Friday, May 6, 2022

...and THAT's How You Do A Wedding!

From the moment we walked into the chapel for the ceremony until we said our thank-you’s and good-byes late that night, every aspect of the wedding exuded class. The experience was unforgettable.

Our son-in-law’s sister got married last weekend, and my wife and I were fortunate enough to have been invited. Bride and Groom Lisa and Greg have come to be our friends over the past couple of years. We are blessed that our son-in-law’s big Italian family has included my wife and me in so many get-togethers. They have truly made us feel home in our new surroundings in coastal Connecticut.

The ceremony was held at the O’Byrne Chapel at Manhattanville College, just across the New York state line from us. The bride’s mother and father were married in this beautiful chapel not quite 49 years ago. My wife and I were among the first to enter the chapel, early enough to hear the musicians running through some of the music they’d be performing during the ceremony.

My first career was in music performance. For that reason, I observe a lot of things that other people may not pay attention to. One of the first things I noticed was that the trumpeter was playing a Schilke S-22 horn. An instrument like that will set you back around 8 grand, and it’s for serious players only. As the ensemble was rehearsing “Jesu, Joy”, I turned to my wife and said, “the trumpeter’s low B-flat is a bit sharp.”

She smiles and nods, having put up with this kind of stuff from me for decades. Then, I noticed that as soon as they finished rehearsing that piece, the trumpeter – Ken Tedeschi, a fabulous player and, as I later learned, principal trumpet with the New Haven Symphony – pulled his tuning slide out about a quarter-inch. “He caught it,” I said to my wife. “He’s a real pro,” I added.

Before long, it was time for the main event. Our daughter was one of the bridesmaids and our son-in-law and his brother were the groomsmen. Our darling grandchildren were also members of the wedding party: little Lola was the flower girl, and her brother Joey was the ring bearer. They performed flawlessly!

Here they are with the mother of the bride (aka grandma, or “mamma” to them) in this photo taken by their great-aunt Annemarie.

The ceremony was moving and inspirational; the music was fantastic; the bride and groom were glowing; it was a feast for the eyes and ears, classy, emotional, charming, delightful. Lisa and Gregory’s smiles lit up the chapel as they walked out, now husband and wife.

I must take another personal moment here. For the past couple years, neuropathy has increasingly robbed my sense of balance. I can’t stand without holding onto something. It can be terrifying. I walk easily with the aid of a rollator, but often the rollator impedes rather than assists my mobility. Going out of the chapel, there are three steps – but no railing for me to hang onto to make the descent. As I approached the exit, two of the bride’s cousins, Frank and Paul (Frankie and Paulie to family members) immediately approached me and asked if they could assist me down the stairs. These two “big, strapping young lads,” as my Irish grandpa would say, who were both ushers at the ceremony, came to my aid and helped me navigate the stairs. They are both wonderful young men, a credit to their parents and the extended family.

The reception was held a few miles away at the beautiful and historical Westchester Country Club. We began with cocktails and appetizers on the terrace, overlooking the championship golf course. It was a gorgeous day, sunny and warm, and soon the terrace was filled with the sounds of laughter and conversation. Everyone was having a wonderful time!

Meanwhile, the bridal party was finishing up the wedding photos. Here’s the beautiful bride and her father, with a vintage Rolls-Royce limousine, at the front portico of the Westchester Country Club. Talk about classy and elegant!

Soon it was time for dinner and dancing. We were led into the spacious ballroom, which looked like something out of a Hollywood movie. Fantastic floral arrangements adorning every table; tasteful decorative touches everywhere; a sensory overload of beauty.

And the music? Out of this world! The 11-piece band played a variety of genres, tempos, textures, and styles. And they were really good. The father of the bride, knowing that I’d have a keen ear for the music, came up to me and asked what I thought of the band. “Fabulous!” was one of the superlatives I used, along with others like “exceptional’ and “remarkable.” “How about those horns,” he said, enthusiastically. “You gotta have horns,” he added, smiling broadly. I told him he’d hit it out of the park with the ensemble at the chapel and the band at the reception.

And, of course, this was no chicken-and-mashed potatoes kind of meal. The first course, served hot and efficiently by the uniformed staff, was lobster with parsnip puree and fresh salad. The second course was filet mignon and shrimp fricassee. The presentation was five-star, and everything was delicious!

We were having a wonderful time. There was much merriment and frolicking, particularly by the folks on the dance floor. Granddaughter Lola danced song after song, a bundle of energy and enthusiasm! The bride and groom stopped by, on their tour of the assemblage. I told Lisa how beautiful and poised she was and thanked her for inviting us. Gregory, the groom, leaned down to my ear-level and said, “I swear I’m going to get your ass out on that dance floor” – an inside joke between the two of us.

What a fantastic day, memorable from start to finish. And even as our daughter walked us out of the ballroom to the valet parking stand, we passed by a huge display of fantastic cookies, each individually wrapped and labelled “From Our Favorite New York City Bakery, Lisa and Gregory.” Had to be Levain Bakery on the upper east side of Manhattan, purveyors of outstanding baked goods. We each took one. (Well, OK, at our daughter’s insistence, I took hers, too.)

Congratulations to the bride and groom, and to their parents for the wonderful, unforgettable event they staged. We had a ball!


Friday, March 11, 2022

Panning For Gold

Social media has become, in many ways, a sewer of hatred, jealousy, bullying, misinformation, and disinformation. Everyone who used to be an “expert” on contagious diseases and vaccines is now an “expert” on international relations and military strategy.

But social media doesn’t have to be such a cesspool if you can train yourself to ignore the negativity and baiting and political crap. Case on point: the photo above. That’s me, and my neighbor Kay, feeding and petting the tame deer that everybody called “Lucy.” Lucy lived in the woods at the end of our back yards. Kay’s dad took the photo. I think it was 1953, which would make me (and Kay) 4 years old.

I’ve often said I grew up in a Tom Sawyer-like environment, in a small Wisconsin village, with pine forests, a lake, streams, sledding hills, sandlot baseball diamonds, and lots of wonderful playmates like Kay. In our neighborhood, it was pretty much a group of four kids who hung out together when I was a preschooler. Kay was the only girl. Rick and Robbie were the two other guys, neighbors on the other side of Kay’s house.

When we started elementary school, Kay and I went to different schools. As a Catholic, I went to what the non-Catholics called “sister school,” because our teachers were nuns. But Kay and I still played together after school and all summer. Before long, my sister Lynn, four years my junior, joined the group. Kay and I took piano lessons from our neighbor a few houses down the street, Mrs. Kuhn. We even played a duet together at Mrs. Kuhn’s recital for her piano students.

Kay’s dad was a Renaissance man, skilled in a wide variety of disciplines, including music. Her dad had played sax with some of the most famous bands in the region, and when we were in high school, her dad put together a small neighborhood combo that rehearsed and performed in their big living room. At that point, my family had moved to a bigger house on the other end of town, but Kay and I were still friends.

Here’s our high school band, marching down Main Street in the 1965 Homecoming parade. I’m the guy with the big gold Sousaphone toward the center of the photo, and Kay is somewhere in the ranks, in the flute section.

By this time, although Kay and I were in high school band together, we travelled in different circles of friends.  We went to the same college for our undergrad work, but I can recall only one time that our paths crossed on campus. By the time I was in my third year of undergrad, I’d completely lost track of Kay. Our lives were headed in different directions. I hadn’t seen or communicated with her in five decades.

Enter Facebook.

While surfing through the posts one day, I stopped to read a new post in the “You’re Probably From…” Facebook page dedicated to the history of my small hometown. While reading the comments, I noticed one that made me wonder: was this my childhood friend and playmate, with whom I hadn’t had contact in 50 years?

Different surname, but a few clicks later I knew it was the married name of my long-lost friend. Soon we became Facebook friends and exchanged a series of emails, catching up on five decades. Kay was a retired teacher, widowed (at far too young an age), now living in the Pacific Northwest near her son.  We marveled about how two kids from a small village in Wisconsin wound up on opposite ends of the nation, to be close to family and grandkids in our golden years.

Social media is a powerful force, with the potential to create either division or unity. To me, social media is often like panning for gold. A lot of the stuff is meaningless or worse. But there are flashes of gold – like reconnecting with a childhood playmate.

Sunday, February 27, 2022



There was excitement in the air as neighbors greeted each other in the hallways or lobby of our apartment building. “Did you see the little dog?” “Someone has a dog!” “Have you seen the dog – it’s so cute!”

The second part of the conversation was usually something like, “I thought they didn’t allow dogs here.” More on that, in a moment.

When my wife Toni and I moved to coastal Connecticut two years ago to spend our golden years close to our daughter and two of our darling grandchildren, the apartment lease made it clear: dogs were strictly verboten. One cat, no dogs.

The timing of our post-retirement move was dependent on the lifespan of our two loyal and loving collies, who lived with us in Madison and patrolled our expansive back yard every day of their lives with us. We weren’t going to move until both dogs had “crossed the rainbow bridge,” as so many dog-lovers say. We figured that would be mid-2022.

Fate had other plans.

Our beloved Shadow passed away of a massive stroke in January of 2019, just before my wife retired. Shadow lived a full and happy 13 years and three months, which is just above average for a collie. Since Shadow and her “sister,” Sunny, had similar bloodlines, we figured Sunny would also live a bit more than 13 years – mid-2022, we estimated. Then, we’d sell the house and move to Connecticut, probably in the summer of 2023.

But, less than a month after Shadow passed, Sunny was diagnosed with an extremely aggressive form of cancer, and she passed in early February 2019. We were devastated. And suddenly, our timetable changed.

Here's one of my favorite photos of our wonderful collies, taken a few years ago. Sunny, on the left, is a purebred Blue Merle Collie, and Shadow, on the right, is a purebred Sable Collie - a Lassie look-alike.

So, here we are, in a very nice apartment, happily retired.  No lawn-mowing, no snow-shoveling, no landscaping maintenance. Plumbing on the fritz? Send a note to Michael, the building super, and it’s fixed the same day. Free to enjoy all our favorite pastimes, free of chores that became tedious as we got older.

But the lifestyle we chose would also be free of dogs – a major trade-off for us. 

Dog-less, until the late fall day that I looked out my office window and saw the most darling little dog, on a leash held by a young woman. The dog was carefully examining with her nose the shrubbery that adorns the north lawn of our building. After she’d completed her nasal inquiries, her “mom” led her – to my amazement – up the sidewalk and into the lobby!

Could the dog be a visitor? Certainly not a resident, given the proscription against canines in the lease. I mentioned the dog sighting to my wife, knowing she’d be curious, too. Over the next couple days, I saw the cute little dog several more times. My wife and I would immediately report sightings to each other, if we happened to be in a different room in our apartment when the dog was sighted.

There are about 60 residents in our building, and I’d estimate that more than half are retired. The younger people are professionals, working from home. They must have good jobs, because this place isn't exactly "affordable housing." So, the hallways and common areas tend to be quiet. It was just a couple days after I first spotted the little dog that when I encountered fellow residents, after the standard greetings, we’d mention the little dog.

I guess it’s a commentary on the status of being retired, that conversations with residents of a similar age tend to center on the weather and similar mundane things. The people who live here respect each other’s privacy, one of the many things we like about living here. So, something as novel as a cute little dog apparently living in our building rapidly supplants the weather as the prime conversation topic. A lot of our new neighbors are also former dog owners.

One morning, while down in the lobby to retrieve our mail, I encountered a woman who said she’d actually petted the little dog. This is headline news! I took the elevator back to our apartment and immediately reported this scoop to my wife. “She PETTED the dog?” my wife said, plaintively.

The mystery of the little dog would be solved the very next morning. Five or six mornings every week, my wife spends an hour in the apartment building’s gym, walking, exercising, working out. That particular morning, on her way down the hallway to the elevator, my wife encountered our friend, Jeri, who had befriended us immediately when we moved in.

Jeri is of a similar age, retired, but she puts in a half-day of work every weekday, keeping the common areas of the building vacuumed, polished, and sparkling clean. For this, she gets a big break on her monthly rent. Since Jeri’s routine takes her to every part of the building, she knows all the residents and just about everything that’s going on.

She explained to my wife that the little dog – Mila is her name – belongs to a young couple who just moved in. They both work from home. Mila is a therapy animal. Jeri explained that the young couple had to jump through a bunch of hoops with the New York City company that owns our building, filing paperwork from their doctor and therapist, attesting that Mila was more than just a pet.

Mila's "mom" explained that Mila is an Australian Shepherd. Mila looks just like the dog pictured at the top of this post.

My wife got to meet Mila a few days later, in the lobby of the building. Toni was returning home after running some errands, and she was coming into the building as Mila and her “mom” were heading out. Toni told me about meeting Mila, petting her, and talking with one of Mila’s owners.

My chance to meet Mila came a few days later. We’d just returned from grocery shopping and were dragging the groceries into the building when Mila and her “mom” came out of the building. Mila was very excited and happy to interact with us. She sniffed my hand, putting my scent into her memory banks, and then soaked in some serious pets from me. Her coat was, as advertised, soft and fluffy. She's a happy, peppy little dog.

A few days later, we discovered that Mila and her people live on the same floor, at the other end of our wing of the building. It may seem silly to people who have never had a dog as a pet, but we are happier now that we know there’s a dog living just down the hallway from us.

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Take A Listen: Breaking Overnight – Your Family Is Not Safe


Is there anything more contrived and stupid than the current trend of TV reporters and anchors introducing a blathering politician or some other video clip by preceding it with the asinine comment “take a listen?”

Centuries ago, when English was the preferred language of American news presenters (before NewsSpeak supplanted English), the presenter would introduce a video file directly, by saying something like “…and the mayor came out strongly against a wheel tax.” Then the video would play. Now, for reasons I don’t pretend to understand, it’s become “…and the mayor came out strongly against a wheel tax. Take a listen:”

Having been in the business of broadcasting for much of my pre-retirement life, I observed decades ago that stupid vocal frills like “take a listen” generally start on either coast and then move inland. If they’re saying it in LA or New York, it quickly works its way in to Omaha and Chicago. After all, if you want to be a member of the club, you’ve got to know and use the jargon.

Like sportscasters who now invariably say “welcome in to the broadcast” and constantly mistake prolific for proficient.

Another important element of NewsSpeak is the use of the word “giant” on second reference to some corporate entity in the news. For the uninitiated, an example: “Breaking overnight: Costco announces mass layoffs. The retail giant says…” or “Facebook is introducing a new ‘thumbs down’ icon. The social media giant says…”  It’s like there’s some arcane NewsSpeak grammar that forbids the use of the company’s name except in the opening line of a story.

Kinda like “budget” becomes “spending plan” and “snow” becomes “the white stuff” on second reference. And the use of unnecessary auxiliary words like “price point” for “price.” Not to mention the frequent use of “hone in on” rather than the correct “home in on.” (Even my auto-correct flagged the incorrect usage!)

I don’t need to expound on the bogus use of “breaking overnight” by morning news presenters, even though the “breaking” news broke 24 to 36 hours before.

Or the implication, sometimes couched in less inflammatory language, that your family is not safe unless you watch our newscast. “Fire kills three in east-side conflagration – firefighters say the origin of the fire was in an appliance which you may have in your home right now. The frightening details on the 6 o’clock news.”

Ever notice how even the most insignificant events – like a game show contestant on a long winning streak – become “historic?” History books won’t mention Ken Jennings’ long win streak on Jeopardy. Similarly, “amazing” is now regularly used to describe mundane events, and “hero” is anyone who does anything challenging or moderately difficult.

I know. I’m a dinosaur, a throwback to the days when English was the preferred language of news presenters, jargon was to be avoided, and auxiliary verbs were always used when appropriate.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Baseball Is Alive And Well

It was an epic matchup: the green-clad O’Reilly Electric little leaguers against the maroon-clad boys of Fairfield Rotary. The game would begin at the stroke of noon on a beautiful early-Spring Saturday at Highwood Park.

The young ballers, most of them 5 years old, had been practicing at home with their dads, and already had a 3-inning game under their belt. But this was serious stuff: word had it the boys of Fairfield Rotary were not to be taken lightly. Big hitters, those guys.

This is T-ball Little League, organized by the Rec Department of the City of Fairfield, Connecticut. Our grandson, Joey (Joey B to his teammates) plays in this league, and my wife and I have every one of Joey’s games on our schedule. We moved from Madison, Wisconsin to coastal Connecticut a year ago, at the height of the plague, to be closer to our daughter and her family. It was exactly this sort of thing – the prospect of watching two of our grandkids grow up – that led us to weigh anchor after more than 30 years in Madison and set sail for Long Island Sound.

We live in the Black Rock section of Bridgeport, Connecticut’s largest city. It’s a beautiful and very safe neighborhood, bordered by the vast expanse of Long Island Sound on the south, and the city of Fairfield on the north.

Make no mistake about it: Fairfield is a wealthy community. As my wife and I roll into a parking spot at Highwood Park in our late-model high-end Chevy SUV, there’s a Range Rover parked ahead of us. We’re surrounded by BMW’s, Audis, a few Benz sedans, big Volvo SUV’s, a Lexus or two, and the occasional Honda. Our big white Chevy would fit right in at Lambeau Field or Miller Park… er, American Family Field. Whatever.  I still call it County Stadium. But here, we’re outclassed up and down the parking lot.

However, everyone we meet is friendly, down-to-earth, and most cordial. Many of those we meet are grandparents, like us. We are all eager to engage in conversations about our darling children/grandchildren, and how they’ve taken to the Great American Pastime.

The young man with the bright blue glove and the perfect infield stance playing first base is our grandson, Joey. He’s got great form, we think. On the right side of the photo, the dad overseeing things is our son-in-law, John – Joey’s coach and mentor. John and Joey have been working on catching, throwing, batting, and running since February, when the snow disappeared.

Nearly all the dads are present, coaching their sons, being patient and encouraging. A couple of the dads are missing, but the grandparents’ grapevine informs us that those dads are “away on business.” The moms are just as supportive.

As the dads dispense advice and give tips on form and style, moms provide the loving nurture of assuring their kids that they’re doing a great job and dispense kid-friendly granola bars and hugs. Pictured above, our daughter Mallory assures Joey that his uniform looks awesome and that he’s really throwing the ball well.

Many, if not most of the moms, have solid sports credentials. You can overhear them talking about the team sports they played in high school and college. Sitting to our right is Brandon’s mom. The family lives in the same neighborhood as our daughter, but their son plays for Fairfield Rotary. Both he and Joey wear uniform number 8.

I comment that Joey’s dad is a Yankees fan, so Joey’s number 8 is the same number Yogi Berra wore. “My husband grew up in Maryland,” she says, “so Brandon’s 8 stands for Cal Ripken. You know, Ripken not only was a star with the Orioles, but he was also actually born in Maryland,” she adds.

These ladies know their baseball.

My Chicago-born wife and lifelong Cubs fan quietly assumes Joey B’s number 8 is for Andre Dawson.

The boy who’s a favorite with all the moms is a spirited lad nicknamed Chip. Chip’s family lives just a few houses from our daughter and son-in-law, and he and Joey are good buds. Chip is a bit small compared to the other 5-year-olds but possesses an indomitable spirit and plays with reckless enthusiasm. He has a huge head of light blonde hair that flows from under his baseball cap to his shoulders. When Chip runs, his hair flies wildly, and everyone cheers for him.

Not surprisingly, all the boys like to bat far more than they enjoy playing infield. Here’s Joey B swinging for the fences. He knocks the ball off the tee and follows through, something his dad has been coaching him. The first practice we went to, the concept of running to first base after you hit the ball off the tee was something that didn’t come naturally. The boys would whack the ball into the infield, then stand and admire their work – as the dads and moms yelled, “run to first! Run to first base!”

The boy at bat would then dutifully run toward first base, after the vocal cues from the parents and assembled fans. At the first practice, most of the boys carried their bat with them all the way down the first base line. By the second practice, the dads had managed to coach that out of them.

My love of baseball started early, and I have a tremendous coach to thank for that. When I first played organized baseball, the late Russ Tiedemann was our summer rec league coach in Hortonville, WI, where he was also the high school varsity baseball coach. He drilled us on fundamentals in every practice session and taught us the beauty of in-game strategy. His love of the game was contagious.

After several years at Hortonville, Coach Tiedemann was hired by UW-Oshkosh to be varsity baseball coach, where he established a true baseball dynasty, winning 15 conference championships and a national championship in 1985. Coach Tiedemann has sent more young men to careers in Major League Baseball – 28 – than any other baseball coach in Wisconsin history.

It was my great fortune to have been coached by an icon like Russ Tiedemann.

But, before Coach Tiedeman, my coach was my dad – just as Joey’s coach right now is his dad, just as all the young t-ballers on the field, as shown above, are being coached by their fathers. In the photo above, Joey is standing on first, looking right at me, saying, “Papa – I got a hit!” And, considering the formidable infield Joey faced at bat, that single was quite the accomplishment. There’s not much need for an outfield in t-ball for 5-year-olds, so everybody plays infield.

Perhaps Joey will grow up to be a singles machine, just like Papa (me). Thanks to Coach Tiedemann, I could always make good contact with a pitched ball. It was the running part that did me in. What would have been an extra-base hit in the many bar leagues I played in over the years was usually a single for me.

But there was that one night, years ago, when our radio station team was playing a team of county sheriff's deputies, that I blasted a ball over the fence and out of the ball park. I had to run/trot/walk all the bases on that sweet summer night. It was the game-winning hit, so the guys made me a little trophy engraved with the date and the legend "Game-winning homer - boy, am I good!" I still have the trophy.

So many great memories - from the sandlots of my youth in Hortonville, to the bar-league games of my adulthood, to the t-ball games of my grandson.

As long as there are dads who volunteer their time as coaches, and young men like Joey who love to get together and have fun playing t-ball, baseball will remain alive and well.

And there’ll always be grey-haired grandpas like me to cheer them on from the sidelines.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

How I Met G. Gordon Liddy


It was 1994, and the radio station I programmed was carrying Liddy’s immensely popular talk show. Liddy had started out in 1993 as a talk show host on a Washington, DC station, and within a year his fast-paced and controversial show was nationally syndicated.

I deeply disagreed with his politics, but the guy knew how to grab and hold a radio audience.

My soon-to-be wife Toni and I were attending the huge annual NAB/RTNDA convention in San Antonio. For those not familiar with the acronyms, NAB is National Association of Broadcasters, and RTNDA is Radio-TV News Directors Association, which is now known as RTDNA, Radio-TV Digital News Association. Toni represented her employer, WISC-TV, and I represented mine, the Midwest Family Broadcast Group.

We had both chosen to attend the break-out session G. Gordon Liddy was presenting, the topic of which was something like “How To Get And Hold A Talk Radio Audience.” It was held early in the afternoon of the second day of the convention, in one of the many break-out session meeting rooms at the San Antonio Convention Center.

Toni and I wanted to get to the session a little early, to be sure of getting a good seat to hear “The G-Man,” as he called himself. As it turned out, we were the first to arrive at the room, and there, ten feet away from us, seated alone at the table in the front of the room, was the man himself.

The first thing we both noticed was Liddy’s eyes. Toni called them “dead eyes.” He had a piercing gaze that immediately intimidated you. They were the eyes of a man who’s seen a lot – and probably a lot of things you wouldn’t want to know about.

He was quite affable. “Hi, welcome, c’mon in” he said to us, holding us with that deadly gaze. “You’re the first to arrive,” he added. He extended a hand and we both approached, shook hands, and he invited us to sit in the front now, not more than six feet from him. I told him my station carried his show and his face lit up. “Great! Thank you! Hope you’re happy with me!”

He’s the kind of man you want to say “yes, sir” to. So I did. I mean, this guy has seen and done everything. He was an undercover White House operative and one of the chief dirty tricksters of the Nixon era.

I don’t remember much of his presentation, only because the years have dulled my recollection.

But I’ll never forget those eyes.

Those dead eyes.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Features and Benefits


While watching the Badgers in an NCAA Basketball Tournament game Sunday, an ad came on for a Kia vehicle. The announcer excitedly said the Kia SUV featured “torque vectoring – and, a center-locking differential!!!”

I waited for the overenthusiastic announcer to explain what torque vectoring is, and what a center-locking differential does, so that the 95% of the viewers who are not gearheads like me would understand what he was talking about. Suffice it to say he never explained it. I wondered who approved using such arcane language in a commercial supposedly targeted to a mass audience.

The ad violated one of what used to be the cardinal rules of writing ad copy: if you’re going to cite a feature, be sure to explain the benefit. But given my failure to understand the purpose of so many ads I see on TV today, it’s possible the old rule was tossed out decades ago. Now it all has to do with "branding" or some such, which goes over the heads of dinosaurs like me.

My first introduction to the features/benefits concept was in the early ‘60’s, when I heard a recording of Dr. Murray Banks, a then-famous psychiatrist, describing how vacuum cleaners were being mis-marketed by Madison Avenue. Dr. Banks said the sales pitches involved facts like how much power the electric motor in the vacuum cleaner has, how it rolls on fancy new wheels, how engineers used new research to modify the design.

“Forget all that stuff,” Banks said (or words to that effect). “They should just say to the housewife this vacuum cleaner works so efficiently it will add five years to your life expectancy,” Dr. Banks said, which got a big laugh from the audience he was speaking to.

Remember, this was recorded in the early 60’s, hence the outdated “housewife” reference. But Dr. Banks had hit upon one of the core flaws in the advertising business: a feature without a benefit doesn’t mean much to the consumer.

As a fledgling broadcaster, my concept of features and benefits was sharpened at a sales seminar I attended. The presenter said, “when your sales presentation says your station has fifty thousand watts of power, what does that feature mean to the average businessperson?” He answered his own question by saying, “Nothing. Not a thing, unless you hook that feature to a benefit, and explain it by saying the station has fifty thousand watts of power, which means your advertising message will come through loud and clear over the entire marketing area.”

He went on to give several other examples of oft-advertised product features, meaningless without being hooked to a benefit.

A lot of businesses understand this basic advertising concept, but sometimes the failures, when as obvious as the Kia ad I saw, are mind-blowing. I’m sure Kia paid some ad agency a lot of money to tout torque vectoring and a center-locking differential.

What a waste.