Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Flashback: Tourneau

I drove for lunch yesterday when I was taken aback - in a good way - by a commercial I heard on our all-news talk station, WTOP.

The commercial itself wasn't anything flashy, nothing that would make you drop groceries to hear what was being said.

But it was one distinct word that caught my attention: Tourneau.

In the days of my youth, I got my television news from the 10 p.m. broadcast from WNYW, which is now the Fox affiliate in New York. Our cable system was such that channel 6 on our dial would broadcast WNYW programming until 11 p.m., when it changed to WPVI-6, the ABC affiliate in Philadelphia. We didn't miss any network programming, since my hometown was located in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre market.

Those were the rollicking days of New York, with former mayor Ed Koch, Bernhard Goetz ("Go Mets! Go Jets! Go Goetz!" the punchline in Mad read), Tawana Brawley, the cocaine and crack epidemic, racial tensions in Bensonhurst and, later, late mob boss John Gotti. Every night, there was a spate of headlines that made NYC feel a thousand miles away from our 5,000-person rural town.

WNYW always began its newscasts with this: "It's 10 p.m. Do you know where your children are?" I can see some of the anchors and reporters as if it were yesterday. Perhaps you recognize the guy who appears in this clip at :17 and 1:30; he's on a network now, if just a little crustier. (If you couldn't guess, here you go.) Longtime anchor John Roland always came across as a pro, never overly dramatic, never needlessly hyping second-tier news. Every year, he would urge us to be careful with fireworks on Independence Day; and I'll never forget the night when a pre-recorded tease opened the news and Roland effortlessly brushed it off to get to the night's breaking news: the crash of TWA Flight 800.

I remember Nick Gregory from the weather (he's still there, too). Bill Mazer answered sports trivia questions every night from viewers; Carl White took over in 1991, but he was no Mazer. There were two guys who did commentary - Wiki IDs them as Dr. Martin Abend and Prof. Sidney Offit - who never agreed on anything. But I guess it was their job to get ratings.

Anyway, I remember much about the old Channel 5 newscasts. And I remember the commercials, too: Nobody Beats the Wiz. And discount electronic chain competitor Crazy Eddie (say it with me, his prices are IN-SAAAANNNNNEEEE). And who could forget Phil Rizzuto (RIP, Scooter) for The Money Store. (I also came across a Carvel ad, but I think that was more or a WWOR property.)

And then there was Tourneau. Back then, it was Tourneau Corner.

For all of the crazy news and wacky ads, nothing seemed so distant as Tourneau Corner.

What, I'd think, there's a store just for watches? And some of them cost a thousand dollars?!

There may well have been multiple locations, but I never saw an ad for Tourneau on any of the Philly stations. Now, they've got shops in most every major city in the country; the ad I heard the other day was for the shop at Pentagon City in Arlington.

In mere moments, I flashed back to my childhood and the wonders of living near a major city. I snapped back to that reality.

All because of a 30-second radio spot.

1 comment:

Stormy said...

I HATED those commercials. "Tourneau. Where you meet... "AHHHHH".... your other face." It made no sense to me. I get it, watches have faces, blah blah. It's still a stupid commercial.

"The Tourneau Time Machine. On the corner of 57th & Manhattan." (I don't know if that's how it goes exactly, but that's how I remember it.)