When Life Hands You Harry Baals, Make Lemonade!

The Libertarian Lass, Gayle Falkenthal The Libertarian Lass, Gayle Falkenthal 7 Comments


By now there isn’t a political wag worth quoting who hasn’t weighed in on the dilemma facing the city of Fort Wayne, Indiana. The City asked its citizens what its new government center should be named. When former Mayor Harry Baals (yes, it’s pronounced exactly like you think) emerged as the front runner, the online poll inevitably went viral. This news report from Fort Wayne television station WANE captures the Harry Baals phenomenon.

Despite Mayor Baals’ overwhelming victory, city officials said it wasn’t ever going to happen. Now they’ve appeared to reconsider and are willing to at least think about it. We’ll get their final decision later this month.

Considering how strapped most municipalities are for funding, the good leaders of Fort Wayne need to put aside any fear of embarrassment, embrace Harry Baals and see it as a golden opportunity. This is a merchandising juggernaut waiting to be exploited. Two local Fort Wayne entrepreneurs aren’t waiting. Graphic artist Aaron Steele and his business partner Eric Rupp have already started rolling out Baals merchandise. They’ve got a website, www.gotbaals.com, and they plan to sell their wares through a local chain of stores. They’ve only scratched the surface as to the possible merchandising tie-ins. I hope they end up rolling in dough.

Think of the revenue the City of Fort Wayne is letting slip through its civic fingers! If the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office can sell brand name merchandise through its gift shop, “Skeletons in the Closet,” it would be a shame for the City of Fort Wayne to lose out on a way to put some money in its treasury that could prevent cutbacks in services.

I admit to having my share of punster fun with this. But there’s a serious point to the post. This situation confirms exactly why we need more business leaders and entrepreneurs in public office. They’d know exactly how to embrace the nation’s fascination with Harry Baals and turn the opportunity into an effort that would benefit the entire community. Profits could be invested in essential civic services. Screw any possible embarrassment. Where there’s a buck to be made and invested for the greater good, real businesspeople have the Harry Baals to do it. Instead, two  Fort Wayne citizen entrepreneurs have grabbed this opportunity by the… well, you know.

Should San Diego’s civic leaders be faced with a similar situation, I hope they’d have the big brass ones to make Harry himself proud.

I will confirm that I composed this accompanied by a fine glass of something, which may or may not have been lemonade.


Comments 7

  1. A few summers ago here in San Diego, a wacky
    morning radio team noticed there were 2 candidates
    for elective offices named Richard Rider and Richard

    They asked their audience on-air if they were mostly
    “Wild Men” or “Dick Riders”. Prizes were then offered
    to the listeners who could bring the most Rider or
    Wildman signs to the studios by the end of the show.

    It was jolly good fun for everyone…..except the two
    candidates who had paid plenty money to buy and
    post those signs (and had to replace them).

    Yes, I know this is a pretty improbable story, but
    perhaps one of our prominent Rostrafarians can
    confirm its veracity. As the Libertarian Lass knows,
    however, Jim Sills does not make ’em up.

  2. Post

    In this spirit of this post, perhaps we can convince Vince Vasquez to back off his effort to rename the Coronado Bridge for Ronald Reagan, and instead put forward the name “Dick Rider Bridge.” Think of the revenue generation from souvenir signs, t-shirts, & buttons. Bonus: Anyone planning to commit suicide by jumping off might think twice. Imagine the individual standing there and then catching a glimpse of the signs. You’d start laughing and decide life wasn’t so bad after all!

  3. The “Dick Rider” sign story and attendant publicity was indeed what made for my successful political career, rocketing me to prominence. Jim got it partly right in his anecdote, as far as it goes, but there’s more. Quite a bit more.

    First off, with my 1992 “Dick Rider for Supervisor” signs I became something of a UC cult figure. My larger-than-life “Dick Rider” signs (a name that’s always more fun if you reverse the names, as my clueless teachers routinely did reading the class role each year in middle school) were found on the UC Riverside, Santa Barbara, UCLA, Davis and, of course the UCSD campuses. Apparently these classice were treasured dorm room accoutrements — sometimes hung outside the windows.

    Sadly, I misread the growing demand for my signage as somewhat prurient in nature, so I unwisely changed my common name in time for my glorious 1994 race for CA governor — to save on sign costs. My rising political star plunged as a result.

    The story on the 1992 radio show incident was a bit more interesting than Jim portrays. Here’s my perhaps flawed recollection:

    The radio station offered a free CD for anyone bringing in one of my signs and the sign of ____ Cox (not Wildman), who was then running for something of note. It might have been Greg Cox, running for some South Bay office (Greg ran for his lifetime County Supervisor position in 1994). Or it might have been some other candidate haplessly named Cox. At any rate, it’s the last name I am confident of.

    When we got word of the station’s antics, my wife Diane took charge. She called the station to talk to the DJ (this was NOT a talk show station). She identified herself as my wife, and the normally glib, smooth-talking DJ was at a loss for words.

    Smart gal that she is, Diane didn’t berate the station, but rather started right in on why I was running for office, what I had done for the county (the recent sales tax case repeal that saved county residents $3.5 billion) and why people should vote for me. She was on for two minutes, and the value of the impromptu commercial was many times the cost of the signs vandalized.

    There’s more. Our Rider campaign juggernaut decided to go the “make lemonade” route with an innovative idea. We wanted to team up with the Cox campaign, and get a bunch of friends and allies turn in our combined paired signs for the prizes. Here’s the best part — since the station had no use for used campaign signs, we’d offer to recycle the signs for the station — and get them off the hook for encouraging people to tear down our signs in the first place. The free publicity would have been substantial.

    We called the Cox campaign to pull this of. The campaign manager was, I believe, Jeanette Roach — wife of County Sheriff Jim Roach.

    Sadly, all she could fulminate about was suing the station (which, of course, never happened). She had no interest in making lemonade. Another lost opportunity (though our campaign at least got our Rider signs back).

    BTW, I was thinking of changing to (or at least using) Jeanette’s last name. Not many restaurants want to announce over the intercom the next table opening as “Roach, party of four.” I suspect front of the line privileges would be the rule in such circumstances.

  4. In the 1992 primary election, Greg Cox was indeed running for office, the 77th Assembly District, which had just been reapportioned to include portions of Chula Vista (East of I-805). His opponent was Steve Baldwin, who beat Cox in the primary, then lost to Democrat Tom Connolly (who?) in the general, or in actuality lost to a slew of Willie Brown money and an Air Force witch (another story). Both Baldwin and Cox were later vindicated, Baldwin knocking off Assemblyman Connolly two years later and Cox becoming County Supervisor. But, as I remember it the radio stations signs were those of Cox and Rider, the latter always having been “Dick” to me, regardless of the name change.

  5. Mr. Rider:

    Thanks for the added information and for your sense
    of humor on the whole subject. Rick Wildman, who
    was also running in 1992, told me the story about
    Dick Riders vs. Wildmen….. so there may have been
    enough comic potential there for more than just one
    radio station and wacky morning DJ !

    Your wife’s intervention was/is stellar, and as good an
    example of thinking fast on one’s feet, as we are ever
    likely to hear. Hats off to Diane !

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