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Ralphie's Bop City Pt. 3

Bop City experienced its frst real surge of popularity when it was taken up by the phone sales staf of a large Wall Street brokerage frm, one that dealt primarily with accounts in the Midwest. Several locals who spent their days on the phone with people 1500 miles away pressed the number on their contacts, and soon twangy Chicago voices joined the Noo Yawk accents heard on the line.
Around this time, I was seized with the urge to meet some of the people who called Ralphie’s. Never one to approach anything directly, I borrowed a promotional technique from the Top 40 radio stations I listened to back in the day, and devised the “Meet Ralphie And Win A Box Lunch Bop City Treasure Hunt.”

Steve Stein on a bench.

I added what I considered to be clever and challenging hints to my portion of the outgoing message every week, and, presumably, anyone taking the time to decode the information would wind up with the date, time, and location to appear in order to win the box lunch.
I worked in a huge midtown advertising firm. Every day, a few blocks away on Park Avenue, a brightly painted food truck sold prepared lunches from a faux-ritzy restaurant called Tavern On The Green. Just before lunchtime on the concluding day of the treasure hunt, I purchased two lunches (one for me), gathered up a photographer (whose name I’ve forgotten) who worked for the agency, and headed downtown on the subway.
I’d picked Battery Park for our rendevous point, since I wanted the event to be convenient for the Wall Streeters I felt sure were the people who’d show. It was a gorgeous day by the harbor, sunny and warm enough for shirtsleeves and leisurely strolling. I plunked myself down on a bench overlooking the water (photo 1), and precisely at 12:30 I reached into an oversized shipping envelope and pulled out the bright red plastic briefcase that would identify me to the treasure hunters. I can hardly believe I used to carry a bright red plastic briefcase around. I used to wear swedish clogs, too. The early 80’s were quite a time for me. But I digress.
As soon as I put the briefcase down, someone walked over. “Ralphie?” “You win the box lunch, pal.” I stood up, handed this guy the box, and turned to face the photographer for a classic grip and grin shot (photo 2). Turned out this fella’s name was Steve, too, and if memory serves me, he’d gotten the number from his sister, who called regularly as well.
Several other people strolled over, only mildly disappointed at missing out on the box lunch. We took lots of photos – mainly variations on the winner shot, and sat around chomping on lunches and making small talk until everyone had to go back to the real world.

Steve Stein with a winner.

I was thrilled. What a gas that anyone showed up at all. And they all seemed quite engaged with the Ralphie’s concept. There were other events; there was “Win Lunch With Ralphie Or Have Him Appear At Your Next Lodge Function Or Social Event,” and the “Have A Couple Or Three Beers With Ralphie And Meet His Parents.” But those stories are in the future.
This mp3 has no relation to thw last, just another cassette I picked at random from the box in the garage. It’s about love.

Steve (right), with his box lunch and boyish smile. I look like some sort of downtown politician.