How a Guy Saw a Super Deal and Snagged It!
In 1984, Peggy and I launched WHO'S MAILING WHAT!—the newsletter and archive service for junk mailers. We started exhibiting at local direct marketing shows in various cities: Milwaukee, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Kansas City, Columbus, Cleveland, et al. We trolled for subscribers and I also got a lot of speaking gigs around the country and overseas.
Everywhere I went—even London—I would run into a tall, taciturn, archetypical Texan in cowboy boots and Stetson hat. Often, he would be dragging a roller suitcase with an overcoat stacked on top.
The reason for the impedimenta: The Texan was stopping in town for a few hours and then jetting off to the next stop on his current tour. He would not have a hotel room until that night—300 or 3000 miles away.
This was James Johnson, whose business was assembling and renting church lists—organizations and personnel in various denominations around the county. He would periodically stop by our booth and we would engage in spirited conversations about the list business and the state of direct marketing.
He was a good-looking, affable guy with an enviable crown of silver hair and very knowledgeable.
One Day I Asked James the $64,000 Question
Compared to the giants of list brokerage—Kleid, Direct Media, The Lake Group, American List Counsel, Chilcutt, Ed Burnett, et al.—church lists was a niche business.
I don't remember James ever having a booth. He just showed up everywhere, prowled exhibit halls, networked and moved on.
"O.K., James," I said to him one day. "How d'ya do it?"
"How can you afford to fly around the country and attend every direct marketing show no matter how large or small?"
"I bought a lifetime pass on American Airlines," he said. "I can show up at any airport where American flies, show my card at the ticket counter and if there's an empty seat, I get it. It's always first class unless first class is full. With Dallas being American's main hub, I can fly pretty much anywhere in the world any time I want."