Volume III, Issue 11, Page 11

Chicken Blowers

usually steer wide of any conversations having to do with religion, politics, or advertisers, especially advertisers. This is not much of a concern at MaxChevy, but in the paper realm, it is everything. There is no escape. There is no denial. You will bow down. I’ve seen a lot of fairly good people act less than human, with “yes I’d sell my mother” on their lips, and burn themselves out trying to appease one of the almighty. The credo is simple: whatever you do, don’t piss off the advertisers.

So that’s exactly what I did, more than once. We’re talking Hot Rod years now, at once a memorable occasion and the most frustrating period of my “professional” life. Realize that during my tenure, the company changed hands no less than three times, each succeeding owner wanting to chop more out of your budget than the one previous. Pretty soon, all the muscle, tendons, and flesh were scraped to the bone. We as the grunts, the editorial force were constantly being compromised by people who meant well but hadn’t clue of what the magazine was really about. Where we saw the dream of a lifetime, they saw a cash cow.

Therefore we’d wind up doing the same things more than once. Hey, we need a 20-page insert about the Power Tour. One of the guys would work it out. A day before the magazine shipped to the printer, the head chicken blower (AKA the publisher) would come in and say without a speck of remorse that he couldn’t sell the supporting advertising and that we’d have to cut the 20 pages down to four. This farce happened repeatedly. A word about chicken blowers (CB’s): they are people who pump up their chickens to make them look like a turkeys in the eyes of the advertiser, hence chicken blowers, or perhaps more succinctly, “ad slime.”

How about this one? For the 50th Anniversary issue in ’98, the CB’s got it into their head that all the “old time” advertisers would be graced with a page rates that were chopped in half. "Nice sentiment," I ventured. But what are you going to do with your chosen after that? How do you recoup after something as drastic as that? Maybe you sell the company again. While you’re at it, completely disregard the history of Hot Rod, diminish its resources, and license that famous name to any squid willing to pony up $5 for permission to use it. Realize, too, that the company went from mom-and-pop status to the corporate mentality. That meant we’d all have to adapt to their specious rules and bone-deep fears. After the initial shock, we more or less went back to the way we’d always done things, regardless of the new regime, although on the surface it appeared as if we had swallowed the Kool-Aid. What these officious dudes failed to notice was that there ain’t no better liars than schiz-brain writers.

I made the mistake of taking it personally, when it was really all business. I just sort of went crazy, tired of me and my guys and the Hot Rod name being kicked to the curb once too many times. What did I care if they fired me for the transgression? I certainly wasn’t looking to climb the corporate ladder, could have cared less. I showed them that they couldn’t touch me with their fear.

After three years of being treated like a mushroom, it dawned on me that there should be some sort of retribution on our side. I was pissed and I was toasted so when this opportunity arose, I couldn’t ignore it. When Mopar introduced the 5.9L R/T truck, they discovered they had a rat on their hands. Although that thing would storm out of the hole with a vengeance, it fell on its face in the upper rpm ranges. The performance guys at Chrysler developed a hop-up kit for this poor little wastrel that included everything from a camshaft to an exhaust system. The company PR guy kept insisting that I run the story. Finally, I agreed. When I asked about the engine controller that this conversion would surely require, I got “just go ahead with stuff we’ve sent. We’ll send the computer when it's ready.”

This made absolutely no sense to me. Did they want the project to fail before it even got started…and then argue with the chicken blowers about it? I refused, arguing this point, and said that when the black box was ready Hot Rod would be so inclined. One of the guys set up the swap with a Master Mechanic who commanded a Dodge dealership’s tech force. To make it copasetic, the guy used his personal R/T for the experiment, making one change at a time and recording the results. Did his baseline dyno runs, changed the pieces over, and ran it. As the agglomerate was rated at an 80-90hp increase, he was unpleasantly surprised when the “hopped-up” engine could muster no more than 15-20.

Undiscouraged, our man stripped all the pieces and began anew, adding them one at a time, making notes, and proofing his changes one by one. The verdict? The stuff didn’t work. In hindsight, I probably should have canned the story and saved Chrysler the grief. But didn’t they jump on me to run the story? But I covered myself with a story that immediately followed the Mopar parts blunder. It concerned an R/T that some enterprising soul had outfitted with a supercharger. It made power and ran like a champ. Time for some payback and payback’s a bitch.

At that time, our chicken blower publisher was supposed to read the blue-line copy from cover to cover, thereby uncovering what he thought might be potential embarrassment to the advertiser before the magazine went to print. He didn’t read it and the story went to press as it was. When the first run copies landed in the Detroit office, we heard the screams out on Wilshire Boulevard. You’d have thought we stripped off their skin with a blow torch. “What were you thinking?” “Why would you do such a thing?” “Are you crazy?”  Seemingly so.

The great minds at Mopar threatened to pull a $2 million account. No one from the chicken blower staff in Detroit or Mopar ever said a word directly to me about the outcome of this fatal mushy, tale. Hmm, I thought, that’s some serious jing. The head chicken blower and I had a sit-down. Happily, he told me that my future was in jeopardy. By this time, they knew I wasn’t one of their team players and never would be. I didn’t know how the conflict was resolved with Chrysler or even if it was, but knowing the mother-sellers, they probably got some free ad pages out of it.

Good work, my boy.  

 

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