This post is a reminder that it’s entirely possible that sometimes, even your Legal Dept. at the corporate level is fallible.
I’ve always had my radar up for things that my station or clients could jump on and in the Spring of 1991, my radar pinged a target. I was at the late GREAT Kiss 102 in Charlotte. That station was a monster. Jo Jo Wright was doing Nights and Mark Shands and Erik Bradley had one of the tightest, most amazing Rhythm formats in Radio.
I was on my way to an event and a few people were up at the front desk giving one of the AE’s wads of cash. A drug deal! Cool! Count me in!
No, sadly, he was on his way to Pittsburgh for a family event, there was a state lottery in Pennsylvania and he was making a ticket run for staff and our friends and neighbors.
When everyone else has something and you don’t, it makes you want it even more. Like a state lottery.
Hmmm….whatever could we do with that?
Now, I’d been with the station which was owned by Beasley for a couple of years and despite all of the pretty crazy stuff that we’d done, I’d never once felt compelled to get something vetted through the companies vaunted and somewhat-feared Legal Department. But this felt like maybe something I should do.
I reached out and explained my goal: I wanted to create the Carolina’s First Lottery. Using friends and colleagues at stations consulted by Jerry Clifton around the country, I was going to buy $500 in one dollar scratchers and give them away in six packs using standard designated caller contesting. Easy Peasy.
And they got back to me in a couple of days, they’d looked at the statutes and we were good. I then got $500 in petty cash and some self addressed stamped envelopes and mailed money to PD’s and Promotion Directors in 15 states, asking them to stop on the way home, buy 30 or 40 tickets, stick them in the envelope and mail it back.
Two weeks later my safe was filled with tickets and my assistant Dena and I were bundling them in groups of six and on-air we were teasing that “Only Kiss 102 is big enough to BRING THE LOTTERY TO THE CAROLINAS!”
I also knew that sending out a press release would suck, so I sent letters to every TV anchor in the market. On the envelope I’d taped a photo of a smiling Ed MacMahon and written “You might already be a winner!”
This was perhaps my downfall.
So at 7 am on a Monday, Dennis Reese and Helen Little rolled out the first play. “Caller 10 is going to be playing Colorado, Delaware, Texas, Maryland, Iowa and Michigan. 1.3 million up for grabs with caller #10.”
The phones went All Chernobyl.
The 8 o’clock play may have blown out phone service to Gaston County.
The 9 am hour? Well, that’s when I got called to the lobby by Dena who said, “The Vice Squad is here…”
I wandered up, mentally inventorying what I might have purchased in the last 30 days and met by an officer who badged himself and his colleague and informed me that it was against the law to possess lottery tickets in the State of North Carolina.
Impossible. I’d cleared it with Legal. I asked them to hang out while I went back to my office and called Beasley HQ in Naples.
Me: We have a problem.
Bill The Lawyer: What would that be?
Me: The cops are here and they say it’s against the law to possess lottery tickets in the state.
Bill The Lawyer: That’s ridiculous. (long sigh). Hold on….
Muzak for five minutes, possibly “Norwegian Wood.”
Bill The Lawyer: GET IT OFF THE AIR! GET IT OFF THE AIR!
Thus endeth the Carolina’s First Lottery. But for some unknown reason, they let us actually KEEP the tickets. Dena, myself and the GM each grabbed handfuls and went home to scratch the night away. I believe that from my 150+ tickets I won a total of $60 that came to me over a few weeks in checks for $2 or $7 from various states.
But, and here’s the best part: the owner of Beasley Broadcasting, George himself, made his annual market visit that morning in conjunction with the ACC basketball tourney. He was met by a parking lot full of TV trucks and satellite dishes. “That’s the best $500 I ever spent” he said.