Smugglers' Inn started as a theme restaurant in Blaine, Minnesota and has become, if not a legitimate advertising agency, then a viable agency alternative with two dedicated ad employees, Carol Henderson, art director and Jarl Olsen, copywriter. Read the whole saga in these posts or click the pirate to follow the entertaining tweets of our dishwasher, Pongo. Who may or may not be an orangutan.!/PongoTryHard

Friday, August 5, 2011

"The lemon wedge took your eye...then what?"

With hot weather, the vendors of ice cream and hot dogs do brisk trade. Not so, we dispensers of clam chowder. Thus, with our core business in the doldrums, Smugglers’ Inn was pleased to learn that our advertising sideline was about to receive yet another citation for bravery. Seems our campaign for Tours Abroad China had been selected to appear in the upcoming issue of Luerzer’s Archive, a glossy showcase of outstanding advertising and design from around the world. It’s Smug’s fourth appearance in the publication.
Since our light clam chowder had not been the traffic builder we’d hoped for, we wished to make the most of the Archive score. Our first thought was to patent “Four-peat”, but it turns out that someone already owns it. (Too bad, it would have looked stunning on a lobster bib.) We then contacted our two favorite interviewers, NPR’s Terri Gross and James Lipton of “Inside the Actors’ Studio”, to invite them to come to Blaine, Minnesota and ask us how we pulled off this feat while serving Mai Tai’s and Surf ‘n Turf to folks who turn their baseball caps backwards when they dine.
They declined. Or their assistants did. Or maybe it was computers. The important thing is, WE GOT A RESPONSE. Within a matter of days, two rejection letters had arrived for us, printed on letterhead on heavy stock. These letters, plus an 8x10 of James Lipton with hand on chin, seemingly caught in the act, as it were, of forming his next penetrating question, are holy relics that we can leave our heirs. We are grateful for them.
But we gotta eat.
If Lipton and Gross were out, who was next on the interlocutor A-list? Larry King? Retired. Oprah? Dream on. Piers Morgan? Who? David Frost? Dead…or was he?
“Daveed Frost? No dead--viva. Alive!”
Miguel, the night chef, had wandered into the office just in time to overhear us say, “David Frost”. Known around Smugs as a man of few words in English, Miguel was now jabbering like a monkey, claiming that David Frost was not only alive, but in his locker. Had an employee like our dishwasher, Old Jorge, made these statements, we may have laughed it off, but Miguel was known as a down-to-earth family man who did not use crystal meth. Seeing our confusion, Miguel ran out and returned a minute later, waving a publication printed on orange newsprint. No, it was not the Financial Times.
“El Mirador” was a Spanish language tabloid dedicated almost entirely to Latin soap stars, pets in clothes, appearances of the Holy Virgin and wrestling. Miguel opened it up and pointed to a picture of David Frost looking out through a window cut into a steely cylinder. I say, “looking out”, but Mr. Frosts eyes were shut and his face wore an expression of Buddha-like calm, this despite the icicles clinging to his eyebrows.
“Frio!” Miguel said by way of an explanation. He then rubbed his arms and made a “B-r-r-r-r!” sound to get the point across.
Like Walt Disney and Ted Williams before him, it seemed David Frost had taken the precaution of having himself cryogenically frozen in the event that medical science someday advances to the point where it can re-animate stiffs and cure whatever conditions caused their deaths in the first place. This isn’t news in itself; while officially alive, rumors that Sir David (or his head) was on ice had been circulating since 2009. What was newsworthy was that he was talking.
“He’s frozen, but he talks?”
Miguel explained, as best he could, that Frost is speaking through a medium—a woman who, while working as a housekeeper at the Sherry Netherland hotel, once cleaned Mr. Frost’s room. The article had a small picture of her.
“Nice crown.”
“Si! Queen Lllyana. Ella es muy famousa psychic amiga. From Jamaiica, mon.”
Miguel drew out “Ja-mai-ca” like someone from that island nation might, provided they were a little Spanish. Our silent cook was really coming out of his shell. It was unnerving.
“Well, it’s simple then,” I said. “We just contact her. She places her hands on the freezer door, makes a few spooky noises and “bingo!” we’re speaking with the man who made Nixon cry. Sounds pretty straightforward. Too bad we don’t have Queen Latifa’s phone number. Otherwise, I’d say it was a plan.”
“Queen Illyana!” Miguel corrected. He then flipped to the back of El Mirador where the same picture of the crowned medium appeared again, this time taking up a quarter of the orange page.
It was an ad for her psychic hotline. Not only was it the largest in El Mirador, it was the only one entirely in English; seems Queen Illyana no habla Espanol. The ad listed all her specialties. While I was personally intrigued by “Find lost money!” the Queen’s claims that she could “Speak to the dear deported! [sic]” probably meant that she could speak to the departed and this was what would need to happen if Smugglers’ Inn was ever to become Frost’s 7,003rd interview.
We called. Just because Miguel was watching.
“Welcome to Queen Illyana’s psychic hotline…” boomed an impossibly Caribbean voice.
“Queen Illyana, we have kind of a weird request…”
“…The Queen is busy helping others at the moment,” the recording continued. “Please stay on de line and your call will be answered.”
We waited. We waited and wondered if we were being billed $4.95 a minute for the privilege. After perhaps two minutes, a somewhat less-booming voice came on the line and we were talking to the world-renowned psychic, who did not appreciate being on speaker.
“You callin’ me from a hole in de ground somewhere? The Queen don’t get people outta wells. There’s 911 for dat.”
When Queen Illyana said it, it was funny. Miguel beamed; his psychic had won us over in a couple of sentences.
“We need to speak with David Frost,” I said. “Would you be able to contact him for us?”
“For what you got to talk to dat man for?”
I thought that, for a psychic, Queen Illyana asked a lot of questions. I explained to her that we wanted Mr. Frost to interview us. While she hadn’t heard of Archive magazine, she claimed to be vaguely familiar with Smugglers’ Inn. It’s the clam chowder. It is, as I’ve been telling you all along, world famous.
“Dis ting gonna take some time. It’s eight in the mornin’ dere. Stay by de phone; don’t be runnin’ to de bath-room.”
With that, Queen Illyana put us on hold. My immediate thought was that it was curious that there should be time in the spirit world. Then I realized The Queen must have been referring to the cryogenic storage facility where Mr. Frost’s corporeal body resides. I pictured someone tapping on the glass of his liquid nitrogen-cooled coffin and asking Sir if he was taking calls.
It seemed like we were on hold forever. Miguel eventually remembered the form he had entered the office to retrieve and left to finish doing inventory on the meat locker. I amused myself Googling David Frost on my iPhone. Everytime I’d hit an entry, I’d lose my lone bar. “AT&T; stay disconnected.”
After what seemed like an age, the speakerphone crackled to life and we were back with Queen Illyana.
“Well, it took a bit ‘o doin’, but The Queen has her ways. You dere? Someone let you outta dat well?”
“We’re here! You found David Frost? He’s there with you?”
“David Frost give me a message to give to you.”
This was not what we wanted to hear.
“Whoa, whoa! We were expecting to be interviewed by David Frost. Through, you, of course.”
“Mr. Frost producer say he gotta decline on account-a he got previous commitments and that he be busy workin’ on another autobiography. He wishes The Smuggler Inns every success in findin’ another ven-ue. I also got dis e-mail address, so you can request a picture of David Frost with former New York City Mayor Ed Koch. Sound like someone ordered two thousand 'a dem in 1979, and dey tryin’ to use ‘em up.”
“A free picture? Do you mean to tell us that David Frost is alive after all and that you were just stringing us along for almost forty minutes and we’re getting a free picture?
“No! I’m not sayin’ dat.”
“Well, OK then…”
“You gotta pay de shippin’ ‘n handlin’.”
The important to remember is, WE GOT A RESPONSE. And another campaign in Archive.

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