Sometimes a publicity stunt is so well-executed that it’s impossible for the media to resist its charm. Witness, for example, the “Taco Liberty Bell” incident of 1996, when the fast-food chain took out adverts in national newspapers (on April 1st) announcing that it was purchasing the Liberty Bell from the government and renaming it.Even Mike McCurry, the White House press secretary, got in on the fun, telling reporters that the Lincoln Memorial was being sold to the Ford Motor Company and renamed the “Lincoln-Mercury Memorial”.
That was all very merry, but the publicity stunt that has captured the imagination of Americans this week is even more good-hearted. On Wednesday, American Airlines took Azriel “Al” Blackman, a mechanic who has been with the airline for 70 years (he’s 86), on a scenic flight around New York City in a restored DC-3. (They took some reporters along, too.) The New York Times covered the story; so did the Wall Street Journal and the Associated Press and, according to Google News, more than 200 other outlets. It’s too good a story to pass up. Here’s an excerpt from the Times’ version:
Getting the plane to New York was seen by American Airlines as a fitting gift to its longest-serving employee. Mr Blackmans co-workers had their own tribute. Last weekend, while Mr Blackman enjoyed his days off, Alfredo Oyague Jr., a mechanic who also works as an artist, was high up on a lift with a partner, Elizer Pagan, painting a mural on the wall of the hangar. Unveiled on Tuesday, Mr Blackmans image beams from the centre, surrounded by a representative history of air travel from the B-14 flying boat to the soon-to-be-in-service Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
The planes that pass under Mr Blackmans hands may change, but the mural will remain.
“It will be here forever,” [Pete] Trapani[, a co-worker,] said. “This bay is dedicated to Al.”
That’s great stuff. Mr Blackman, by the way, has no plans to retire.
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