By JOHN KANELIS / email@example.com
I don’t know of many careers that haven’t suffered an embarrassment or two along the way; my career had its share of, um, regrettable moments.
One of them occurred not too many years after I arrived in Southeast Texas to work on the editorial page of the Beaumont Enterprise. The Hearst Corporation purchased the newspaper in late 1984, then brought in a new guy to run the place: George B. Irish arrived as publisher.
He quickly ingratiated himself with the power sources within the community. Then some of them — I think it was in 1985 — concocted a hare-brained public relations campaign that, shall we say, ended up face-planting at every turn.
The newspaper, because of the publisher’s standing with these folks, found itself caught up in the midst of a PR campaign to rename the Golden Triangle region. These chamber of commerce types wanted to call it the Triplex. Yep, the region that had been known for more than a century by one name would be called something else, or so these individuals sought.
They came up with a TV ad campaign that featured a faux Gen. George S. Patton Jr. — the flamboyant World War II commander — to “order” us to use the Triplex name. Actually, the fake “Patton” was more like a bad impersonation of the actor George C. Scott’s portrayal of Patton in the movie of the same name.
The newspaper’s editorial page signed on to that fiasco. We lent our editorial support to this idiotic notion. Why call it idiotic? Well, let’s just say the push back from the community was ferocious. It was fierce. It was, um, angry!
The movers and shakers had come up with this goofy notion that the region suffering at the time from the collapse of the oil and petrochemical industry no longer was as “golden” as its name suggested. It was tarnished by the economic downfall. So, let’s just change the name of the place, they said.
The term Golden Triangle was meant to identify the cities of Beaumont, Port Arthur and Orange. The broader region ID’d by the name included Jefferson, Orange and Hardin counties. Some folks came to calling the region the “Tripot.” Why? Because the map of the three counties drawn together reminded many folks of — get ready for it — a commode.
The seriously angry reaction came from those who believed the idea was being pushed by outsiders who had no understanding of the region or its residents’ affection for the Golden Triangle identity. You know, they had a point.
Indeed, Irish himself admitted to me privately once that he wasn’t too keen on the campaign as it developed. “That’s what happens,” he said to me a low voice, “when you have an idea developed by committee.”
This fiasco unfolded 30-some years ago. It died a fairly quick and quiet death. The idiocy never took root. Over a brief span of time, the chamber of commerce — and we at the Beaumont Enterprise — surrendered to the reality that a bad idea got the reception and met the fate that it richly deserved.
But … I still was having the time of my life.