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Oct. 28, 2021

Episode 082 - Interview w/ "The Billboard Boys" Producer Frank Petka

Episode 082 - Interview w/

During the 1980s recession, unemployment and mortgage rates were at a high. Billboard Boys, directed by Pat Taggart, is a documentary based on the radio contest turned international phenomenon in Allentown, PA. Three men were selected to live and outlast each other on a billboard in the hopes of winning a mobile home.

On this episode of OOH Insider, Frank Petka, Producer of Billboard Boys, shares the story of three men’s determination to earn a home by living on a billboard.


  • The creativity of the billboard these men stayed on promoted the radio station’s switch from country to big band music. Unfortunately, the creative and target audience did not bode well.
  • This story went viral before viral was a thing. It began as a regional contest and quickly gained national, and even international, traction. For four months straight the media covered this story on every major tv station, radio station, and newspaper.
  • If you have “lightning in a bottle” put a cap on it. The contest gained national media attention every day. This was a huge opportunity for brands to advertise in OOH, but no one could fast enough.
  • “Billboards are timeless; the ultimate medium.” ~Frank Petka


Special thanks to OneScreen.so for making this show possible. Check out OneScreen.ai and learn How to Beat Facebook with Billboards at www.onescreen.ai

Looking for your next job in OOH? Start here: www.oohired.com


Welcome back to another episode of out-of-home insider. It's crazy to say out loud, but this episode marks the two year anniversary of the podcast, and I'm so grateful for you taking the time to listen to this episode because it's a wild one. And thank you for all of your support. Over the last two years, it's been an amazing.

And long before Steve-O ever duct-taped himself to a billboard, three men lived on a billboard in Allentown, Pennsylvania for way longer than anyone ever expected. In 1981, the height of one of the hardest economic times in the last half century, three men chose to live on a billboard to win a mobile home nine months.

Two men remained along the way. One got arrested for selling weed and every brand in the world. Mr. Seemingly obvious opportunity to capitalize on this viral campaign long before going viral was a thing. This crazy story was made into a documentary that you can check. Billboard boys.com. And today we're talking with Frank PECA looser of this great piece of Americana and billboard history.

So if you're looking to do something crazy for your next campaign and want to use out of home advertising like billboards to do it, check out one screen.ai and schedule a demo. We'll talk through your crazy idea and how to make it happen. That's one screen that AI and schedule. Without further ado.

Let's go welcome everybody to the out-of-home insider show, a podcast like no other hosted by the one and only Tim Rowe.

You ready to have some knowledge dropped on you when to be entertained because nothing's more valuable than food for your brain. So sit back, relax. We're about to dive in as the best industry podcast is the bathroom. There's probably folks. So that have never heard this story before. So I'm really excited to share it.

Uh, you know, with, with the, the, the authors of the documentary billboard boys, billboard, boys.com. You got to check it out. Frank Pekka here with us today, uh, with, uh, with pat Taggart, you guys went and, uh, and took a bit of a story from the Lehigh valley of Pennsylvania and the billboard and turned it into a real piece of Americana.

Um, Talk to me about how the project came together. I'd love to get into the story of the contest itself, but for the audience at home. Frank, tell us a little bit about the story that we're going to hear today. Yeah, for sure. Thanks. It is certainly a slice of Americana. Um, it's just so fun and the timing is great to have the opportunity to be on your show.

So we greatly appreciate it. Because obviously with the way things have gone in the past few years of pandemic and things, um, you know, we kind of caught fire when we released three years ago and then we had kind of a law. We had some distribution issues, but now we have the film back and available for folks to check out.

But the story is just amazing. Um, we just kind of stumbled upon it, um, through relatives in the Lehigh valley. And we were able to get ahold of a 30 year look back in the local paper up there in the valley called the morning call. And when we looked at it, we're like, wow, we got to tell this story. Um, we kind of done some small things.

We we've done a few feature narratives and we've done some mini docs, but we want to do a feature. And this was just the perfect story, man. It had everything. I don't think we could have written it any better between the characters and the conflict, um, you know, and everything in between. It was just so fun to read.

So, um, in any event I can kind of, if you want to kind of go over what, you know, this set the scene, I guess, for, for the times back then, um, it was the early eighties. Um, so unemployment was at an all time, highly 14% mortgage rates were at like 18 and a half percent. So have you didn't have a home, you weren't going to be able to afford one.

Um, and what this small am radio station did as kind of like a publicity stunt to promote their station because they were competing against the FX and they were kind of a diet. Um, type of station being am and they decided they were going to have a, a radio station contests. Um, and they were going to put, um, three people against each other, up on a billboard to, um, you know, to compete against each other, to win the prize of an $18,000 mobile home.

So that was the Genesis of this contest and just, uh, wacky things kind of happened from there when they announced this. And now you have. I mean, I guess, look at the time, right? We're talking about pre-internet no cell phones, no social media, obviously. So to have a contest like this, I mean, it was really local.

I mean, you couldn't really advertise it outside of their bandwidth, so. Um, they did this and they received 600,000 over 600, a thousand entries. This small radio station, people had to show up and hand in little ballots that said, why they, why they need a home? I mean, that was what the Facebook contest.

This isn't a like comment share thing. This was good. Old fashion. Fill out a piece of paper, walk it on down. And maybe you'll be one of the lucky three that, I mean, we look at it now and we try it. Um, like how can we describe it in today's role? It's like reality show it's reality TV before reality. It's it's survivor before survivor.

Um, these guys, man, we're in this competition that really nobody heard of, um, in the beginning and they just wanted to go up there to have a, to have a chance to win a home. I mean, and they were competitors and it was just wild. How. Um, uniquely, they all were suited to kind of compete against each other and what the station had hoped to be maybe two weeks max, which is what promotions run.

Typically radio promotions are like two to three weeks and you're lucky if they're that long and you kind of get out of it with. Well you intended, but this went much, much longer. And just to paint a little bit more context, if, for folks that aren't familiar with Eastern Pennsylvania, this is a region that's kind of tucked between three DMS.

It falls into like, Philadelphia DMA and New York TMA Wilkes-Barre Scranton DMA TA talk a little bit. You're you're from the Eastern Pennsylvania area. Talk a little bit about what makes Eastern Pennsylvania so unique, especially during this time, um, you know, Bethlehem steel, so much legacy that has come out of the Lehigh valley.

For sure. It's a, it's certainly like, you know, it's a tough blue collar, um, environment and, um, and demographics. So, um, it was just, it was unique. The setting was unique at that time because of that. Um, and it just, uh, It's a, it's a breed of people that are just resilient. I mean, again, like I, I grew up in that area and it's just the tough working class folks.

And interestingly enough, um, when the contest first started, Billy Joel released Allentown, which speaks to that, and it speaks to that. Um, Allentown is a town in that area, in the Lehigh valley where this contest of place. So, um, You know, it just, it just kind of talks about like the iron workers, Bethlehem steel, Mack truck, you know, all these things were kind of in shutdown mode at the time.

It was just a really tough time for, um, you know, for that area in particular, in the United States. So you've got this blue collar town that was so much of the backbone of the industrial revolution here, here in America. That's, you know, in the early eighties is impacted by the socioeconomic conditions and factors going on in the world, wreck high unemployment at the time, and, uh, mortgage rates making it unaffordable.

So you can imagine sort of the. Maybe the depressed tonality to an area like this, that, that, that depends so much on that blue collar, your lunch pail, uh, type of, of, of environment. So you've got now an am radio station that says, Hey, uh, if you go live on this billboard and you're the last one standing, we'll give you a house.

And 600,000 people applied in three were chosen and they thought it would go on for two weeks. But it went on for a whole lot longer, I guess, to put it in perspective, it went on longer than an NFL season, including playoffs and super bowl. So, um, yeah man, and you put that so eloquently. That's what you do, you do.

And I do what I do. Um, you really, you really frame that. Well, um, yeah, man, it was just, it was just kind of, um, these guys want to, and you think about it, the home, it was an 18, it was pegged as an $18,000 mobile home. But in today's world, that's like five times, you know, that's like $60,000 and it's, you know, it's nothing to sneeze over.

If you're talking about like that type of home, they're kind of luxury now. And this one was like the Primo top of the line, where they had a sponsor that was willing to. Uh, we'll sponsor the contest with this high end. It was a high end home being that valuable at that time. Um, in 1982. So you had these three guys that were just kind of, um, you know, I can, I can kind of quickly set the stage for these guys.

You had one guy that was in his early thirties. He was an out of work truck driver. Um, he lived at home with his parents and he heard about the contest and he entered kind of quietly. Um, you had another guy that was. Um, he was a little, you had the other two guys were in their twenties and they were just kind of different personalities.

You had one guy who was kind of a mountain man, um, backpacker who was recently engaged. And you had another guy that was just out of the army. So you have these three, three personalities of guys, really. Um, and the only guy, you know, the one guy that was about to get married. Um, he's the only guy that had a job, the guy coming back from the army, he was going to look for work that know what he was going to do, but he's coming back to live where the unemployment rate is at an all time high.

You know, the other guy that was just laid off. So these three guys were, um, there's kind of a perfect storm and they were suited to kind of live up there for as long as it took. And that was their attitudes going into. So how did it, so I'm guessing early on the logistics, everything was pretty well coordinated.

We're planning for this, you know, it's gonna be a couple of weeks. Who's going to really live on a billboard on a billboard. Like who's going to live on a billboard for any extended period of time. So, so contest is underway. What are the first few weeks like? Does, does it get the burn that it's, that, that, that the station was thinking it would get, does it, does it get traction and really take.

So the bizarre thing is right before the contest started, the, um, the station silent was going to change formats. So it was a country format at the time and they were trying to promote it. Like this is a country boy type of thing. These people are rugged guys going up. Were women going up, living on a billboard and competing who can stay the longest last man down wins, you know, macho.

Well, they're switching formats to big band. So it doesn't bode well with that audience that they're looking for. Um, so what happened was they had already gone forward and, and, uh, promoted an advertiser. Like let's just get through this, whatever, it's no big deal. It'll give us the traction for the big bang.

So they decided to. The billboard, these guys were living one, um, was indicating that it was switching to that unforgettable format. That was kind of what they use to describe the big, the billboard, like the creative of the billboard structured they were living on was promoting the radio station. It went from the new format that it was changing to correct the country station that was changing to big band with three rugged country music fans living on it was changing to big band.

That's the creative, and we've got three guys living on this thing. Absolutely. Right. You can't make, you can't script this any better. You can't. So at the time when these guys go. There's they switched. So they switched formats. People are listening. There's this contest they're not talking about because they just want it to go away because it doesn't suit their audience.

So any advertising that they may have gotten, maybe from that, you know, I guess the country folks, the country listenership, they don't care. Cause then they turn it on and it's big band, so they just want to sing. They go away. Um, and they expected it to go away, but they didn't know how to end it because that wasn't written into the rules.

They were just like last guy, you know, last man down. Um, you can't clean yourself up there. You have to go to the bathroom up there. You have to get your food. When you say go to the bathroom up there. There's not like a porta John at the bottom of the billboard that I climbed down each time I've got a.

Do you think these guys were living? Literally all of the things are happening on the, I may, I may have placed over that because I'm so like in the middle, let's come back to that illusion. And like, again, like for your listeners and for yourself and put yourself in 1982, like, what do you think it was like to, to be put 20 feet up somewhere, um, and be able to, and to be told you're not coming down so whatever you do.

On, you know, from the ground in your home, wherever your conversations is, you can't do it. You're doing it up there. So you need to go to the bathroom. Number one or two, you're doing it up there. Um, they just gave the guys a small tent, like a four by four. They had a crunch into, uh, across this billboard that was.

I think it was 15 feet across so little or there's no space little in between them. They put like a piece of plywood in between the tent. So there were three tents on there. Um, so you had to use this little chemical toilet they gave you. And it did hold much. Like it's like an equivalent of like a five-year old home Depot bucket.

Right. So, and God knows what it smells like. I mean, it's a chemical toilet, there's chemicals in it, but it's not like the technology we have today where you can prevent that smell, you know? So they had to deal with that element of going to the bathroom up there. Um, they weren't given any food and they weren't giving anything like any like a shower wand.

I mean, there's no such plumbing going there, right. So it's just as little toilet wash yourself, like, uh, give yourself a sponge bath or whatever don't base, whatever you want to do. Um, you know, where do you put your clothes at? How do you get clues? How do you wash your clothes? Like it's disgusting. Right?

And the wall street journal, um, journalists and went up there, said it was disgusting and it's gross. Woodstock home Depot shelf. Yeah. But what stock it's like voluntarily though. You can walk away if you want to, if you're grossed out. You can't go to your fridge up there. Like what, what are you going to do?

Um, so you had the rules where you go up the ladder and that said they pull ladders away. You cannot come down under any circumstance. If you're sick. Whatever happens. Someone dies that, you know, in whatever circumstance you're up there, there's no nothing in the rules that says you can come down. So they're stuck up there.

That's it. And you had to have someone on the ground that was called, like your aid. You had to give a name of someone that was going to come to the board and help you with wherever you need it, because if you needed something, they also, they didn't have like staff. They didn't have. No, they gave him a toilet, a 10 and they gave him a phone line.

Right. There had to be hardwired because there's no cell phones to each of the guys. And the phone line was only there. So they could call the radio station and the radio station call them because they, you know, in case they had to, if someone got sick or whatever, they had to emergency, someone falls off.

Like you don't think about that safety stuff. That's in place now. You can forget about it with ocean place. You can never do this contest again. Helmet, harnesses, God knows what type of zoning, like none of that happened, like the police in the township, whatever, go up and do whatever you want. And like nobody even cared.

It was just some gimmick. It was going to end in a week or two. So nobody, you know, they didn't think this through. And certainly didn't think that, you know, these guys would be able to last because the conditions were just awful. So. Pat finds this story and this look back in the morning, call this regional newspaper.

Hey, 30 years ago, this crazy contest went on and you decided this was the perfect story. This was the perfect story. Where do you, where do you even. Researching a project like this to create a documentary. Uh, yeah. Well, if you have a two person team, you have a super talented guy that does all of the technical, uh, things that pat does from the filming, the shooting to scoring, to, to, um, you know, everything in between.

And then you have somebody like me that just has to go out and find everything and anything that existed and then set or, and then convince people to do. Um, for little or no money and then just set up all the shooting. Um, and then also research all the archival footage that exists and immediately that exists.

And back then again, no internet. So anything that we could find online were things that were scanned into archives of all these different media outlets, which I, um, you know, I sent you a list. There's like a hundred. Yeah. So it's, um, it's just wild man. So, you know, tracking down and hunting these people down, making contexts at all the radio station.

Um, that we're no longer in existence, pretty much all the television. Yeah. There, you know, there, you have it with a bunch of these newspapers. So we were able to identify, um, many of, of the, you know, to get contacts at these places, but many we weren't as well. So maybe only 20%, we were able to hit you see some international stuff there too with, you know, Japan, Germany, France, Australia.

Um, it was just wild man, but it was so fun, you know, like I thrive on that type of stuff. Um, pat doesn't Pat's like, Hey, get me what you can. And please tell me nobody else has done anything on this story. And I found out pretty quickly that no one had, and we were really excited man, to just dig in. And fortunately for us, the folks that we were.

Yeah, that'd be gotten in touch with, we're just sold of the earth people. They wanted to talk. Um, you know, some of the men, um, you know, they had some things kind of, I guess, stuck in their crawl that they wanted to get off their chest about how things went down from radio personnel to participants. There was a lot of unfinished business, a lot of frustration with the way things turned out and it got ugly.

It started out great, fun, silly, whatever it's this gimmick nobody cared about. And then locally, everybody cared, cared about. And then nationally, everybody did, it was covered every day for four months in every major newspaper, every radio outlet and every TV station. Um, and then it became international too.

So, you know, the 1980 equivalent going viral. Completely dead right there, man. It was, it was viral before there was viral. Um, I can't imagine if these guys had Twitter or Facebook or whatever, they would be instant celebrities, man. Like, um, and I guess that to just mention it, I think it was vaping for the pantry.

For the NCAA, like the football division, one championships. If anybody's a big football fan listening, they actually had the final four of NCAA. Um, the teams had one person representing them living on a bill. During the playoffs. And it was like, whatever teams left that you win. Like you come down if your team loses, but guess that lasted like a week and a half.

And they came down every day, three times a day that breaks to eat, to shower, to go home, to sleep. But they only came back in the, when they were living up there, literally like these guys are literally living on a billboard you're up and you're up there and less men down wins and these guys would not come down and the station was like, oh shit, What do we do?

We didn't realize these guys wouldn't come down. They did come down at one point for one. Four block period or four hour block period. That's the craziest part of this story to me is someone got arrested for selling weed out availability. We man selling marijuana from a, from a billboard and, and the guy, uh, you know, even talks about in the film.

He's like, I'm proud of the only guy in history to get arrested for selling pot from a billboard. And that's exactly what happened. Um, you know, it's, it's up to the viewer to decide whether it was entrapment or not. I mean, we, we feel like it was, but, um, but yeah, man, basically it was six months and it was like the 180 day mark.

Um, you know, cops climbed up that billboard unexpectedly to this gentleman's 10, his name was Dalton young and then zipped it and identified themselves as the. And he was under arrest, um, for selling marijuana. And he's like, what? No, no, you know, no idea what you know is going on there. And, uh, luckily for him and he's like, well, they didn't handcuff me until I got down the ladder.

So that was really nice, you know, it's uh, yeah man, just a bizarre twist. And that definitely was a major hook that it got us in a spot where we wanted to tell this story, but yeah, they brought them down and then they had a. Th the witnesses to whether he did or did not sell for a used marijuana up.

There were just the two guys next to him on the platform. So the judge, they end up subpoenaing put giving subpoenas to these guys. They were issued subpoenas on the board by the township and they had to come down. So they were going to be in violation of the law and then they were going to face other, you know, um, whatever, whatever that leads to.

So they had to go to the contest to God. This is fine. We'll let you guys come back. But only for a four-hour window, maximum four hours. And so they had to come down and let them shower the six month point. Um, and they gave him a McDonald's breakfast, which is pretty funny because, um, the guy who owned the stations and owned like a bunch of McDonald's super millionaire, $80 million guy in the Lehigh is the one that, you know, conjured up this contest.

And he gave him like a little McDonald's breakfast and they shout out. And then that was it. They testified that they didn't see anything here or anything, and they went right back up, but they didn't let that guy go back up. They said, you're not allowed to go back up until your trial is over. Um, and they kept pushing it off continuances continuances.

So he really didn't get the benefit from the situation. He just got pushed out of it and it sucks, man. He's a super cool regular dude that. It's still sits deep with him, so, wow. So then there were two. And there were at the six month mark there's two contestants remaining are army veteran. And the gentleman who had just gotten married three months before the contest.

So at this point he's been married nine months, been living on the billboard for six of those nine months. And you are.

She's like you better, you better win that house. Don't come down or don't come down. Um, how did, how did the next few months go? How does all of this come to a finale? Well, I think that the, you know, the, the drug bus thing, you know, it took its toll on the guys because they had touched ground. You know, they, they rub some dirt on their face as the one guy said, so he's like, what are we doing up here?

What can we do to leverage this contest against an ad already started to do that a few months prior, um, where they were like, Hey, it's us against that. And this is this big rich guy, and this is this radio station and they're exploiting us. And some of the newspaper outlets were, were writing articles to that effect and they start riling these guys up.

And the one guy who was very easily swayed was the guy who was, um, who had recently gotten, um, married. Actually, it just got mad. So, um, right before the contest, like you said, so he was kind of like more of like a puppet into the hands of the media that was trying to turn this thing around and say this, this big, bad guy.

And meanwhile, the contest organizers saying you either just voluntarily, we're not forcing you, you can come down, but it got really ugly, man. Once the media got its hooks in and the media was able to put things in articles and television, and there was no social media recourse for anybody to say anything different.

Right? The public has only hearing one side of what's going on. And that really created like a bitter conflict between really the one guy living up there. The other guy was like, chill, chill, laid back, dude. His name was Ron Kissler. He's like, I'm just going to stay up here. Nobody's going to beat me. I don't really care what happens.

I'm staying here. Um, and his father told him that for, we went up there and he tells them, my dad said, you go up there, you don't come down until you win this house. This is your chance. This is a once in a lifetime you're out of work, dig in and stay there. That's it. The army guy was like, we're of like, um, just kind of a laid back dude, man, like a hippie type guy.

Chilling out. I mean, he was involved with marijuana, but he wasn't selling it. You know, he may have smoked it, but he was just like a chilled out guy. And then third guy is Mike McKay. He's the guy that's married and was like looking for the fame and the attention. He's a reality star, you know, he's so ahead of his time with what he wanted to be and what this could be like, this identified him, he lived through this contest any chance.

He took the abuse of self promoter. He was awesome. So. I mean for me, not to kind of solve where we're talking about the six months, but the tie to what you do and what your industry does. This was an unbelievable juggernaut opportunity for some brand of whatever to take advantage of is you're getting.

Delhi, publicity billboards are mad for people to drive by, right. And you get it and you see them and you're like, oh, maybe if I see it seven to 10 times, and I'm going to actually pay attention. This was in your face every day in the newspaper and television magazines, they were the outlets back then. So you had an absolute, amazing ops opportunity to advertise.

And nobody did it. Couldn't do it fast enough. They tried to do it once it hit like the national scene. Like someone like you, I would think like lick your chops and this situation, this is covered. It's free publicity for it. Like you could pay for the billboard and they were paying like 400 or whatever.

It was 400 bucks or something they were paying, I think for three months or whatever. And it's done right. Compared to what is it? Three grand or whatever it is now. So. I don't know, may I like, that's such a law. It's like the great, beautiful failure. When you look at that, people were scrambling to put things in place and then the bus, you know, the bus happened.

So if you can look at it like a, we try to like chunk it up this way. They went up at the end of September. Let's say they went up almost in October. So you have really nothing going on right back. This is actually the, the anniversary was just the other day. It was, it was almost 40 years was 39 years ago.

Yeah. A few days ago. Um, but these guys go up there. Nobody cares. I mean, everybody's hurting. Nobody cares. Nobody knows there's zero. Except this am radio station did this little thing. However, by the response, people were desperate for a home, right? So those 600,000 entries people wanted, the home they're hurting, people are hurting.

Um, but the one guy actually, um, he wrote, they had no limit to how many times you could enter. So the guy who's a self promoter and it entered a 37,000 times. And he literally entered 37, but anyway, these guys, um, you know, you can enter a Rihanna rider, but the bottom line is that he will need it at home times were tough.

Um, so nobody knew about the contest except for the people that were entering and the people that didn't get, get him or privately for this, I don't care. So the listenership to the station, Didn't increase. Like nobody cared. People were listening for big band, so they didn't care about this contest, you know?

Um, but anyway, sorry, man. I got sidetracked there. Bring me back. Where, where, where are we at right now? Uh, w we'll tell you we'll take any rants about how words are. That's always, always welcome here. And I think that's kind of like a beautiful, uh, irony in this. The radio station chose to use a billboard for their promotion, which speaks exactly to your, to, to your point about the power of, out of home.

So Mike McKay that guy's name was Mike. Okay. So Mike. Uh, Ron Kessler, they're still billboard. Uh, Ron has his under director from dad. Do not come down off this billboard, this your opportunity. You got nothing else going on in your life kid. Just stay there until the other guy comes down. And then you've got Mike McKay who has entered 37,000 times found the promotional opportunity for himself within it.

Um, who ultimately ends up winning the house. Yeah, man. I mean, they, they, they kind of, they both, they both did. It was like a split arrangement towards the end. Nobody came down. I mean, he didn't come down. He came down, nobody, they were put in a situation where. Um, they were able to, they bucked up for another home.

So there's the guys, please come down. We're going to give you, where do you eat your home? Like, I don't mind talking about it cause it's like the Titanic. Everybody knows what happened, but everybody still wants to watch how it happened. And that's the story that they tell you. These guys, they were like, guys, we'll give you the home.

Just please come down. Like they had to beg them to come down. Um, just because they feared something bad was going to happen. Like after the drug thing, the publicity went so negative and sour and they were really coming at the owner and his empire that he created and what type of guy he was. And then they're on Phil Donahue and then they're in a feature in rolling stone and people in time magazine.

There are all these, you've got the rolling stone magazine from, from the, and most people will recognize that this guy is a little bit too young, but it's Eddie Murphy for the balls that put his finger in his nose because he can and he's, you know, so, yeah, man. So there's like a six page article right in the middle of this rolling stone magazine.

Um, it's actually from July of 83, you know, the contest ended. So people were still like blown away. So it really hadn't trickled to these other outlets and kind of till it was over. Um, you know, but yeah, these guys, these guys, uh, came down, um, under their own accord. They reach over to house a car and they, um, vacation.

So like Hawaii and these other vacations and a full board. So they were given what they were promised by staying up there plus extra. So, you know, they announced it on good morning, America, which is pretty cool. So we have footage of them doing that. We have footage of them raped. Before that a few months before with Philadelphia, you try to throw the pot about the whole exploitation angle.

Uh, I'm surprised that Mike came down because he wants to stay like he's like he wrote a song up there. He learned how to play the guitar up there. Like he did so many cool things. And Tim, one thing I forgot to mention too, is that because there's like no social media, people like wanted to get a hold of these guys.

One of the journalists published their phone numbers and everybody's calling them and the phone bills are going crazy up there. So to station actually, Further the guys living on board for the wet they were getting like, I mean, they say hundreds of calls a day, including international calls. Some people that didn't speak English, legal stair saying we are the French and they're trying to.

Whatever was being done. Meantime, the station is getting flooded with calls. How can we schedule time to talk to these guys? Um, they're calling the guys themselves. People are writing letters, they got thousands of letters, each one of the guides. And we have a lot of the letters that some of their family kept.

Like, how did you communicate with people back then? So they were like pals. You know, it was just nuts, man. It was just absolutely not. The wall street journal really pushed it onto the scene when they published their article in early December. Right. When the con the contest organizers said, we're going to end it.

We're going to end it by Christmas. We're going to bring them down. We're going to give all three of these guys at home. That was their plan. The wall street journal just blew that up by doing their article. Cause then they were like, they woke up the next morning to just phone calls, people showing up their door, like, what is, what are you guys?

And then they got wind of wall street journal published a front page article on. Um, right after that happens, Billy Joel, who had been working on Allentown for several years prior released it. And it was just mayhem. So people were coming there for these guys for Billy Joel, and it was just an unbelievable, perfect storm.

But, um, you know, to your point, like billboards are timeless, like the ultimate medium, you know, and these people recognize that back then, but nobody took advantage of it, man. They just didn't do it. And I still, it just blows our mind, man, that there wasn't. A marketing guy smart enough to see this. I mean, so many people had eyes on and it was in your face every day for the last four or five months of the contest.

Like how did somebody not, you know, bottle that up and throw their advertising up there. So. 'cause I said, it'd be a lesson for anyone listening, anyone retelling this story? Um, yeah, if you've got lightning in a bottle, put a, put a damn cap on it, please. Today, 40 years later, almost 40 years later, um, this remains kind of a point paint for the market.

The area doesn't really lean into this as a piece of the legacy or, or anything. This is, this is kind of a stain. Uh, if you will, from what I've gathered, just in conversations about, about the event, what what's that like today? Just you look at the resurgence now of Allentown with the PPL center out there.

They have like major venue. They had the casino out there, the sands casino and Bethlehem, which is. Right there. Um, just this major kind of resurgence and yet they don't want to look back and see where they were and, and maybe like, say, look where we came from. They're just very, um, against the whole thing.

They think that they're being slighted. They look at it as a black eye. They, they absolutely despise Allentown. They, Billy Joel song, Allentown. Um, yeah, I mean, Billy Joel was even given a key to Allentown when he came out and performed, um, at their venue back then it was like Lehigh university college venue.

And it was December 27th, which this contest was like in its infancy. You know, it was a few months in, he performed there and he didn't even know what was going on. You know, so I don't know, man, like it still hadn't hit yet. It was coming around. Like everything comes around late in today's row. We have the luxury of social media and oh, what's happened today.

What's the hottest video what's called what's trending. There was no trending. There was no such thing. So imagine an 82, if someone says a guy selling drugs on a billboard. That guy was ostracized. His family was ostracized from the community. Don't talk to that druggie. He's a drunk. He was labeled as like bad news, stay away from that guy because there was no like advertisements of people with drugs.

Like you don't want to have statistics show on back then, you know, like if you see like, A bag, a picture of like a bag of cocaine or something on the news, in the corner. You're like, oh my God, this happened here. It can't happen here. Well, maybe it's happening everywhere, but no one knows about it. So when you see that happen on the news, like this guy was like, went to exile, man.

Like he was embarrassed. He would go to the grocery. Aren't you? That guy to lift up? They're like, no, no, I don't think he was so embarrassed. His family was embarrassed. It was awful, man. Like he was drugged through the mud in court. Um, and again, that didn't even happen, that's it. He didn't even get charged with his felony.

Um, until after like few months after the contest ended, now, it just sucks. He just sat around and it was like the third day they gave prizes, like the first place they kept trying to sweeten the pot. When they went up, it was like $18,000 after the wall street journal. And it was like, oh, okay, you guys, second place gets 'em free.

McDonald's for two. Third place gets like six months in department free rent. Then it kept changing the prize of changing the prizes that it was when he was two of them up there. They were like, if one of these come down and you get a color TV, you got to the apartments. McDonald's like, they call it. It just happened.

You know? And they, and they were like, uh, you know, come down and meet this guy. He, his trial ends, he technically was like the second place winner, second or third place they gave him nothing. No, you're disqualified because you came down under. Circumstances of drugs and they just big party at the end of it too, to celebrate it with champagne and all that big, that big to do when they came down.

And there was media, like everywhere for this, for these guys coming down after the nine months, and this guy showed up too, and nobody cared, you know, he was just like, oh, get away from us. And has since gone on to. Great contributor to the community. Um, what's the update on he's been at, um, like a, an addiction counselor in the community for the better part, I think, 20 years.

And not that he was addicted anyway. He just smoked pot here and there. Like most people, um, the rules of the contests where you can't drink or like doing drugs or anything, but they all mid-early were drinking up there. The contest sponsors, people were throwing beers up to them after games. Phillies games, Eagles games, they were stopped.

People were partying below the billboard at night. Like it wasn't happening. He was covering the same, like people were there all the time, overnight party and smoke and drink and whatever these guys were talking to them up there, screaming down whatever, like people, they were celebrities, man. They were celebrities.

And then the publicity just went into the tank and you know, the media doesn't want general doesn't want to promote like a happy story. Look at these guys, they was just like all the negativity, negativity, you know, Donna who spent, I think they estimate only a half, a million dollars to move his tractor trailers in to do satellites and do the, the simulcasts from the Lehigh valley to his studio in Chicago.

And he flew out radio station people to Chicago. And he did all this add them like in studio. And it was like a fight scene in there with the roll footage, from the story we hear from the guy that was there. But of course they, they cut that all out of the edit, you know, and they just show what they show just wild man.

Like the behind scenes background. And all of the folks that were involved manages such a fun, awesome story. It needs to be told like as a feature, like a scripted, because there's so much opportunity to, to like fill in the blanks of all these things that we just couldn't get footage for. Like, it just didn't exist either because they discarded it or it didn't exist.

You know? I mean, we only, we only live through the present day interviews. A lot of the archive interviews, a lot of the archive media, but it needs to be told like right now, Phenomenal story with amazing Catholic, larger than life characters made. So maybe somebody listening will be like, wow, what is that story?

And they'll look at it and they'll look at the dock and they'll read some of this stuff. And, um, I dunno, man. That's kinda like my biggest takeaway. It's like so frustrating that it's such a perfect story that, you know, we, we told the story on our own dime. We did what we had to do financially and it was worth it.

We can't dig into. It to those waters, you know, deep borders of, um, oh, financing, like a major studio, 10 million, 20, $30 million production. We just can't do it so well, Netflix, uh, Netflix bought a billboard plant a few years ago. Netflix, maybe if you're listening to this, this is a mini series and the thing that would be some great, great content.

It's billboard boys.com. Frank, where can folks get in touch with you? What are the other projects that you've got going on? Where, what are your lad student loans? Yeah, man. I mean, thank you. Just billboard boys.com would be great. Like we have other like little side things that we're working on, man, that, um, you know, there's, there's really, you know, maybe you've no need to mention at this point that we kinda have some things we're working on under contract and things.

So it's cool and exciting. But if anybody wants to reach us billboard, boys.com. You can see some of the, you know, the fun media attention that we got when we released it. Um, I guess almost three years ago today, and then it got taken off the platforms for a variety of reasons, but now it's back up on, you know, I'm prying to stream rent or buy.

Um, and we had also DVDs, like I have, we bought like a thousand DVDs. You can kind of see some behind me here and blue rays, because when we went to do all these, like we were in demand for screenings in the Lehigh valley. It's still is like a, I guess like the, the folks up there and the environment up there and some of the pockets they're still like DVD and Blu-ray people and they don't want to be on the phones and they don't want to watch things from their computer.

So when we went to a few of these screens early on, people's like, you know, I guess the age group is like, that's like more of like the 60 to 80 or maybe 50 to 60 to 70. Um, so we ended up getting all of these things burned. We probably sold half of them. So it was cool man for these people. So we do offer them as well on the site, but there's just value.

I think there's a marketing lesson for young people right now that are in business to look at this as like a case study. What could we have done? What would we have done differently? Look at this opportunity, what was wrong with these people? Like they didn't see this, this was in their face. You know, it was the golden, you know, the, the goose that laid the golden egg.

What do you do with this thing? You know, they didn't do anything, you know, I don't know. It's just like, you know, I have gone over it so many times, man. So everybody has their own take way, but there's so many different angles and lessons and it's just a lot of fun, man. And we really appreciate you taking an interest in giving us the time to talk about it.

Like even this thing, doesn't do it. Justice. For just like how polarizing these guys are. Um, and unfortunately the one guy that had passed, so he lives through his, um, his archive footage, which is just lights out, man. This guy is like, you see him? You're like, well, I can see him on TV right now, man. But.

Awesome. Thank you, Frank. Thank you so much. This has been absolutely awesome. Thank you for telling this story. It's so important to what we do as an industry. It's part of our heritage. Uh, so thank you to yourself and to pat for putting it together. It's billboard boys.com. You can check out the trailer there if you've found this to be entertaining, which I'm sure you did share with somebody else.

Who's just as passionate about out of home as. Make sure to smash that subscribe button down below in the corner and we'll see y'all next time. Absolutely. Thank you, Vincent. You finally came to my senses. I finally got my hand up on the tinted Benz kid. I see the real cliff and my tinted lenses with the dream and the drive, the possibilities endless up-front that?