Creative public relations can, and often does, draw upon many resources and I can recall at least two instances when a bear and an elephant became stars while publicizing an event.
At a Miami Beach sports and travel show in the late 1960s, in addition to fly-casting demonstrations, golf venues and personal appearances by former Cleveland Indians pitcher Bob Feller, a dancing bear named Rosie attracted considerable attention with her terpsichorean antics.
A Miami Herald city editor accepted my suggestion of an “interview” with Rosie, and I arranged to drive her and her trainer to the city room. At the last minute he had a conflict, but said, “Hey you can drive her to the paper yourself.”
Not surprisingly, whenever we stopped for a traffic light, other motorists gaped at the unusual sight and sounded their horns.
He finally convinced me Rosie wouldn’t mistake me for lunch, so I set off for the Herald building with a muzzled Rosie in the passenger seat. Not surprisingly, whenever we stopped for a traffic light, other motorists gaped at the unusual sight and sounded their horns. The only thing that would have surprised them more was if the bear had been driving and the human the passenger.
At our destination I managed to lead Rosie into an elevator to the second-floor city room where immediately pandemonium broke out.
The Herald’s chief photographer suggested seating Rosie at the desk of the business editor, who had a somewhat bearlike resemblance, and he photographed her amid much merriment among the staffers, which noise in the newsroom caught the attention of the publisher, John S. Knight.
Viewing the scene, he exclaimed, “What’s this all about, Stuart? I thought all of your clients were hotels!”
“Mr. Knight,” I replied, “this bear just bought an ocean front hotel!”
But the stunt produced the desired results, with a photo and caption appearing in the “Herald” that generated interest and attendance for the sports and travel show.
And the elephant? Well, we’ll relate than saga another time.