imagination; occasionally it calls for a mathematical sense of meter. At least that’s what it took Smith to write his Addy award-winning theme for “Carolina Biological Supply Computer Store”:

IF COMPUTERS ARE YOUR GAME

AND YOU’RE LOOKING FOR THE NAME

OF THE BEST DEAL AROUND FOR SURE,

TRY CAROLINA BIOLOGICAL SUPPLY COMPUTER STORE.

“They wouldn’t let me shorten the name or anything,” says Smith, still amazed he accomplished the job. “That’s how I got my computer. They figured anybody that could sell a name that long deserved it.”

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