(Left to right) Paul Delsi & Lucille Luongo
Bala Golf Club
Wednesday May 15, 2002
Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia's Chairman of the Board Pat Delsi (left) and Lucille Luongo (right). Lucille is the President & CEO of the Broadcast Pioneers Library of American Broadcasting at the University of Maryland. She was our speaker at the Wednesday, May 15, 2002 meeting held at the Bala Golf Club in Philadelphia.
Here's a copy of her prepared remarks:
Good afternoon everyone. I come here via your president, the exuberant, effervescent, energetic, Ed Papazian.
I've known Ed for a quarter of a century. I met him during the first weeks of my second career. When I asked Ed what I should talk about, he said, "Your career." I've had three, but sometimes, they all seem the same; perpetual
Being a product of the '60s, I was an anti-establishment, don't trust anyone over 30,I can change the world, flower child. My first career was in education. I had some great experiences, but clearly, I was the student for I learned more than I taught.
Alas, although I really enjoyed teaching, it was impossible to live the life I aspired to on a teacher's salary. In less than a decade, I had become the dreaded establishment and I was heavy pushing thirty. The women here know what I mean.
Mirror, mirror on the wall,
I am my mother, after all'
So, armed with a book titled "What Color Is My Parachute?" in one hand and the Yellow Pages in the other, I embarked on finding my next career.
And, good luck for me. One interview became one job and in the late 70s. I ended up at a fabulous company, then called The Katz Agency, which became Katz Communications, which became The Katz Corporation, which became The Katz Media Group, the name by which it's known by today.
That's where I met Ed. He was one of the colorful characters in a cast of many intelligent, savvy, risk taking, expert sales and marketing, client servicing executives; all male.
Three television divisions and a radio division
Then 4 TV divisions, 6 radio divisions an international division and a cable company.
Still all male.
I was hired as an executive secretary. Today they're called executive assistants or administrative assistant. So here I was, 30 years old with a Masters degree taking dictation and typing memos. The problem was that I didn't know how to take dictation or be a secretary.
I developed my own form of speedwriting but I couldn't always read it back. Luckily, I had a pretty good memory and I could just about reconstruct the essence of the communication. After all, I had taught English for nearly 10 years!
It was amazing that I never got caught. My boss would read all the letters before he'd sign them and he'd beam with self-satisfaction, "they always sound better once they're typed. Don't they, Lu?"
In any event, I was fortunate to young enough to be cute and old enough to know better. I walked a thin line and again, I learned more than I taught.
The company was growing at break neck pace: 22 offices, several thousand employees, hundreds of TV clients, several thousand in radio, diversifying businesses. It was really exciting. And I grew with the company.
Our department (mine and his) was responsible for advertising and public relations. I was promoted to assistant director, director, then I replaced my boss, became the first woman VP who wasn't in personnel, facilities or some ancillary service. I was top dog in my area. I took on marketing, client relations, and industry relations (here's where I got some great event and executive production skills) employee relations created an Intern program for college credit.
I was the keeper of the K, the company's image. Whenever something was about to happen or sometimes even in the planning stages, I was there. What a spot and what great training.
We were exploring so many new business opportunities and I was there. We went into program production. We produced a first run morning show called "Break Away" with Kathy Lee Gifford when she was Kathy Lee Johnson.
We produced a game show called "That's Amore!" (Never heard of either of these shows did you? Well that's an indication of how well received they were.)
We got into sports productions and syndication. We produced the Big East, The PAC Ten, The Big Eight, The Kick-off Classic, The Liberty Bowl, The Olympiad.
I met and worked with Bud Greenspan! I wrote copy for Bobby Knight. Held press conferences with Tommy Johns, Larry Holmes, Macho Camacho. It was unbelievable and unpredictable.
Our TV clients felt that syndication was a conflict of interest for us and we closed that unit 3 years later. I was lucky to be around during some of the gravy years. Lavish parties, great corporate presence. And I learned, not only about the business, but also about men vs. women.
I learned that there was a different standard for men than for women. Women had no mentors; no one to who them the ropes teach them the rules of the game and that kept us out of the game. I learned that women made men uncomfortable because they just couldn't be themselves with us in the room. And you know what? It wasn't anybody's fault.
I learned that there were some men who were willing to help. And others who never would. And I learned from the ones who would that: You had to blow your own horn and how or no one would ever be sure what you did.
You had to deliver bad news swiftly, with solutions, if possible, but never excuses. I learned the importance of consensus, the hard way. The term "Having all your ducks in a row" took on new depth. I learned that difficult decisions were arrived at with great difficulty and when I questioned these decisions, disagreed with them or railed at their ramifications.
I learned that the decision makers didn't want to re-agonize with me. And I learned that people weren't always interested in my opinions! My job was to make the news as palatable as possible.
And I was fortunate because the president and the chairman genuinely liked me and because I was a woman, and didn't know any better, they indulged me.
But the two most important things that I learned were: Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Some of the things that
happened to me happened because they happened, not because I was a woman. And the second was: Sometimes it can't be fixed and it's just time to move on.
By 1997, after nearly twenty years, every member of the senior management team I'd been a part of was gone. Retired or otherwise. I couldn't seem to get in step with the new team. It wasn't fun any more. It was time. And so...career #3.
I would be my own boss. I would control my own destiny. I opened a company called Bridge Media, a corporate communications, special event Production Corporation.
I did work for Smart Route Systems, Clear Channel Television, Petry Media Corporation even went back to Katz for several months to consult on the opening of two new television companies and I executive produced: The New York Emmy Awards, The Television Academy's Silver Circle Awards, the Golden Mike Award, the Radio Mercury Awards, The Touch Down Club's Sonny Awards and three huge TV/Internet Conferences; When Networks Collide, The TV Programming Marketplace and Reality Bytes. Again, I learned.
Then, about a year ago, I got a call from a member of the search committee for the Broadcast Pioneers Library of American Broadcasting asking me if I'd be interested in talking to them about a CEO position. I was told to write a letter expressing, my interest.
Throughout my broadcast career I had been involved with a number of nonprofits, most notably AWRT (5 years as the NYC Chapter President, National President in'95 &'96).
I couldn't resist this great opportunity to take the LAB to its next level and here I am. I've come full circle, back to education. And again, I find myself in the enviable position of student.
Upon perusing our various collections, I discovered that they were full of hidden treasures. Not only did they carry the history of our industry, but a great deal of hidden history, political history, social history, women's history.
The most mundane elements of a news broadcast or commercial spot are often those that are most important to historians because they provide a living social context.
For example, in the late 40s and early 50s, Pall Mall cigarettes did a series of radio spots, which parodied familiar poems and revised them into sales pitches.
Lewis Carroll's "The Walrus and the Carpenter"
Henry Wordsworth Longfellow's "The Village Blacksmith"
Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven"
They were clever and witty and the voice-overs were done by erudite readers with English accents and the punch line always: Outstanding...and they are mild. The hidden history? Imagine a time when there was such a thing as a familiar poem? Well there was little TV and some radio, but for entertainment, most people read!
People were actually familiar with the classics; all people. And the social context? Smoking made one appear more sophisticated.
On the radio, cuts for UltraBrite, musical theatre-style ala Gershwin, Rogers & Hammerstein and Lerner & Lowe...
"When my husband left for work he never kissed me
But now he can't resist me
Ever since I started using UltraBrite"
"In Math class I could figure to the fraction
But with boys I didn't add up right
Until I summed things up and
Switched to UltaBrite"
Little operettas selling white teeth as the cure for all your love problems. And the social context, WOMAN, GET YOUR MAN!
I've brought along a few ads from Radioland and Radio Television Mirror, which I've blown up.
First, from the folks at Doublemint Gum, promoting facial beauty and exercise through gum chewing! Today, gum chewing promotes tooth decay and builds a wing on your dentist's home in the Hamptons.
And here's Kate Smith, the food counselor. I'm sure all of you remember Kate Smith. She cut quite a figure for a woman. Diet gurus today push health food and appear to be quite a bit thinner and more athletic. But, the prune spice cake she's pushing sure sounds yummy. And this ad which boldly asks "SKINNY'? New discovery adds pounds - quick.
Today, the little lady on the right, who looks quite emaciated, has the coveted figure. This was obviously the pre-Twiggy era. But again, the admiration of strong stock; social context.
And this one for Midol! "There's no room for those dreaded days," Quite a bold step for an advertiser. But since the men are away at war and the women had to keep the homefront in smooth working order, one couldn't give in to "...functional menstrual pain."
In this Chesterfield ad, we see a new kind of woman, in her uniform, on her motorcycle with a war bonds poster behind her. "In wartime, more than ever, a satisfying smoke is comfort more than ever." Be patriotic. Smoke Chesterfields. Social context? No men. New woman. New market.
My favorite photo is from Vox Pop, a show that captured the voices and stories of American soldiers during WWII. It also documented the contributions women made to the war effort.
This photo was taken on November 23,1943, the first anniversary of the SPARS, the women's reserve unit of the US Coast Guard. Parks Johnson and his co-host, Warren Hull are shown interviewing Mary Lou Goff. It was because of her work on the homefront that Phillip Hintz, a service man, was able to go overseas.
For this good work she was awarded a ring and a pair of theatre tickets! When Johnny came marching home, however, she was unceremoniously sent back to the kitchen.
And there's so much more in the library. Not just on women and war, but the shift in our society from agricultural to industrial and industrial to service providers.
It's truly a wondrous place and the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia has, collectively or individually, an open invitation to visit us at the University of Maryland in College Park for a special tour and look at our collections. It is, after all, your library, the Broadcast Pioneers library.
The mission of the Library of American Broadcasting is three-fold: acquisition, preservation and access. We're always looking for meaningful acquisitions and finding the means to preserve and safe keep this documentary evidence of the most powerful, wide ranging, influential, cultural force of the 20th and most likely the 21st centuries.
Thank you for having me.
Lucille Leongo passed away at the age of 58 in January of 2006. She died from cancer.
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