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Monday, October 7, 2002


B. C. Stangl


Red Trans Am, Part 1

It was supposed to be the greatest radio promotion to ever hit the Bay Area. We would ride redman Sammy Hagar’s momentum to a screeching, breathtaking, highly visible campaign to give away a car. But not just any car.

It was 1978 and KMEL Radio’s new success somewhat mirrored Sammy’s He had been divorced from Ronnie Montrose and his band for a few years and was on the cusp of national acclaim. In fact, his latest album, “Red,” was then blessed with monster airplay throughout the USA.

“Red, red, I want red. There’s no substitute for red.” The LP’s title track was high on almost every rock station’s playlist, and now programmers were digging deeper in the grooves to find the next big hit.

So, “Trans Am” was rolled out. Hagar truly loved that Pontiac model, so by extension, he was anti-Camaro, its bumper-to-bumper competitor for the wallets of young hot-rodders. Sammy harbored a special dislike for the Camaro Z-28.

In a burst of creativity that I as a deejay had absolutely no hand in, the high muckety-mucks at 106 FM had conjured up a high octane campaign.

Troncatty Pontiac in Corte Madera had ponied up a spanking new Trans Am – red, of course – in return for about a million announcements and ads trumpeting the dealership. The idea was to wheel the car around to almost every local mall and other high visibility locations. There would be guest deejays phoning in live, on-air reports, beacoup give-aways, live music, free food, posters of the famous logo featuring the Kamel jumping through the Golden Gate Bridge wherever you looked.

Outside, the ubiquitous inflatable Kamel would jibe in the wind like some bobble-head doll.

“IEATZ28.” Our Trans Am boasted one killer, custom license plate. The car was shuttled hither and yon in an admirable gameplan worthy of a scrambling Jeff Garcia. True to the mucks’ hopes, TV and print coverage rolled our way bigtime.

The hook was a big one. Register at the remote broadcast locations or listen to the station to win one of 106 actual keys we would give away. One hundred six keys played off our frequency, 106.1 FM. (Who says high level radio muckety-mucks aren’t creative beasts?)

Only one key would turn over the Trans Am’s engine, so we planned a daylong event to determine which lucky listener would drive away with the Hagarmobile.

That’s when the wheels came off.

(More next week)