When a dozen roses are not as good as one.

I’ve gotten a bit of a rep for being a marketing stuntman, with my “Virgins Get In Free” promotion and the “Backstreet Boys Boy Band Battle”, and so on.

Someone asked me recently what got me started with these out-there attempts to get attention.  It took me a week to come up with the answer . . .

Her name was Molly.

Molly was a short haired figure-skatin’ freshman from Northern Massachusetts who went to my high school, and I thought she was cuter than Dorothy Hamill in a sun dress.

Every Valentine’s Day, my student council had a Sweetheart Sale on roses.  For a buck, they’d put a rose in the locker of your crush.

Sweet, huh?

And the perfect opportunity to let Molly know that I was dreaming about her triple-toe loops.

So I bought a rose, right?


I bought 12.

Seems inconsequential now, but it was the equivalent of taking a full page ad in the New York Times announcing my affections for that bobbed beauty.

Funny, but it was all the things I look for when advertising and marketing a show these days:

  • It got attention.   Word leaked out about what I did even before she opened her locker.  It was the talk of the halls and all eyes were on her as she stepped up to spin her combo lock.  My French teacher called me “tres romantique” the day BEFORE Valentine’s Day.
  • It was a lot of buzz for not a lot of bucks.  $12 bucks.  Big whoop.  So I’d have to put off buying the Cocktail Soundtrack that week.  Jammin’ to Kokomo would just have to wait.
  • No one else was doing it.  My conservative prep school buddies were too shy (and too smart?) to get more than one rose for the object of their affections.  I stood out.  And made the other guys look cheap.
  • It was timed for a second impression.  There was a dance that same night.  I could follow up on my flowers with a face-to-face (hopefully cheek-to-cheek) slow dance to George Michael’s “Careless Whisper.”

It was planned perfectly, and it was executed perfectly.

And then she rejected me.  And I was the laughing stock of the school.  My French teacher came up to me the next day and said, “Pauvre Serge.” (My French name was Serge. Don’t ask.)

Lesson #1:  When you plan guerrilla events, stunts, gimmicks, etc, remember who your audience is.  Molly didn’t want a dozen roses, unless they were thrown to her on the rink after a couple of choreographed double axles.   She was a freshman.  She didn’t want the kind of attention I gave to her.  Maybe it would have been different if I would have given her just one?

So I failed.

Ok, I sort of failed.

A few days later, Molly’s friend Lara came up to me after AP Chem and told me she thought my adolescent dorkiness was cute.  And we dated for a whole ten months!

Lesson #2:  Just because your first audience doesn’t want what you’re selling, doesn’t mean that there isn’t a secondary audience waiting in the wings.  And that audience might be more suited for you anyway.

Gosh, I wish I knew where Molly was now.  And I wish I remembered her last name.

Which brings me to . . .

Lesson #3:  You will forget your failures.

Keep your show organized with the Theatermaker's fool-proof management system

Improve your success rate for getting produced with daily strategy tips.

Send me the system

Related Posts


Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.